Teachers need more support from the government and the community to deal with the daily challenges they face. This was the message from professor Mary Metcalfe, Lead Sector Specialist of Social Infrastructure at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, at the Free State National Teachers Awards in Bloemfontein over the weekend.
Metcalfe was the guest speaker at this prestigious annual event held to honour excellent teachers in the province and country.
“I believe we need to work harder to understand the challenges that teachers face and we have to work harder to understand what support they need to achieve the quality of learning they seek for the learners in their care,” said Metcalfe.
Outlining her personal principles, which inform her approach to education, Metcalfe emphasised that the quality of a school system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. “ they have a great deal of experience about what is and what is not working in our schools and are an important part in teaching us what needs to be done to improve the system.”
She continued to highlight the role communities should play in supporting their teachers, saying it is the achievements, values and attitudes of learners that build the morale of teachers. “When teachers are greeted with respect on the streets because of the contribution they are making, education is in the shared safe hands of a partnership between school and community.”
Metcalfe said that conversations between her and teachers had shown that many teachers feel a sense of disempowerment and helplessness, which translates in frustration and anger about the circumstances in which they are working. In addition to that, teachers feel undermined by district officials who show little appreciation for their value.
She added that the awards ceremony had to serve as a strong message to teachers that they are valued and supported, and that their communities have great confidence in them.