I belong to the beautiful country of Trinidad and Tobago and I am a staunch advocate for the gift of education being made available to all.
Each one of us is offered the same opportunity.
But, it is alarming to note that the people who are doing the actual educating and those who are formulating the education models remain stagnant in the dumps of frustration.
When we look at the success rate of students, especially academically, we all feel defeated and also unsure.
Our heart aches with quiet anguish.
As educators, we all nurse the invisible scars caused by following blindly, model after model.
We are disillusioned with education models that were just mathematically translated from another system, oblivious to culture and era. We simply adopt or borrow education cultures.
For decades we have been trying to educate the Trinbagonian child enough; so that they may become at least comparable to those of the superior Asian nations.
These, however, are nations where mothers and fathers value education, as much as we value KFC, gossip and The Young and The Restless.
Our nation’s children have changed drastically over the years and not necessarily for the better.
It is said in our country, that ‘plain talk is bad manners,’ so perhaps you may find that ‘I am very ill-mannered.’
It is the sad belief that teachers must change to suit students and teachers must work harder. The teacher is solely responsible for the off-spring’s overall success and their eventual placement into the most prestigious and highly paid job opportunities.
But my brothers and sisters, from all these failed and failing institutions that surround us, the ones where students entered with little and leave with even less, the ones where billions of dollars have been pumped year after year, with no significant change, the teachers are not afraid.
They are just tired and frustrated; they are overworked and underpaid; but mostly, they are fed-up of taking all the blame.
When we look at the larger picture from a bit closer, the scene changes drastically.
Parents of a failing child are the ones who have abdicated the throne of their own parental responsibilities.
They have surrendered their role when it comes to disciplining their children.
They refuse or are unable, for a myriad of reasons, to teach their children about the virtues of honesty, hard-work, manners, personal ambitions, gratitude, empathy, responsibility, integrity and self-respect.
All of character building is being handed down to Miss and Sir.
This is what our nation and our people and our parents have now grown to expect. This is what the teacher is subjected to and this is what the teacher has been made to accept from our parents.
The malpractice speaks volumes about us as a people. In our twin-island nation, we can and must no longer blame unattainable education on hunger and poverty.
Maybe we should begin to look at neglect from 3 p.m. until the return to a free breakfast at 8 a.m. on the next day.
The Government has sanctioned an educational comfort zone, providing books and meals and travel to and from the institution of learning.
The system offers too, counselling and financial aid. There are fewer and fewer excuses or monumental obstacles that warrant or are worthy of confrontation.
But in this country and especially in these times, it is considered ‘taboo’ and socially and politically volatile to even suggest that a parent is failing in their duty.
The palpable truth is that the Trinbagonian student will soon be a Trinbagonian adult.
They often transgress to poor adults, such as, dead-beat dads, push-around mothers, vulgar celebrities, steroid injecting athletes, tax-evading CEOs, failing politicians and incompetent teachers.
And, what is expected of the teacher, from the public?
I will tell you what you already know. It is hoped that the ‘good and the gifted’ teacher will overcome all these obstacles and be ‘child victorious.’
That special tutor will lift our loving child high above his head and across the finish line of success, like the prestigious Olympic gold.
And as the saying goes, ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste.’ The character building of the child starts with the parents at home and it commences from age zero.
There is not to be an empty space where ‘disciplinarian’ is to be marked.
However, there must also to be a hug and a loving arm and a lap to sit on when needed. These are not just missing ingredients, they are actually essentials.
The injustice that is meted out to teachers is confused with justice for students.
We must not be blinded by ignorant and obnoxious politicians, who feel that attending school makes you an educator or education specialist.
Do not be disillusioned by Hollywood or Bollywood where teachers are often portrayed as heartless miscreants.
We must not be fooled by those who propose that all teachers should be ‘Mother Theresas.’ Let us not be fooled that costly private institutions will automatically ensure quality education and total curriculum coverage.
We must be mindful though, that when a terrible mess is made with our children, the blame is not always or entirely on teachers.
I emphasise that when it comes to the failing child, don’t join the long chorus line of the ignorant and impolite and the excuse seekers; do not jump on the bandwagon of the misinformed.
Do not queue up with those who do not have a mirror in which they could observe their own distorted images.
Do not subscribe to the ones who persevere to cast the blame solely upon the teacher.
Instead, let us also look at the blood that drips from the hands of the people who are called ‘mother’ and ‘father.’
When we fail to do so, we fix absolutely nothing!
(Fayad Ali is a former Dean at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, an eminent Mathematics teacher and author)