I would like to begin by saying thank you to all educators who are in the front lines in our classrooms at the moment. Being an educator for me is an honour and privilege, given the chance and knowledge to teach and change the lives of others.
I, like most people have made a few decisions in the past which upon reflection have turned into regrets. Pursing a degree in Education was one of my greatest decisions which of course was highly motivated by the fact that I come from a proud family of educators.
Contrary to popular belief, being a teacher in South Africa has never been and still is not easy, starting from first year of university until the day you sign your retirement documents. Under normal circumstances much is already required of teachers. And although I understand that this comes with the job it would be nice to see more people showing a better understanding and acknowledgement of how hard teachers work especially given that the playing field has never been an equal one. Our black schools have been failed, classroom overcrowding, no water, no electricity, shortages of books and deteriorating infrastructures, these are some of the issues amongst many others that teachers are faced with under normal circumstances.
Then came the pandemic (Covid 19) and one could only imagine its effect on the world let alone the education system. While we were still processing all of that, a call for teachers and learners was made stating that they should return to schools while the government offered temporary solutions to issues that have been present for years.
When the pandemic was in its early days we were told that the virus strives at its best in winter so therefore teachers and learners having been called to reopen schools during the winter season still raises some concern in the schooling community.
While I appreciate that schools were deep cleaned and government promised Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of teachers and learners. A lot less has been said about the emotional and mental strain this virus has on both the teacher and learner in schools that are already under-resourced in many other areas.
Teaching is not just about standing in front of the classroom and delivering a brilliant lesson it is also understanding that each and every learner is fully dependent on you during the hours they spend in school. For many we are not just teachers we are parents for those hours. We have an emotional bond with learners and these relationships can be strained because we are operating from anxiety at the moment. Teachers are not robots, we have feelings too and we can’t be expected to be at our best without the necessary support. I don’t hear this from our government officials. Now more than ever teachers need the psychosocial support in order for us to continue create classroom and schooling environments that bring out the best in our learners.
by Abongile Ntola Educator