Teachers, like doctors, public workers, policemen and clergymen have an important role to fulfil in society. Some take an oath, others swear allegiance to underline the significance of their task. But what about teachers?
At its most fundamental level, teaching is about engaging the mind. It is about introducing students to a conceptual framework with which they can begin to, in a deep and profound way, make sense of, understand, and actively (re)produce and alter the dynamic world they shape and which shapes them. It is about inspiring students to reflect intelligently about diverse macro- and micro-level issues.
We are not aware that there is an oath or moral code in existence for teachers, but if there were one it might look like this:
The virtues of teaching
Fortitude: This is about sticking to something that is worthwhile. It relates to enduring until the goal is reached.
Courage: Courage or bravery the strength of character which equips us to meet danger and trouble, to live our values, and to tell the truth in the face of ignorance.
Patience: Like all great things, the virtues blend into one another. They are interconnected. Patience, courage and fortitude especially share common requirements. Patience, however, as we see it, does not relate as much to fear of risking something, as does courage. Nor does it relate as much to enduring through action as does fortitude. Patience is more about waiting, tolerating, and forgiving. We are patient when we give others their own space and time. People who are patient are not easily provoked or revengeful and tend to remain calm during stressful situations.
Honesty: An honest person does what he or she says. Honesty is about being trustworthy. Humility: Humility is the essential ingredient for learning with all of our senses. We can only listen and pay true attention to something when we let go of our preconceptions. We cannot feel any arrogance over nature and its creatures. We cannot assume we already know the answers or that we are better or higher than another. Humility is a freedom from pride and arrogance that recognizes equity and equality. It is manifested by a great appreciation for the many gifts life and God have to offer us.
Generosity: Generosity is about giving and/or sharing our time, our wealth, our ideas or our possessions on behalf of others.
Spirituality: This refers to a genuine awareness of our great and mysterious connections with all aspects of the universe, both seen and unseen and includes a realization that there is a sacred force behind these interconnections.
Integrity: Integrity is acting on the awareness of spirituality. The origins of the word, "integer," are about "oneness." Integrity is a synonym for "good character".
Peacefulness: Without peacefulness, frustration with barriers to character education can easily cause us to violate the principles and virtues we have learned to cherish. It is difficult to teach peacefulness without employing some form of the art of meditation. Even with such moments of quiet receptivity, peacefulness is usually something that comes from living a life that is guided by spiritual awareness of the invisible realms of existence.
Needless to say that bribery is not a virtue. We had never thought of using ‘teaching’ and ‘bribery’ in one sentence until we came across this real life story by a young Nigerian university student.
A real life story
I was studying at Imo State University back then. Results of the previous semester exams were just released, and to my horror, I had failed a course on Statistics. That was STAT 103, if my memory is anything to go by.
Unbelievable! Truth be told, the lecturer did a lousy job in conveying any knowledge of statistics to a seemingly easy-going crowd of undergraduates always filling the lecture hall. Truthfully, statistics was hard to understand, but I had prepared for a C at least. I had done my assignments and tests with the utmost dedication. Then how came an 'F'?
Brimming with righteous indignation, I stalked him to his office the next morning.
"Did you buy my books?" he enquired, cutting short my complaints.
He opened a ledger, leafed through and stopped at a page. "Check for your name here."
I did. My name wasn't anywhere to be found on the long list of those who had bought his low quality couple of books offered at three thousand Naira.
"That means you didn't buy my books and that's why you failed."
I reminded him that on the day I bought the book, he'd written my name on a sheet of paper with an assurance to transfer it to his ledger on settling down for the day. My explanations weren't making things any better for me.
"I'll go bring the books right away, as evidence"
"Don't bother. I don't trust students. You can get away from my office, young man."
"Sorry Sir. So what do I do now?"
"Buy my books, resit for the exams, and you'll be alright."
"But sir, considering that having two copies of the books won't be of any use to me, what if I buy just one of the two?"
His face underwent some series of contortion. He pointed me to a line up of framed photographs on the walls of his cluttered office. They were pictures of his knighthood investiture and then there were photographs of his middle class children with their plump kids.
"I'm not in need of your money," he boasted. "But I perceive you've been sent by certain elements in the Student Union Government to set me up. For that reason I will keep you for an extra two years in this school."
I fell on my knees and pleaded like the victim I had become. Needless to say, I paid for those useless books with all the money I had. It was a choice I took at the expense of buying food.
Now tell me, if I'm to pass through this and worse for my formative undergraduate years, what kind of man am I to become? Nigerian youths encounter these and more.
Are you surprised that by default they become thugs, whores, cultists, thieves and scoundrels?
Are you surprised that in this modern era, the Nigerian youths have become such psychological casualties, flotsam and jetsam of the community of global intelligentsia? How many of your sons and daughters extol the virtues? And this "I'm loyal" syndrome, where do you think it originates from?
From the schools, Nigerians are taught to strip off everything that makes them fit for useful contribution in a sustainable human society. Every one can continue with keeping up the pretence, but this rottenness stinks badly already and the whole tree is infected.
As a Nigerian youth, you're shapened to shred every innate virtue. You're taught to despise hard work and merit and taught instead to seek easy gains and extol self-preservation above all things.
We are not aware that there is an oath or moral code in existence for teachers, but reading this story you may come to conclusion that it is about time to instate one.