Columnists Features

Qualified, motivated teachers key to improved learning

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
GOOD quality education that is provided by well-trained and supported teachers is the right of every child, youth and adult. It should never be the privilege of a small group of people anywhere in the world.
Seeing primary school teachers upgrade their qualifications to diploma level, and even further, is indeed encouraging. A case in point is the first-ever primary teacher diploma graduation ceremony at Solwezi College of Education last week on Friday, sponsored by Kansanshi Mining Plc.
It was a special occasion where 300 individuals who graduated with diplomas in teaching were urged to apply themselves professionally as they carry out their duties in institutions of learning.
Aspects associated with unprofessional conduct that were pinpointed, and emphasised as being undesirable, include poor preparation of teaching and learning materials, truancy, dishonesty, arrogance, absenteeism, involvement in examination malpractice and vices such as alcohol and drug abuse, among others.
It is true that if these become part of a teacher’s character, then quality in the education system is highly compromised. And the words of First Quantum Minerals’ (FQM’s) Kansanshi Mine public relations manager Godfrey Msiska during the graduation ceremony were timely: “The quality of education cannot be compromised, and for us at Kansanshi, this is priority number one. Good quality education opens the doors of opportunity and is the most effective tool with which we can fight poverty.”
Kansanshi Mine must further be commended for establishing a programme aimed at improving the quality of teaching standards through adopting more effective teaching methodologies. Mr Msiska disclosed that the Kansanshi Education Quality Improvement Programme (KanEQuIp), which has been introduced in 28 schools in Solwezi, North-Western Province, focuses on efforts to improve literacy and numeracy skills.
In this regard, efforts by the mining firm and all colleges of education, including Solwezi, that are working with institutions of higher learning such as the University of Zambia (UNZA) to improve education quality and standards in the country right from the elementary level, through empowering more teachers, must be supported fully by the government, civil society and the citizens.
It is, indeed, only through investing in teacher training programmes focused on enhancing quality education that the system shall meaningfully provide services which are truly responsive to the learners’ needs and relevant to their lives. The more emphasis is placed on good quality education at primary and secondary school levels, the better for colleges and universities, which enrol candidates who come from schools.
The skills, knowledge, values and attitudes that quality teaching and quality learning promote should not only reflect and respond to the needs and expectations of individual learners, but also to those of the country and the world of work today.
This can only be achieved if teachers themselves are able to inculcate the ‘spirit’ of critical thinking and the desire for lifelong learning among young people. This is because well-qualified educationists are key to improving learning.
However, where negative trends such as an acute shortage of qualified staff, poor working conditions (i.e. low salaries, which are paid irregularly), and lack of adequate teaching/ learning materials, among others, are evident, their collective impact on the quality of student learning can never be fully realised. Therefore, they should, at all times, be motivated in order to avoid any situation that could make them suffer from low social and professional status.
It is not only the government that must support efforts to enhance quality education, but communities must also ensure that the children are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn.
Also, when environments where teaching and learning take place are healthy, safe, gender-sensitive and provide adequate resources and facilities, then quality learning is bound to take place. And it is such learning that is expected not only to meet people’s basic needs, but to also foster the conditions for maintenance of peace and sustainable development in the land.
Through good quality education, young people must acquire attitudes, values and skills as well as information. Besides the skills and competencies the educational system prepares them for the present-day job opportunities, they must learn to recognise and respect human rights and to value global well-being.
With well-qualified and motivated teachers, the path can be brighter.

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