Probe teachers who cannot read, write

EMELDA Musonda.

RECENT revelations by the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) that some newly recruited teachers cannot read or write are shocking and call for serious investigations to establish their educational journeys and how they ended up being recruited in that state.
It is not only saddening but also shocking that someone can go through primary, secondary and eventually tertiary education, yet they cannot read or write.
What is more saddening, in this case, is that these individuals have now been employed as teachers and are expected to impart knowledge to pupils.
How can they impart knowledge if they cannot read or write?
Can a blind man lead another blind man? Certainly no.
This is a serious matter that needs thorough interrogation to determine where the problem stems from.
While it is commendable that the Teaching Service Commission has introduced aptitude tests in teachers’ recruitment, much more needs to be done to conclusively address the problem.
The aptitude tests will work as an immediate intervention to sieve wrong elements from getting into the classroom.
But we also need to guard against the entry of such elements into the teaching profession.
For now, we need to critically interrogate how these individuals went through all the fundamental stages of our education process without acquiring reading and writing skills.
It is shocking that these teachers went through seven years of primary school without learning how to read and write.
They proceeded to secondary school and in all the five years, they could not learn how to read and write.
These individuals further went on to enrol for teachers’ training and still, they came out as raw as they went in.
Were they also taught by teachers and lecturers who cannot read or write?
How were they managing assignments, tests and examinations throughout their educational journey?
There is certainly more to the revelation than meets the eye.
Firstly the Teaching Service Commission will do well to establish the extent of this problem.
How many teachers cannot read or write?
If numbers are low, it could be that these individuals paid or corrupted their way through the systems.
While others work hard, there are some students who pay colleagues money or in kind in order to have assignments written for them.
Such students also pay morally bankrupt lecturers money or in kind to be given undeserved grades.
Such individuals will also not hesitate to corrupt their way into a job.
If such is suspected to be the case, the TSC needs to thoroughly interrogate the educational journeys of the individuals in question; the schools they went to and teachers who taught them. Perhaps, we will get closer to the truth.
If the number of teachers who cannot read or write is high and spanning over years, then perhaps we need to interrogate the whole education system as proposed by the Zambia Council of Social Development.
It will, however, be an exaggeration to lump the blame on the education system.
While it is acknowledged that education standards in Zambia are not what we may desire, there are many successful individuals who passed through the same systems.
The Teaching Service Commission should also verify the qualifications of the teachers in question.
It may just turn out that they also faked their qualifications like the 743 fake teachers who were exposed recently.
The TSC should also interrogate the recruitment process for any loopholes.
If there are any corrupt individuals in the system perpetuating such illegalities, they need to be flushed out.
If not, these will be the same people who will leak the aptitude tests to applicants, thereby defeating the whole purpose of sifting “illiterate professionals”.
Given the important role teachers play in shaping human resource, which is critical to development, the matter of teachers failing to read or write needs to be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
This is for the simple logic that if teachers cannot read or write, then they cannot impart the required knowledge and skills to pupils.
This means that the quality of education offered will be compromised and, subsequently, the quality of graduates.
If the quality of education and graduates is compromised, then the contribution to the country’s development agenda is also compromised.
For a country that has a long way to go in its development journey, we cannot afford to be this negligent.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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