When Egrita Ndala sat for Form Four mock examinations at Mlanda Girls Secondary School in Ntcheu in April 1992, she scored 29 percent in mathematics. It was not news. She was poor at the subject.
Ndala, who is now Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) senior public relations officer, says she wanted to give up on the subject, but her mathematics teacher, Esther Latef, invited her to the staffroom to encourage her. The teacher took the parental role by advising her to work extra hard, telling her that she can do well.
She went on to become a star as she managed to earn a credit in the subject at Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations. She was later selected to study for a Bachelor of Education Humanities majoring in English at the University of Malawi‘s (Unima), Chancellor College in Zomba.
Today, Ndala is a role model and is contributing to national development through her role in fighting graft in the country at ACB.
“I attribute my success to my teachers. When I was in Standard One, there was a teacher who taught all the classes from Standard One to Five. He was the only teacher at the school, which had five classes. He used to cycle to and from home, a distance of 10 kilometres [km] from the school, he was a hard worker,” says Ndala.
Her case shows that teachers directly influence the success of their students.
“For instance, Latef’s husband was the head teacher at Mlanda Girls Secondary School. He was an amazing teacher.He was transferred from Kongwe Secondary School [now Robert Blake] in Dowa to establish Mlanda Girls Secondary School.
“Apart from teaching, he was a building supervisor for the infrastructural development at the school. As if that was not enough, he was also the driver of the school’s vehicle, which transported bricks, sand and other items for the school’s construction,” recalls Ndala.
She reveals that the two and other teachers inspired her and this influenced her career choice to teaching.
Perhaps, which is why, former minister of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) and Speaker of Parliament Sam Mpasu also wanted to become a teacher after enrolling for Standard One at Khuzi Primary School in Ntcheu in 1952.
At that time, Mpasu recalls, he was seven years old. He adds that he was impressed with the respect given to teachers in the community and he looked at them as most intelligent people who knew everything than any student.
When he looked at the fruits of teaching, among others, students speaking fluent English language after school, Mpasu says he was impressed and started to dream of becoming a teacher one day.
Indisputably, teachers are not only motivated by money to do their job if you look at what they do against their benefits. They do not stop at their terms of reference (ToRs), but help students in decision making among others, to help them become better and highly educated citizens in future. It is even demanding to support slow learners and students with physical disabilities.
Mpasu says he worked hard to be a teacher. In 1965, Mpasu was among the first 100 students to be selected to Chancellor College. Although he wanted to train as a teacher, he ended up studying english and economics because the course was yet to be established at the institution.
“My desire was to be a teacher because I realised the key role that a teacher plays in one’s life. Although I did a different course, but my passion remained on teaching profession,” he says.
But despite these treasures, teaching profession is not attractive in Malawi. That teachers face serious challenges cannot be underestimated.
No wonder, the theme for this year’s World Teachers Day was Empowering Teachers, Building Sustainable Societies. It is such a gratifying, highly motivating theme that demonstrates the seriousness with which the teaching profession needs to be taken.
Educationist Steve Sharra, in his article posted on his blog titled Empowering Teachers: Thoughts on World Teachers Day 2015, warns that without urgent attention to this profession, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the just-launched Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) will not be achieved.
On October 3, the British newspaper, The Independent reported on a survey done for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) that revealed that 53 percent of teachers in Britain are contemplating quitting the profession in the next two years. The top three reasons are excessive workloads, poor pay and low morale. It would be interesting to know what the numbers look like for the teaching profession in Malawi.
Head teacher at Chigumba Primary School in Kasungu, Austin Jere, says despite the challenges, he is proud to be a teacher.
“I enjoy seeing my students growing academically and later on professionally. However, it is a challenging career. Imagine, I sleep after midnight to prepare work for my students,” says Jere.
Benedicto Kondowe, executive director for Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), says no one can talk about one’s success and development without mentioning a teacher. n