The Semblance

I grew up in a family of teachers. My parents, aunts, siblings, cousins, and many other family members have been teachers at some point in their careers – including myself. My parents worked two full-time jobs: teaching and farming. And not until recently did I realize how much these professions have in common.

Farmers and teachers both nurture and grow crops or students – respectively – with extreme care. As a farmer, my mom ensured our farms were free of weeds. She treated each plant as a person and was cautious about stepping on its feeble stem. In fact, she bought fertilizers to ensure that the soil we farmed had sufficient nutrients for the crops we planted.

Similarly, teachers dedicate their lives to developing students’ academic, professional, and social skills. They lay the foundation of a student’s professional and personal ambitions and often protect their students from psychological, emotional, and physical harm.

Farming, like teaching, is a noble profession and the backbone of our economy. Education and development are intrinsically linked; the quality of education in a country often reflects on the country’s development and vice versa.

Photo Credit: Africa-Online

The Problem

In the last few weeks, the state of education in Cameroon has been a trending topic across several platforms. Many people have raised many concerns about challenges in Cameroon’s educational system from various angles, the most prominent of them being the quality of teachers across different academic levels.

While attending the EDDs, shortly after a meeting with the EU commissioner of International Partnerships, Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, my friend Ozaal Zesha, pricked the commissioner’s thoughts on priority challenges in education. “Teacher training,” she said. 

In Cameroon, I’d strongly argue that this problem is largely due to two main issues: How Cameroonians become teachers and how our government treats them.

Cameroonian parents typically equate becoming a government employee to being successful. This ideology is a figment of a collective imagination being passed down to generations. Admittedly, government employment provides some ‘security’ – unfortunately, it limits the employee’s upside as there is often no potential for growth.

From my experience and the stories I’ve heard, many Cameroonians dive into teaching because it is the ‘easiest’ way to be a government employee.

The results? We end up with teachers who care more about their “gross loan” than their students’ personal and professional development. Teachers who use the same lecture notes for decades, and are never aware of trends or developments in their field.

Teachers’ Challenges

Of course, all teachers are not the same. We need to distinguish between salary-driven teachers and those who deeply care about the nobility of their profession. As a student, many of my teachers were fully invested in my development and deeply concerned about my life outside of school. 

They were great farmers. These educators see the need for a shift in the educational paradigm from one of “push” to “pull” — from “you tell me the right answer” to “ask the right question and then find the answer.”

Sadly, even the best farmers end up producing poor produce when environmental conditions are unfavorable. These environmental conditions are equivalent to government policies and practices that discourage even the most passionate teachers in the teaching world. 

Institutions in Cameroon’s hinterlands – and even some urban areas – are often not provided with enough resources, leaving them solely relying on PTA initiatives. The government also rarely invests in opportunities for teachers to upskill, making many educators – if not all – rely on archaic teaching practices. The system is not working.

Teachers training session
Photo Credit: AIMS Cameroon teacher’s training workshop

Looking Forward

The good news is that one’s challenge is another’s opportunity. A few entrepreneurs have set up organizations like:

Practical Education Network (PEN), a social enterprise that improves learning outcomes by building teacher capacity. PEN offers workshops where West African STEM teachers learn, design, and share hands-on activities that complement the national curriculum and are created from low-cost and locally available materials.

TeachConnect, which offers teachers and other educational professionals opportunities to reflect on their practices and identify areas needing enhancement and development.

Brilliant Redemption, a youth-led organization training educators on how to effectively use EdTech tools to improve education’s quality and make it accessible to all.

It is overwhelmingly evident that supporting and upskilling teachers are essential to enhancing the quality of learning in developing countries, especially in Cameroon’s context. Our government needs to invest considerable resources in reskilling and upskilling teachers. Teachers need to model teaching as something that requires care and attention. They should be great farmers.

Thanks for reading! If you have any feedback on these ideas or requests for me to write about other topics, feel free to reply with thoughts. You can also read more of my blogs here

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