"They put up a valiant fight against the pandemic and against the imperfect system, day after day."
This week culminates a month-long celebration of teachers’ role in society. Much has been said about educators’ self-effacing, persevering, caring nature, and the huge responsibility they bear in molding the minds and characters of our young people.
That we are in a pandemic and struggling with novel ways to deliver education to our children makes this year’s Teachers Day, marked on Tuesday, an especially sobering occasion.
The lockdowns have put to test an already-struggling education sector. Students and their families have had to shift to either an online or a blended type of learning, where socio-economic gaps are magnified. Lack of access to learning tools and a reliable — for some, existent —internet connection have defined the way our students have plodded through the past year and a half.
But teachers are suffering, too.
Many of them are themselves no strangers to students’ struggles. They, too, have to make do with smartphones or computers that cannot cope with the demands of online work, or unreliable internet connections that could make them unavailable to their students. Many others struggle to print their learning materials and bring them to the homes of their students. Many of these homes are remote, or inaccessible. It is not uncommon to hear stories of teachers shelling out their own cash just to do this.
Lest we forget, they, too, are vulnerable to the virus with their frequent trips outside their homes to meet with their colleagues or to reach their students.
We fall into the habit of extolling teachers only on Teachers Day. The demands on them, however, are there all year long. So are their difficulties. And yet they try to get the job done, anyway.
This year, a fitting tribute to all educators, themselves exhausted and fed up, would be to acknowledge that they, too, need help. They do not have all the answers or the resources. While they valiantly put up a fight against the many constraints posed by the pandemic — and, in fact, the imperfect system — they do not win all the time, and that is all right. Because they wake up the following morning and try, all over again.