By Ezinwanne Onwuka
I can vividly recall when I was asked to represent my class in an intra-school debate competition during my primary school days. The topic of the debate was: Teachers are more important than lawyers.
My class, primary 5 was to propose while Primary 6 was to oppose the motion. 9-year old me was not comfortable with supporting the motion because I felt lawyers were much more important in the society compared to teachers. I didn’t understand why anyone could think otherwise. It is stupid, I thought.
Nevertheless, I got to work. The points I was putting up, rather than sparking up an interest in me for the topic, made me see the ridiculousness of supporting the motion. At this juncture, it is pertinent that I mention that my childhood dream was to become a lawyer. Maybe, it was because of my love for the law profession that made me have a low regard for teachers and wouldn’t want to take the side of teachers in a debate. If I don’t defend lawyers, who will?
Well, I pulled out of the debate. I told my teacher that I was having difficulty getting interesting points for the debate to guarantee our success, as the chief speaker. Of course, she didn’t believe me because she knew I was up to the task. She knew I was lying. And her efforts to know why I was opting out of the competition proved futile. She had to choose another student.
On the day of the competition, I prayed that Primary 6 would win. Imagine that! At the end, my prayer was ‘answered’. I was jubilant. In fact, I celebrated the victory more than the victors.
Many years have gone, my opinion about teachers has changed. My opinion then as a 9-year old was clearly immature and unguided. Not that I looked down on them, though. I just couldn’t figure out any meaningful role they play in the society, compared to lawyers.
As I grew older and met teachers like Mr. Steve, Mrs. Egbo, Dr. C.N Ogbozo, Prof. J.C.A Agbakoba, Dr. A.C Areji, Prof. F.O.C Njoku, Mrs. U.M Okoye, Mr. D.O Odo and so many others, I had a paradigm shift. However, this is not to imply that I disregarded my primary school teachers. No, I owe them a profound gratitude! And yes, an apology to Mrs. Igwe, my Primary 5 teacher, for my childish behavior back then (I hope she gets to read this somehow).
Reminiscing, I can’t help but get baffled to realize that every teacher who has taught me actually made me realize the unique role(s) of teachers in the society. The pithy saying, ‘No Teacher, No Nation’ underscores how indispensable teachers are to the nation. Little wonder, the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) has the slogan “If you can write your name, thank your teacher”. This also lends credence to highlight the importance of teachers.
Every profession is important and prestigious but permit me to say that the most important and most prestigious is the teaching profession because the teaching profession is the mother of all profession because, the future of every individual and nation lies in the hands of the teacher. This view is somewhat shocking coming from someone who, as a child, regarded the law profession highly and the teaching profession lowly, right?
There is a popular saying that if a doctor makes a mistake, perhaps one person might die, if a lawyer makes a mistake, perhaps, one person might go to jail, if an engineer makes a mistake, may be a bridge might collapse, but if a teacher makes a mistake, generations yet unborn will come to suffer the effect of that mistake. This shows that teachers are the life-wire and mainstay of the nation.
Chanakya has rightly stated, “The teacher is the maker of a nation”. Hence, no teachers, no future. A nation without (competent) teachers is a nation heading for doom because the future of the nation is fashioned by him/her through the process of education. In other words, a teacher is a person who can either make or mar the future of a society, a person whose importance cannot be over emphasized. It is a teacher who influences the immature minds of the youth. He/she treats and tries to mould the living stuff into various forms.
A teacher is a vessel for development. A nation trying to march ahead on the roads to progress can leave the education of her sons and daughter in the hands of incompetent teachers only at its own risk. “The world of tomorrow will be born from the schools of today” says M.L Jacks. In this way, teachers, indeed, can be rightly called nation builders.
A nation is built by its citizens and citizens are moulded by teachers.
The role of the teacher in nation building cannot be over-emphasised. National development hinges inextricably on the contributions of the teacher. Indeed, teachers are great assets in any Nation, that is why the National Policy on Education (Revised 2004) recognized that “No educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers”.
Teachers are, undoubtedly, the pillar to the development and building of any nation. Teachers are the light bearers to development.
Ezinwanne Onwuka, Cross River State.