A typical depiction of how a teacher or lecturer can be a minister of mercy is replicated very well in the movie “Freedom Writers.” The movie is based on the book “The Freedom Writers Diary,” a real-life story written by freedom writer Erin Gruwell (the teacher, played by actress Hilary Swank, pictured) in 1999.
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A young woman, at the beginning of her teaching career, was assigned to teach a group of embattled high school students, who even nicknamed her “Miss G.,” in Room 203. And amid all of the insolence these students showed her — as well as the disrespect she received from her peers — she kept on persevering, with the hope that they would change.
At the end, the unreserved show of love by this teacher rendered a turnaround in the lives of these students. Many freedom writers became the first in their families to graduate high school and go to college.
Gruwell and the “Freedom Writers” started the Freedom Writers Foundation dedicated to recreating the success of Room 203 in classrooms throughout the United States. What made Gruwell’s technique most effective with her students was the fact that she was attentive: She had her ears and eyes on every boy and girl in that class. She cared about their lives in and outside of the classroom. Through this singular act, she saved more than 50 nearly wasted lives.
Such is mercy in action.
With the year-to-year decline in the education quality in many countries on the African continent, I doubt if these kind of teachers are abundant in our various institutions of learning. I once had a teacher like “Miss G.” in my primary school.
She was a religious sister of the Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus Congregation. At the send-off party of this Sister, all of the pupils from nursery to primary classes gathered around her crying.
I can still recall seeing the uncountable pupil hand stains on her sparkling white habit. Up until now, even after finishing my secondary, undergraduate, and postgraduate education, I am yet to have met another male or female teacher like my primary school teacher who was committed enough to go all out and give herself to those she teaches.
These are teachers following the teaching method of Christ who was always moved by pity for the lack and emptiness He saw in the people gathered around him, before teaching them.
Mercy and commitment in education is the reflection of compassion and care to bring about the integral development of persons. Compassion herein connotes responsible care and consideration of an action carried out by someone.
A teacher or lecturer is an education and development agent.
Here, “education” refers to formally and informally impacting knowledge and skills, while “development” refers to anything that helps in the improvement and advancement of a particular condition of a person for the better.
Every development must be an advantage to the person. Teachers and lecturers as education and development agents are saddled with the responsibility of using formal and informal forms to impact knowledge or skill to those in their care (students), so that they can be reliant psychologically and physically to render services for their good and that of society.
I know in the hearts of some teachers, they really would love to show this great care for the students but are considering that relating as such will bring disrespect from the students. Even if the students exhibit such character, it is still their place to caution and help him/her do the right thing.
It is very sad to hear these days that teachers and lecturers in Africa, especially in Nigeria, purposely under-develop their students by extorting them for cash in kind.
It seems to have become a norm among most contemporary teachers to ask the students to pay a malpractice fee for the secondary schools.
Sale of hand-outs and cash settlements for good grades are the mode of operation for unmerciful lecturers.
There is a whole lot of harm and dehumanizing acts that students in Africa suffer in the hands of most teachers and lecturers these days, of which mentioning them here will lead us to shedding tears.
It seems as if teachers and lecturers involved in these heinous actions are forgetting that the evil they teach students will surely be the evil the students shall render to the society when they have settled.
Little wonder why the education sectors in most countries in Africa are not given required attention, because it is most likely that those at the helm of affairs in the ministries of education remember the evil that teachers and lecturers did to them as students and are not able to see the good that needs to be done to improve that sector.
I have taken time to analyse reasons why the teacher’s and lecturer’s associations in African countries, such as Nigeria, go on strike. To my dismay, 99 percent of the reasons were based on their pay or welfare alone — and it may sluggishly include a reason about the welfare of the students that makes up 1 percent.
Even after teachers force the hands of the government to oblige their requests through long strikes, students still complain about universities having lecturers who are not serious about coming to class to teach, sorting cash settlements for high marks, demanding sex for high grades, being unqualified to handle courses, and more.
And in the secondary schools, teachers have upgraded to molesting and abusing students old enough to be their children.
To teach is a vocation not a career. Teaching and lecturing are not jobs for all to grab. A teacher must be one who is moved with pity and compassion to save another through knowledge.
The primary aim for engaging in teaching cannot be for the pay.
Of course, every labourer deserves his/her wages, but as a teacher, you should be constant in doing the right thing for the good of your students even when the government is against you. For your efforts, you will witness that the whole nation will rally for you against those who trouble you.
If teachers and lecturers do their job well, the issue of pay or agitation for their welfare will not even be theirs to fight. In fact, the students will do that for them. Every teacher or lecturer should be able to recreate a family out of every class they teach, where there is a certain level of joy present for both teacher and student.