Addressing laureates of the 58th batch of the Yaounde Higher Teacher Training College last Friday at the Sports Complex, Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo described them as pedagogic gladiators. They were further exhorted to shun absenteeism, never compromise education of young Cameroonians and embrace patriotism by serving wherever they are posted within the national triangle. The over one thousand graduates are expected to hit the ground running on the eve of a new school year with obvious challenges in some regions of the country. The “back to school” crusade that resonates as a call to arms, gets added impetus from the fresh and determined teachers joining the republican line of fortification for national progress. Described as “bright and competitive” by the Director of the institution, the new teachers are said to have what it takes in overcoming, hurdles associated with the teaching profession. Said to be the cornerstone for the advancement of human knowledge, the teacher today is sliding from his oft-quoted pinnacle, from the enigma of the golden fleece to the banality of the obvious. As more than one thousand join this noble profession, the public view of the teaching environment today requires that a lot be done in maintaining its reputation and credibility.
Education, it is has been said, makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave. For the collective good of a country therefore, the quality of education and the environment of the teacher requires constant amelioration to ensure that the best and brightest remain the mentors. The government of the Republic is taking the appropriate measures to ensure that the graduates of our teacher training institutions are well equipped to face the academic and moral challenge in the field. Trained by the finest scholars, the new “pedagogic gladiators” are not expected to compromise the education of young Cameroonians in all parts of the country. With the trend today of teachers streaming out of the classroom for other sectors, the education sector may be the primary victim of mobility in the career market. A cursory glance on realities in the field indicate an influx into the teaching profession of those whose primary concerns are probably to secure a matriculenumber and wait for the ineluctable slide of fortune’s wheel.Since all streams flow to the ocean, not all can resist the temptation to pick new goals for which they can more comfortably exchange a piece of their life. Concepts of static career choices no longer appear to fit the spirit of the age given that the doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live. To keep the competent in the classroom therefore, more has to be done to make the profession attractive. Government has taken the appropriate measures to give the teaching profession the required advantages to hold their own in a challenging world. While other top level civil servants go on retirement at fifty-five, teachers have added five years. Others have one month each year of leave, teachers have many more months of holidays and so on. A special status for personnel of the education sector is going a long way in restoring its age long reputation. It must however be stated that no one can drive straight on a twisted road, the teachers have a duty to maintain the standards of their calling. Like priest or pastors, the teaching profession is a narration of a calling that evokes devotion and a high sense of sacrifice. As doors of classrooms swing open in the days ahead, the teachers are expected to re-awaken and re-ignite the academic flame in young Cameroonians. The teachers in their classrooms should set the pace of civic reawakening and patriotism, delimit the edges and blow the whistle of deviance on our innocent youth, steering them from hooliganism and terrorism, to love for country and social cohesion. The building of a Cameroon, one and indivisible, begins in the classrooms, values of probity, multiculturalism and national unity are easily imbibed at a tender age from those we see as mentors. Horace Mann said it all: “School houses are the republican line of fortifications”.