Transformation of education begins with teachers

My name is John Tereraho. Tereraho is a hopeless name, because my parents thought I was not going to make it in life. In Rufumbira and Rwanda dialect it means throw there. It is a name that carries no hope because my parents were pagans. They thought I was going to die because those who had come before had died but iam here and on October 29, I will be 60 years. I went to school by accident and I ended up being the only one that went to school among my siblings, even my parents did not go to school.

But I also want to tell the world that I took my parents to church when I was in senior six and I selected God parents for them to get baptized but the gentlemen I chose never turned up and I ended up being a (god parent) for my father. This is affirming what education does. I looked at what was happening at home and it was dirty and shameful.

Iam an Anglican and provincial head of Laity for the Church of Uganda. So, I want you to appreciate the role of education. I dug and built the first pit-latrine in 1979 when I was in S2 after later getting used to going to the toilet in school and was tired of easing myself in the bush. I did not put up a shoe until when I was in S2.

My brothers never went to school because at home we were poor but they were poor in mind. My father had over 50 cows. My brothers spent most of their time grazing cows, unfortunately none of them has cows now and I have suffered with their children and God has blessed me because they are all educated. It is now a strong family. We now have three engineers, a lawyer, engineer and doctor in training.

On September 19, 2022, the world gathered in New York to discuss the transformation of education. Where world leaders gathered to see how we could address the pertinent issues of education in the world today.

On October 5, the whole world will come together (happened already) to celebrate the international teachers day under the theme “the transformation of education begins with teachers”.

Hoima Catholic diocese is speaking with the teachers of the catholic founded schools today (October 1) that the transformation of education begins with you.

So the timing is just right and it cannot be a coincidence. This is how God programmes his things. The theme for the diocese has been “education is an act of love. It is like giving life”.

And I want to add that it is like giving life in John 10:10 which says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

It implies life in abundance not just life because even a cat has life but it does not have life in its fullness. It (cat) wakes up in the morning, moves around, looks for a rat that is unlucky, it grabs it, eats it and there it goes somewhere, sleeps and snores and waits to be hungry again and goes to look for another unlucky rat.

We should not prepare our children like that but should be prepared to live a life and actually a life in its fullness and flourishing.

This means when Pope Francis was talking about that, he meant fulfillment, development and growth and not just living.

We are here to give love. But the question is do we really have love? Can you give what you don’t have?

Most teachers do not love themselves. We have seen some teachers who after earning a salary, that evening they get that money from the ATM and they walk, they go to the nearest place, eat pork, drink beer and they get drunk out of the earned the balance is taken by other people and they go home with nothing and they are called “teachers”. Such people who don’t love themselves cannot give love.

Why transform education?

The people we are competing with in the world have gone so far. They have actually advanced. They are looking for alternative planets where they will live when this planet becomes insecure.

They are also doing terrible things, I know. They have trained dogs and cats to perform tasks that men cannot do, here in Africa and they are working with machines to do very difficult tasks.

But here we are: our children cannot read and write at P6. The evidence we have now shows that 3 out of 10 pupils in P7 public schools in Uganda cannot read a P2 story, so, they complete P7 when they are illiterates and we have teachers who have gone to school, they have taught, we have education advisors.

Why the children are not reading is why God is asking us such questions? This reminds me of a story. A story of a king. This king was walking during one beautiful morning and he met a young boy who had hunted a rabbit and killed it and the boy had the rabbit holding it by the ears. The king said: “Young boy, well done, you have hunted a rabbit, a visibly happy boy said, “yes ” that he had successfully hunted a rabbit. The king asked the boy who taught you how to hunt a rabbit? He said my father. Which means the father of the boy was also a rabbit hunter. The king asked the boy again: who taught your father how to hunt a rabbit? He said my grandfather. Which means the grandfather was also a hunter of rabbits. So, from the grandfather, to the father, to the son are hunters of rabbits-three generations.

Guys, is that really what you want to be? Come on Bunyoro, the land of oil, teachers, to ensure children graduate to become hunters of elephants is what is important today.

Because in America and some parts of Uganda they have graduated to hunting elephants and for us we are comfortably saying we can continue with hunting rabbits. We cannot transform education without teachers. We cannot afford to have you in the periphery, teachers must take a front line and you must take the lead. Failure to take the lead, the nation is because we are and the children can’t read because we are and can read because we are. The strikes and corruption in the country are because we are.

We must change the narrative friends because the children you have are our children. If they were Zimbabweans or Congolese you would say go to hell and die but they are our own, we are their teachers. We hold their future. We make it or we break it. It is not a joke. It is about our legacy. And these children are crying. Like in Luke 8:22-25 it says “when the disciples were with Christ and they met a storm and Christ was asleep. Peter said” Teacher we are dying. Don’t you care? Now in our context, teacher we are dying, don’t you care? Kindly listen to that voice and get up and act. Iam going to end with reflections of a revolutionist and a strugglist for the Indian independence, Mahatma Ghandi, when journalists asked him what would you want to do? He replied three things I would want to do when India becomes independent, he said, number one, education. Number two, education. Number three, education. They were confused and then the journalist asked him, so, when this happens, what would you want that education to focus on? And he said, number one, virtue. Number two, virtue and number three, virtue. Every society is a reflection of its education. No nation can be better than its education and actually no education can be better than its teachers. Virtue means behaviour showing high moral standards and in virtue, there is a package of all good things.

John Tereraho, is a retired district education officer for Rukungiri and currently works as an education advisor at World Vision Uganda. He made the presentation during the education week when Hoima Catholic diocese spoke with the teachers of catholic founded schools at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Hoima City on October 1, 2022.

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