Let me begin by congratulating you all on our day. A very important day for all
teachers as it is a day that the world has set aside for teachers to be recognised
for the important work that they do and for teachers themselves to reflect on
the importance of what they do.
I have been asked to speak on the theme « the right to education means the
right to a qualified teacher, from the perspective of an educationalist. » The
right to education is an inalienable right that is guaranteed in the 1997
Constitution of The Gambia. Section 30 “Rights to Education”, states that: “All
persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities
with a view to achieving the full realization of that right ».
Once you guarantee a right, it means that you have to respect the right, fulfill
the right and maintain the right. We all know that the most important input
into achieving the full realization of that right is the availability of teachers. Not
just any teacher but a qualified teacher. This is a major deficiency in The
Gambian Educational System and not only in The Gambia but in many countries
worldwide as many students are denied the right to equal educational
opportunities and facilities. How can one say that there is equal educational
opportunity when some children are taught by a qualified teacher and others
are taught by an unqualified
This denial of the students’ constitutional right to equal educational
opportunities has to do with the relationship between teacher
preparation/teacher certification and improved student learning. With specific
reference to the equal opportunity this is an open ended issue as the law says
nothing about knowledge of the teachers, their knowledge of pedagogy, says
nothing about student-teaching experience and says nothing about mentoring.
Much of the current research has indicated that these factors are critical for
student performance in school.
The law for equal opportunity exists but it cannot guarantee parents that each
teacher who steps into the classroom has any grounding in the content and
subject matter that students are going to have to master in order to leave
school with the required standard. Teacher quality is the most influential
factor that determines student success. I have been a teacher and a teacher of
teachers and I know for a fact that if I had not undergone the level of
preparation to be a teacher, I would not have achieved the results that I
achieved neither would I have survived in the teaching profession.
It goes without saying that teachers should be qualified? The idea of
unqualified teachers working in school is nothing new and I myself have signed
appointment letters for hundreds of unqualified teachers. We did this as a stop
gap measure to ensure that classrooms had someone to teach and we tried to
assure ourselves that these were people who had an interest in teaching and
who would help the children to acquire the knowledge, skills and aptitudes that
were required to enable them to acquire an education of good quality.
If I put myself in the shoes of those unqualified teachers this would be far from
the truth. For even after three years of intensive teacher training where I did
both theory and practice of teaching I still struggled in my early years of
teaching. Teaching is hard, students can be challenging, the job can affect you
in ways you never expected and the teacher education programme leading
towards a qualification prepares you for this.
Having to deal with students' social and bahavioural problems is not easy.
Having to communicate with children from diverse backgrounds, individual
differences, interests and abilities is a phenomenal task. If I had not undergone
the training that I did I would not be able to look at a child and recognise that
this child is suffering from a disability and needs specialist treatment, or that
this child is dyslecsic and is not stupid but just cannot recognise letters or
figures or that the child is being abused and so on and so forth or that the child
has different tealents, aptitudes and interests.
It took three years of training and one full year of follow up for me to acquire
such knowledge and skills. The teacher preparation that Thhe Gambia calls
qualified teachers falls far below the minimum standards for them to operate
as effective teachers and yet we complain that standards are falling. Is it not
unfair on the unqualified teacher, their colleagues or students to employ them
without them having undegone a national minimum standard of training. We
should not be experimenting with our children’s lives. No one goes to an
unqualified doctor or dentist for treatment. Then why should we subject our
children to be taught by an unqualified teacher? Teaching is so much more
than standing in front of a class and knowing the content. Knowing something
doesn't mean you can teach it. In The Gambia tests conducted for teachers
indicate that they do not even have the content. Teaching is about pedagogy
and teachers should be qualified.