The National, Monday October 14th, 2013
A HIGH rate of absenteeism by teachers in some government primary schools in the National Capital District is starting to worry many parents and guardians.
It is being observed that a particular government school in Gerehu, the largest suburb in the National Capital District, some of the teachers turn up for classes whenever they like.
While parents and guardians are fuming over the fact that their children are missing out on valuable school lessons, it appears little or nothing is being done by the school management to rein in these roving teachers.
It seems these so-called educators do not have to be in their classrooms from Mondays to Fridays to earn their fortnightly wages from the government.
Like other civil servants, they can stay away from work and attend to personal chores but still scurry to the ATMs (automated telling machines) on pay day.
In a proper school environment where teacher/student discipline is a key ingredient of primary education, chronic teacher absenteeism is not condoned, and in fact, is a rarity.
Unfortunately, some of the primary schools in the nation’s capital, and possibly in other centres as well, are facing this particular dilemma.
Not only are lazy and inconsiderate teachers a disgrace to their profession, but the main victims of their absences are the young children, whose basic and further education depends on regular class lessons.
Besides, what message are such teachers giving the schoolchildren – that being absent from class is all right?
We feel the Education Department should to investigate this matter before the absenteeism virus spreads to other schools.
As Catholic Archbishop of Madang Stephen Reichert said in a recent letter to teachers in Catholic Agency Schools: “Teachers who are absent from the classroom day after day, or even occasionally, are guilty of child abuse too.
“They are neglecting the children put in their care.”
We could not agree more with the good bishop that absentee teachers betray the trust of the parents of their students.
Reichert says in his letter: “Children listen to you as you teach them. They do the assignments you give them.
“They gain valuable information about many things and they acquire skills that will help them be successful and happy in life.
“Work hard, prepare well, and be a dedicated teacher in the classroom.
“Young people observe you, their teacher, very carefully both in and out of the classroom seven days a week.
“They talk about you among themselves.
“After all, they are trying to learn how they should behave as they grow up.
“Strive to be the best person you can be and therefore a great example to the children you are teaching and forming for life.”
While the bishop’s letter was directed at teachers in Catholic agency schools, the message is equally appropriate and meaningful for government school teachers.
They must always be mindful that their salaries and other employment benefits are paid for by the taxpayers who send their children to schools for an education.
Teachers, like other civil servants, are answerable to the government and ultimately to the citizens of this country.
There are about 50,000 teachers in Papua New Guinea who are responsible for the education of our children in primary and secondary schools.
They give children the basic education that forms the building block for higher learning.
Just the previous week, the teaching profession in the country joined their colleagues in other countries to celebrate World Teachers Day.
In his commemorative message, PNG Teachers’ Association president Tommy Hecko said that Papua New Guineans deserved quality education.
The association is well aware that quality education can only be achieved if our teachers are trained to a higher standard.
And while the association is pushing for quality training and improved benefits, the onus is on teachers, especially those lazy and inconsiderate ones, to drastically improve their performances by attending to their daily tasks.
Everyone is talking about developing the human capital of the country, making it even more important that teachers pull their weight in class.