In Igbo language, a teacher is referred to “onye nkuzi”, that is “a formator”. Actually, the term literally means “a person that forms good shapes by hitting on it”. It can also mean a person that “reforms what was deformed”. But at the deeper level, a teacher is seen as a master of knowledge, a man of integrity and a hardworking fellow. Then, parents send their “stubborn” and “lazy” children to live with teachers so that they will be “reformed”. In those days, the advice people give to parents of wayward children is to find a teacher that will help them to “refine and press out the good in the children”. I don’t know if the teachers of these days can boast of maintaining the status quo instituted by their predecessors.
An essay I came across today accused teachers of being responsible for the high rate of dishonesty in the society. This article, titled “The Death of Honesty”, by William Damon, asserts that schools no longer give priority to the teaching of honesty as a virtue. The writer states that children need to be formed when they are still young so that they can continue with what was instilled in them throughout their lives. Of course, since children spend most of their time in school, it is believed that teachers have greater chances of forming them than their parents.
But then, William Damon pointed out three major ways teachers encourage the increase in dishonesty in the society. The first one was that many teachers aid and abet cheating amongst students. Well, if we look at what is happening in Nigeria today, we will agree with the American writer that even Nigerian teachers do the same thing. Unfortunately, many Nigerian teachers engage in this act because they are not paid well.
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The second issue raised by Damon is that some teachers look the other way when students are cheating. According to him, this group of teachers behave this way because they want to avoid troubles. Damon gave legal action and contention as the troubles these teachers wanted to avoid, but in Nigeria, the troubles the teachers run away from are more than ordinary argument or legal action. We have heard of students that threatened and harmed their teachers because they were caught and penalised for cheating in exam halls. Worse is that schools do not compensate teachers that pass through such an ordeal. Instead they will be told to use their discretion next time.
The third concern raised by Damon is that many teachers make excuses for students that engage in exam malpractice. According to him, teachers are fond of saying that students cheat only when the exams are difficult. As absurd as this might sound, it happens. You might be surprised that some teachers, especially during external exams, tell invigilators to allow students to copy from one another or to consult their textbooks right there in the exam hall because the questions were off scheme. Well, the only reason a teacher will make excuses for students in situations like this is that he failed to do his job properly.
It might be strange to you that a paper written by an American for the American society in 2012 reflects what is happening in Nigeria. It is just a clear indication that teachers all over the world are losing their grips on integrity. Things are changing and our teachers are changing too, but mostly on the negative side. Maybe it is high time society allowed teachers to do their jobs. If there is no fear of students waylaying their teachers and harming them; if there is no anxiety that parents may demand for the sack of a teacher; if there is no fear of where the next meal will come from when a job is lost, believe me, the past glory of teachers will be restored.