Geras Usabyimana is 48 years old and has spent almost half of his life teaching. He currently teaches mathematics at College Marie Kibuye in Karongi District, Western Province. He aspired to become a teacher since he was in primary school, a long and difficult dream that ended up coming true.
1. Childhood dream
I met many teachers during my education but two of them were special. Their attitudes and deeds are still fresh and engraved in my mind. One taught me in Primary 4, another in Primary 8 and both had one thing in common: commitment to teaching. They would always feel bad when a student failed. They tried their best to build and nurture a relationship with students just like the bond between a child and a parent. Students would talk to them in class as if they were talking with their own parents whereas some other teachers were feared by students.
When Mr Usabyimana was admitted to a high school, he wanted to study education but he was denied. “The school leader simply said that I was good at maths and therefore recommended me to study mathematics and physics instead. I was not happy with the decision but had no other option. Two years later, I again asked the school management if I could shift to education but they refused. I was lucky enough to find a teaching job after completing secondary school. This was the time my dream was going to materialise.
2. The most valuable profession
When I was young model people in society were teachers. They were very much respected by everyone because they were teaching for the community. But it is not only about the past, the same consideration should prevail, it is all about the mindset. The teaching profession has been and will remain the most valuable profession ever because of its value to the humankind—it is the foundation of every other profession and touches all aspects of our life. Everyone knows that education is a human right, it is the foundation of everything else…we all know what happens when children are not sent to school: some end up in the streets and become a burden to their country.
I don’t understand why people would undermine teachers. It is a shame when it ever happens. How would a parent, a future parent or an educated person underestimate a teacher? In any case, every one has at one time been to school, or will be to school, and even if you haven’t gone to school your children have been or will be in front of a teacher. Yes, there might be some teachers who misbehave but this shouldn’t tarnish the image of the teaching profession. I think a good reference would be education institutions, they are always concerned about quality teachers to improve learning achievements which implies teacher motivation.
People will tell you that other professions are well paying. Professions can never be the same, and you will hear complaints here and there even in other professions! Yes, there are issues in education just like in any other profession and I believe the government will continue to do their best to motivate teachers.
3. Shaping the future
If you lack commitment to the teaching profession be aware that it will come back to you soon or later. Remember that the students you teach are the future, they will serve you and your country in different services which you may also need just as any other citizen. Some will be medical doctors, lawyers, business people…do you ever think about the kind of service you can get from ‘unprofessional’ service providers? I imagine that in such a situation you start questioning those who taught them or which school they went to! I always enter a classroom having this in mind, that I am shaping my own future, my family’s tomorrow—my legacy and my nation’s foundation.
4. Using what you have
Some people think that teachers cannot do anything because they are less paid. Such kind of thinking is erroneous. I started teaching when I only had a secondary education certificate. I saved some little money from my salary and used bank loans from Umwarimu SACCO, a saving and credit Cooperative for teachers, and managed to pay for my undergraduate studies—I did my advanced diploma in education and a bachelor’s degree in statistics applied to economy.
Similarly, I used bank loans and built my own house in 2012. In addition, I built some annexes which I rent out and make about 50,000 francs (USD60) every month. Later, I again applied for a loan at SACCO to run a small business (bar) at a local retail centre for my wife. Some of my neighbours were impressed—they couldn’t believe that a teacher can be successful. They even call me the ‘Director’. This is just one example. I know there are many other teachers who have achieved great things. It is all about using your brain to plan for what you have.
As teachers we can use what we have learnt as well as what we earn and plan for our future as we help children to also shape their future by teaching them. We teach and encourage children to study for a better tomorrow, but we should also inspire them by serving as good examples… we should show them that educated people live a better life.
My childhood dream to become a teacher, the value I attach to education and the way I live and help students learn and grow because of education remain the driving force for my commitment to the teaching profession.
This story is featured in our peer learning magazine for teachers and school leaders, under the theme: “How can Information Communication Technology help us to improve the quality of basic education?” Read more stories here.