Commemorating the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/Unesco Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, World Teachers’ Day is celebrated annually on October 5 and serves to highlight not just the importance of teachers, but also their needs, rights, and responsibilities. As the commemoration of a document filled with 20th century idealism that has been largely unfulfilled, Teacher’s Day can be a reminder of just how far we have to go.
Even before Aristotle educated Alexander, teachers have set the foundation for greatness. World Teacher’s Day, first celebrated in 1994, was established to celebrate them for their service to society as a whole. South Africa’s economic disparity has long been fuelled by inadequate education resulting from corruption, poor service delivery and a simple lack of resource allocation, but dedicated teachers have persisted in their efforts to prop up our flagging education system. With the hopes that the fourth industrial revolution present as well as renewed promises from the presidency to increase the salaries of teachers in the critically underfunded early childhood development sector, there’s room for a renewed optimism that must be combined with action in order to produce real change.
The 2019 theme of World Teachers’ Day, “Young Teachers: The future of the Profession”, has all of the optimism of the original recommendation that it commemorates. In a joint message from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Labour Organization, United Nations Development Programme and Education International, these institutions call on governments to “make teaching a profession of first choice for young people”.
In today’s economy, this might seem like a far-fetched aim for all but the most idealistic, who enter the teaching profession willing to strive against all odds for the good of education, but it’s perhaps this idealism that’s needed — and which can only be aided by much-needed governmental support to elevate education in the nation’s priorities. It’s in looking to the future of education in a fast-changing world that we’re able to explore what’s needed to achieve the goals set by Unesco, our own national government, and all those educators with high hopes for the potential of their pupils.