Call for recognition of ECD teachers’ role in children’s development
A noble profession that it is, teaching currently has with the highest number of staff formerly employed by the Government compared to any other career.
Most teachers were hired by the Government and taught in schools within their home districts.
However, things have changed so much that only a few people admire teaching, the rest take it as the last option in life. This is because of the struggles and challenge that teachers go through in their daily career lives.
Despite this, it’s important to note that Early Childhood Development (ECD) popularly known as nursery school teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the minds and lives of the young ones in an education cycle. Unfortunately, they are neither recognised or featured anywhere when the teaching profession is mentioned.
Could it be a deliberate attempt to demean ECD teachers or just an oversight in social status ranking?
According to Judith Ogutu, who has been an ECD teacher for about 10 years, the profession is far much different from ancient nursery school teacher in terms of professional training. She notes that first it is a special calling, secondly it offers parenting and thirdly it is a career.
“It is a career that the faint hearted or quick tempered people should not go for. It’s not just about teaching but nurturing children with the best skills as possible as a parent,” Ogutu explains.
She adds: “Majority of ECD teachers are female not because men cannot teach them but women have the qualities needed compared to men.”
In most cases, ECD teachers are the first strange people the child meets outside his or her family in a well-established shelter known as a school. So it is upon ECD teachers to ensure the children acclimatise themselves with new environment, socialise and familiarise with teacher.
“The ECD teachers are good at shaping the child’s life in terms of mental understanding, knowledge imparting and physical development,” says Ogutu. She explains: “These include learning numerical, alphabets, response to call of nature, bonding, talent identification and family values among other things.”
Many ECD teachers go beyond their call of duty to ensure that children get the best skills required in life. For instance, they attend to calls of nature, change their diapers, bathe, engage them in story telling (language), and inculcate eating manners apart from theory work.
As the world marked the Teachers’ International Day in October efforts being put by ECD teachers should not have been assumed or undermined. Instead they should have been recognised and appreciated for important role they play in laying down a child’s foundation in basic education.
Phyllis Machesia who has been an ECD teacher for the past five years affirms her love for the job. She recalls when she first began teaching in a faith-based kindergarten sharing same compound with primary school. It was challenging to control the children.
“Despite the challenges I went through, children loved me. They did not have formal uniform and learning was enjoyable. In fact, some children could come with their younger siblings accompanying them to just enjoy the nursery atmosphere,” Machesia recalls.
Nevertheless, today with devolution in place, public pre-primary school education has been devolved to the counties. Machesia says she was lucky to be hired by Kakamega County Government as an experienced ECD teacher.
“I go for the ECD curriculum training during school holidays and once I graduate my salary will be much better compared to what I earn now,” explains Machesia.
Mary Ogola, a retired teacher who taught both nursery and primary school pupils notes that even though the nursery section had no proper syllabus to follow during her time, it made a big difference for those who joined unit one without passing through nursery school.
Ogola says she could differentiate children who went through nursery before joining lower primary school in terms of understanding, intellect, handwriting and the way they socialised with other pupils.
“Teaching nursery children is not easy but an important stage in education curriculum. Surely the salary that I used to earn was peanuts compared to the workload I discharged daily,” Ogola says.
“In fact, it was like I was volunteering my time and skills to teach nursery kids. Basic salary came from my employer the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), as a primary teacher. Nursery section was more of my own initiative with the community to keep children busy during the day,” says Ogola.
Today it’s mandatory for every child to go through ECD. The Government must have realized the importance of preparing children at an early stage before joining primary.
“My plea to the county governments is for them to pay ECD teachers what they deserve. They should also respect and recognise them for the role that they play in child development,” reiterated Ogola.