Teachers are a very special kind of people. One good description that I like is: “Teachers are like candles — they burn themselves out while giving light to othersâ€.
And anybody who has taught will instantly relate to the truth of that statement.
Teachers have been a critical part of my whole life ..….
- Firstly during my formative days as a student at school and university
- My early experience working as a languages teacher in France and Spain
- 14 years as a teacher and headmaster here in Barbados
- Then 10 years working with teachers in my role as Secretary and Chairman of the Board of Management of St. Gabriel’s School
- Plus some 25 years working with the many teachers who have been responsible for the education of my own children …. Right up to today, as my youngest daughter now prepares to sit her CXC’s.
And based on the wide and varied experience that I have gathered over that period of more than 50 years — the one, inescapable conclusion that constantly fills my brain is that teachers are, without doubt, some of the most under-rated and under-valued members of modern day society.
Generally speaking, teachers, as a professional group, are not given the status in modern society that the level of their responsibility in the continued development of Barbados so clearly deserves.
It would be considered a very obvious statement to suggest that teachers (more than anybody outside the family circle) have the opportunity to strongly influence the all-round quality of our young people — and by clear extension, to influence the all-round quality of life that Barbados can look forward to in the future.
Most people will readily agree that the higher the standard of teaching we have in our schools then the higher the standard of citizen we will produce.
It’s a very, very simple fact of life.
So, based on that one single fact alone, our good teachers should be valued like gold; treated like the superstars that they are; given the financial rewards their efforts deserve; and accorded the great respect that their role in society merits.
We all know that is true.
And yet … Over the course of the last 30 years I have often heard it said that Barbados cannot afford to give a significant increase in the salaries of teachers, because the cost would be too much for the economy to manage. But my counter-argument to that theory is that the country cannot afford NOT to improve the position of our teachers, since the potential damage to the economy caused by a reduced standard of teaching will eventually cost Barbados a lot more in the future than the price of a pay rise today.
Somehow, some day …. And clearly the current economic conditions are not favourable for this …… we must take action to make this possible.
The English word ‘education’ owes much of its origin to the Latin verb ‘Educere’ — and ‘educere’ does not actually mean to teach …. It more means to lead (as in to show the way).
So if we want our best young people, our best role models, our best leaders to become teachers …… then we must reward them in an appropriate manner.
For that reason I wholeheartedly applaud Royal Fidelity for this wonderful initiative, whereby they have chosen to publicly recognize at the national level some of the country’s most distinguished teachers.
While I am sure that the winners will be delighted to get a financial reward, I personally believe that it is the distinction and honour of the award that will mean most to them. Like all the other good teachers — for them, the satisfaction of teaching young people well is worth much more than just money.
And it is this kind of public recognition that will be a good first step in trying to give the teaching profession the improved standing in our society that it so richly deserves.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Panel Of Judges, I thank you for attending today and for your future support.
31st March 2011