Teachers are Nation-Builders: Developing Countries Must Invest in Them Properly

Malala Yousafzai in her book I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban powerfully writes:

“His sisters — my aunts — did not go to school at all, just like millions of girls in my country. Education had been a great gift for him. He believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan’s problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected. He believed schooling should be available for all, rich and poor, boys and girls.”

Malala’s story is as heartbreaking as it is empowering. The overarching message that education should be a basic human right to everyone, regardless of gender, speaks loudly. Her quote above about her father sheds light on an important fact; poor education systems hurt a country on nearly every scale. An uneducated populace stagnates growth and innovation and affects a country from its economics to its human rights. 

Setting the Stage

The Global Partnership for Education compiled a tremendous amount of data from across the world utilizing UNICEF, the World Bank, and numerous other organizations to take a look at the impact education has on countries. All of this helps builds the case that Malala’s story is a part of that teachers are an invaluable resource to developing countries but are woefully swept the side. Consider some of the following facts:

  • According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics in their 2017 study on out-of-school children, there are 262 million (1 out of every 5) children between the ages of 6 and 17 out of school
  • 420 million people would be lifted out of poverty with a secondary education which will reduce the number of poor worldwide by more than half.
  • TheEducation Commission’s report The Learning Generation found that for every $1 invested in education creates an increase of $10 in low-income countries
  • UNESCO’s International Literacy Day paper found “a person without basic literacy lacks real opportunities to effectively engage with democratic institutions, to make choices, exercise his/her citizenship rights and act for a perceived common good. […] only then can a nation be brought closer to peace. However if literacy is to become an enabler of democracy it cannot be confined to basic skills, and thus to functional literacy.”

The Role of Teachers

While it is obvious how vital education is to radically change a country not only as a whole but on the individual level, it cannot be forgotten that to educate the students you need qualified and supported teachers. Sadly the reality of teachers, and teacher training, in developing countries leaves much to be desired. 

The EFA Global Monitoring Report found that in one-third less than 75% of teachers were professionally trained. The countries referred to are the undeveloped/developing countries that lack not only the resources to adequately train their teachers but also the infrastructure and even sometimes general desire to do so. 

In these types of countries, the teaching profession is not always viewed positively in addition to suffering from extremely low salaries (which in turn means that teachers need to attain a second job) among numerous other issues. For example, The World Development Report 2018 found astonishing levels of teacher absenteeism in sub-Saharan Africa not only within their classroom but the school itself which gives a closeup view on some of the issues going on in these types of countries and why quality education continues to be a large hurdle to overcome. 

Teachers are the nation-builders but for a country to grow and thrive from an educated and literate population, they need to be invested in, supported, and celebrated. There is no silver bullet solution for such a change to happen. It will take many years of concerted efforts on a social, political, and legislative front to make such a shift but the benefits are indescribable. 

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