Two months ago on the 16th of March, 2020, the government of Ghana closed down schools to contain the spread of coronavirus. The closure of schools brought with it a deeper appreciation of teachers globally with some parents admitting how difficult it is to patiently teach children.
While we do not know when schools will reopen, we can use this season to appreciate teachers for their commitment to our future.
Though teachers mould and nurture the next generation, their quality of life is usually nothing to write home about, most live just above the poverty line. There is no glory in keeping the most selfless people in your society in poverty and failing to provide basic social services for them because of some notion that their reward isn’t on earth.
“Educators are rewarded in Heaven” is a very popular saying that acknowledges the sacrifices teachers make and glorifies society’s failure to reward them enough to enable them to afford their basic necessities.
Mr. Ramsey Abaxe is a 73-year-old retired educator who started his career in 1965 at the then National Management and Productivity Institute. He worked as a Librarian at the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board from 1968 to 1977 and finally started teaching from 1981 until he retired. Mr. Abaxe is also part of the 85% of Ghanaians who lack access to proper sanitation.
Despite dedicating years of his life to educating young Ghanaians, Mr. Abaxe lacked a comfortable place to answer nature’s call until one of his former students helped him get access to his very own water closet.
He recalls how miserable he was when he was posted to a small village of Katapo in the early 80s to teach class two pupils. The area had no water, no electricity, the roads were terrible and to make matters worse, he had to teach children under a tree. His disappointments were fast replaced by hope once he engaged his pupils and saw how hungry they were to learn. He promised himself to do everything he could to help his students get the quality education they need to become productive members of society.
Beatrice Agbalenyo was one of the class two students who were under Mr. Abaxe’s care. He not only taught her in class two but also in class four and in Junior Secondary School (JSS). At some point in her primary education, Beatrice lost her father and had to drop out of school to help her mother care for her sibling. She fell behind on her school work. Many adults advised her to learn a trade but Mr. Abaxe insisted that she completes her formal education. Under his supervision in JSS , she was able to work very hard to get a scholarship to Senior Secondary School and Teachers’ Training College.
Today, Beatrice is a headmistress and the current assemblywoman of the Dedeiman electoral area. She attributes her success to teachers like Mr. Abaxe who believed in her and invested in her development. The impact Mr. Abaxe and others in the community had on her inspired her to also live a life of service, to nurture the potential of the children in the community and also improve the livelihood of the elders within the community.
As part of her duties as an assemblywoman, Beatrice was able to secure improved sanitation for the residents of her community. Last year, she successfully brought the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) Sanitation and water project for Ghana to the community. Not surprisingly, Mr. Abaxe was one of the beneficiaries. He shares how he felt seeing a student from the community she trained as a child come back to improve his life:
“She has impacted my life. If not for her, I would have been squatting each time I go. Sometimes I struggle and find it difficult to squat, but now I just sit down and enjoy the process. What she has done has humbled me so much. If I could go back in time, I would have done much more for her.”
I then asked his advice for teachers everywhere who are currently investing in the development of a child without any clear vision of that child’s future and the role they’re currently playing in moulding that future.
“I would tell the current crop of teachers to focus on the child in front of them, plan a future for that child, the success of that child will positively influence you one day. The biggest reward, if you have really done your work as a teacher, is that you will see your students coming out very successfully.”
Mr. Abaxe’s story is a reminder that no matter where we find ourselves, we always have an opportunity to positively impact someone’s life. Sometimes that person may be a kid who is not old enough to appreciate what we are doing. But, that child will grow up to remember the belief we had in her, she will make something of herself because we helped her believe she was better than the limitations of her immediate environment. She will never forget the impact you had on her and will use her experience with you as an inspiration to also impact someone else’s life.
The writer, Dziffa Akua Ametam, is the co-host of Citi TV’s Breakfast Daily.