World Teachers Day: Teachers Put Students First despite Challenges

Updated: Oct 8

KLASSIK NATION - If there was ever a year to appreciate teachers, it is 2020.

A teacher in class with her first-grade students at the Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County in Kenya.

And World Teachers' Day - which is held annually on October 5 -- aims to do just that.

Amid a global pandemic, teachers have become even more vital, as they navigate how to help students adjust to distance learning and adapt to Covid-19 safety guidelines in their classrooms.

Many teachers we have spoken to said they are putting in work and more training as hard as they possibly can to make the best out of a tough situation.

"We're trying to respond to the (achievement) gaps that are already there and feeling the pressure that we've got to cram missed content in. Kids are overwhelmed, the staff is overwhelmed, and I think we just need to recognize it's okay not to be okay." Said Amina Wangara Ariada, a Headteacher in Busia County Teachers described spending countless hours working overtime to create new lessons from scratch and redesigning assignments to work in an online environment.

However, not all teachers are able to work in an online environment as most Kenyan teachers are neither trained nor prepared for online training.

The Kenyan government through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has been providing learning materials for learners something teachers appreciate though they say it is not enough to cover the achievement gap.

Over the past few weeks, some teachers also spent their vacation time pushing for more coronavirus safety measures in schools and working with institutions to create the safest possible reopening plans. Others fought for the right to work remotely rather than risk exposure to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, parents found themselves trying to juggle working from home, childcare, and helping kids with remote learning. Memes quickly started circulating online with parents highlighting how educators should be paid more. Some parents asked teachers to 'collect their children' for it was overwhelming for them.

This year involves so much more than teaching, Wangara said. Her school is finding ways to cope with the effects of the pandemic in a remote area that has perennial power problems, with 2G internet access. She says this is not enough for online training.

Some schools face more than just internet and power challenges. Many schools in Kenya do not have enough classrooms, teachers and some kids need more than academic support. Kids from poor families need food to make up for missing free and reduced lunches at school.

"When we're thinking about issues or troubleshooting things, it's like, 'What is best for kids?'" she said. "I think everyone is just trying their best. We're not in this career for money and we never will be. We're intrinsically motivated and we're motivated by the kids." continued Amina.

Teachers put students first

Despite the job-related difficulties of this year, every teacher KlassikNation interviewed seemed more worried for their students than themselves.

"I think one of the biggest things about pandemic is going to be a huge achievement gap," said Jane Mwende, a secondary school teacher based in Machakos. "It feels like something we've been fighting for a long time just got bigger."

Mwende said she is concerned about students losing social interactions. Education, she said, is not just about the curriculum but also about teaching kids to be kind people and good citizens.

"Even though it's hard as an adult and hard as a teacher, it's much harder as a student. They're missing extracurriculars and group interactions," she said. "But hopefully we can carry our kids through this as best we can."

Amina echoed this concern, noting that both students and teachers are missing in-person interactions.

"Students are missing so many social interactions at this point and they're overwhelmed and they're tired," Amina said.

Teachers, she added, are also missing those "aha" moments they share with students. And yet, teachers are finding ways to break through the monotony of virtual classrooms.

This World Teachers' Day, many can think of a few teachers who made a profound impact on their lives.

Teachers who we thought were teaching math and science but were actually teaching us how to be kind, how to persevere, and how to work hard. Teachers who bought the class books and supplies and even day-before-the-big-test pizzas with their own money. Teachers who took extra time to write recommendation letters so that we could continue to learn and grow even after we graduated from their classrooms.


Don CM Wanzala is a Leadership and Training consultant at the Soma Challenge Campaign Initiative and the President of Global Media Ltd. Contact:

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