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World Teachers’ Day is being celebrated across the globe today with a noble cause to acknowledge the positive role of educators for the betterment of society. The global day, which commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/Unesco Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, also aims to provide an opportunity to highlight issues related to the teaching profession.
Every year, Unesco, in collaboration with the Education International (EI), announces a campaign with a different theme. The Education International is a global union federation that represents different teacher organisations. This year, Unesco, in the context of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goal 4, urged the international community to mark the day under the theme “the right to education means the right to a qualified teacher”. According to the declaration, the fundamental right to education cannot be ensured without qualified teachers.

Unesco has rightly chosen the theme to celebrate World Teachers’ Day. I still remember how my father who used to tell me that it is necessary to respect our teachers, even more than our parents, to achieve success. It has also been witnessed that there is always a wise teacher behind the victory of every successful person.

Alexander the Great was a warrior king from Ancient Greece created one of the largest empires in the ancient world. However, he attributed all of his successes to Aristotle, his teacher. Alexander paid the following tribute in his honour: “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well”. According to Alexander: “Without knowledge, skill cannot be focused. Without skill, strength cannot be brought to bear and without strength, knowledge may not be applied”.

Historical texts indicate that the man who defeated Alexander the Great is known as Chandragupta Maurya, who was founder of the largest dynasty of Ancient India. Chandragupta was guided by his adviser Chanakya, who was also a teacher, based in an ancient university in Taxila.

It was the wise counsel that both Alexander and Chandragupta received from Aristotle and Chanakya respectively that helped them make a mark in history. This is the reason why every sensible person always tries to find the most qualified teacher for his children. There is a famous saying that: “teachers are not kings but they know how to make kings”. It is true that a qualified teacher is capable enough to transform a simple person into a legendary figure.

Similarly, every religion declares that teaching is the most respected and dignified profession, and acknowledges the positive role of teachers for societal development. Every religion asks its followers to respect their teachers at any cost. In addition, there are also many qualified mentors in other professions and vocations who ought to be respected.

The historical letter, written by the 16th US president Abraham Lincoln to his son’s teacher, is still considered a masterpiece that highlights the importance of teachers in transforming a student into a good citizen.

Today, China is performing remarkably in every field of life and competing with other countries. According to a report, teachers in China enjoy the highest levels of public respect. A large number of Chinese people are taught to respect their teachers. But I have observed that respect for teachers in Pakistan is fading.

A recent report issued by the UNDP also disclosed that Pakistan is placed at the 150th position among the 189 countries in the UN’s 2018 Human Development Index’s annual rankings. It seems that previous regimes, in order to establish infrastructural development, completely neglected human resource development. Owing to this, various scandals emerged that were related to educational institutions and the Higher Education Commission. It is an alarming situation that there is not even a single university in Pakistan that can has been listed in the world rankings. There has been a sharp decline in our achievements in this regard because of the growing popularity of a materialistic approach in all matters.

On the occasion of World Teachers Day, I believe that the current government – led by Imran Khan, the former chancellor of the renowned University of Bradford – will focus on solving the issues of teachers on an emergency basis and include professional training for teachers among its top priorities. Similarly, as Pakistani citizens, we must respect our teachers. If we succeed in doing so, the day is not far when our beloved country will also achieve peace, progress and prosperity in the same way that China did.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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The News International (October 12, 2018)