I had a little chat with a year 1 teacher during a school visit this week. I know this teacher a bit, we had team-taught for a little while (she took care of crowd control); I did some training at her school and last year her class were taught phonics quite well. She asked me to write words for the children to read on the chalkboard. It didn’t take long to see that these children had back-slid a bit in their reading and didn’t recognise some of the sounds. This was a little discouraging. The bomb-shell was soon to follow. She said that ‘some’ teachers were complaining (reading between the lines it soon became apparent that the ‘some’ was only her); and that they (she) wanted extra money to be teaching phonics. ‘What?’ I said to her, ‘isn’t phonics suppose to be taught in extra lesson time?’ (The period in the timetable where teachers get paid extra money by parents to teach because it is outside of the government timetable). She said ‘yes’. And I said, ‘and don’t you get paid to teach extra lessons?’ ‘yes’. I then shared my disappointment; how she could clearly see the benefits of teaching phonics and teaching reading well, how children benefited directly and their reading improved significantly; but she was not following through. I think she gathered that I wasn’t going to give her money motivation.

Historically (well, a few decades ago when charities and NGOs arrived to help); money was often given for motivation. Money for transport to go to meetings and money to attend meetings (called a sitting fee) soon became an ingrained part of life and culture, especially when dealing with charities and mzungus.

It is now difficult to break this expectation and this way of thinking. There are many head teachers and teachers here who bring a smile to my face and ‘buck’ this trend but this particular occasion and teacher was not one of them. She is a government-employed primary school teacher earning a salary. Some teachers are in it for the children; others are in it for the money; unfortuntately I think this teacher is not here for the children.

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