Commending “real” teachers on World Teachers Day (October 5) is a question of probing the very “reality” of what teachers should be. Many teachers have turned proprietors of money-minting educational business at private academies and coaching centres and highly remunerated subject specialists at elite institutions; professional institutions represent only a handful of teachers, the socio-economic conditions of our teaching majority tragically speaks volumes for itself.

Imagine teachers as symbols of dignity, social counsellors overall, and specific development specialists, advisors and policy-makers. Believe that teaching is the most sacred of all professions carrying divine inspiration, cover and protection. Accept teaching as the most demanding career in terms of selflessness, commitment and sacrifice. See a teacher as not merely a routine teacher, but the maker of leading professionals and personalities. Realise that a teacher is a mentor of society and an architect of the nation.

The fact that Islam attaches significant importance to teachers and teaching which has an over-whelming moral, social, educational, scientific and technological influence over humanity needs no introduction. The sanctity of teaching reflects from the reality that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the teacher of mankind and that Masjid-e-Nabvi was not only a place of worship, but also the first Islamic university.

Have we ever and sincerely thought as to why teaching is an able, noble, humble and gentle profession? Teachers have more responsibility than any other person in a society. Parents send their nearest and dearest ones to them with such expectations that it becomes a test of their professional honesty and social reputation. The ideal task, entrusted with our teachers, is to educate and train the young nation for a brighter future. They have to adhere to institutional decorum and duties as required. They have their own children to attend, family responsibilities to cater and social problems to negotiate with limited time and resources. While a doctor, an engineer, an accountant, an architect and alike may all be renowned professionals, teachers are teachers of all professionals and architects of the entire nation.

Be it a government policy matter or a media projection priority or common drawing room talk, education in general and the dignity of the teaching profession in particular occupy a comparatively far lesser position in terms of emphasis, coverage and discussion. True that current affairs, crimes, sports, showbiz, scandals and all are highly worth emphasising because they are the reflection of a society. But education is regarded as prerequisite to a welfare society; merely through lip-service and teachers are considered as drop-outs from the so-called social status.

Imagine the teacher of a nation labouring from dawn to dusk for not even a hand-to-mouth living; it may take many an hour to reach college, hanging on the wagon’s footboard or standing all the way and seldom getting a seat on a tiring journey before a tedious day. He or she reaches home at dust mostly due to extra time at work before embarking on the suffocating and marathon return trip. Even teachers with motorcycles reach home late at night due to helpless tuitions and hardly have time to talk to children because they are first accountable to their students.

Generally, teachers’ income is so meagre that many have to take tiring tuitions; otherwise they would not have money for medical treatment during illness or emergency. Besides hand-to-mouth living and lack of transport and healthcare, the majority of our teachers are under severe, constant and helpless pressure to pay mounting house rent.

The psychological pressure worsens when a poor teacher has to seek loans to cater such indispensable needs as food, clothing, shelter, transport and medical insurance. The financial condition may be aggravated in the wake of honour and prestige-related social compulsions such as eidis, gifts, presents and hospitality. The obvious results are telling of the mental and physical health of our teachers, mentors of the nation.

It is considered dishonorable to wish one’s children to be teachers and teaching remains the last if not the dying option in career-making. It is said that misfits or drop-outs from education, careers and social status adopt teaching as a last resort. It is an unfortunate fact that teaching, the most important of all professions in moral, social and economic development of society, is looked down upon as a disgrace. As a result there is moral, social and economic bankruptcy amid vociferous alarms of sheer helplessness with experts trying and failing to rectify the situation with outdated methods.

The deteriorating conditions of the teaching profession are largely due to continued non-seriousness, lopsided priorities, lack of planning, paucity of funds and mismanagement at the helm of affairs. In the private sector educators-turned-proprietors fleece poor parents with rocketing tuition fees, cry wolf over institutional costs and squeeze everything out of the poor and helpless teachers for peanuts of a pay.

However, the worst problem is the vicious circle of negative thinking in which a teacher may be trapped in forming such die-hard thinking and habits that confirm the status quo about the sorry state of teaching. It is immobilisation and procrastination in avoiding the brighter side and working towards the dignity of teaching. Seldom has anybody on earth been awarded anything on a silver platter and as such, moral and material success for teachers has to be achieved in a truly dignified manner.

Unless there is a sincere will to make the dignity of teaching a top national policy matter, stereotype measures in teachers’ emancipation towards nation-building will not work. Until there is moral and material regard for teachers, the developmental perspective shall continue to echo merely with empty words. Unless teacher’s dignity is enhanced as a mass awareness drive and it becomes a question of media credibility and until people are inspired to take teaching with aptitude and respect, status quo in moral, social and economic bankruptcy will persist. Let us come out of our shell and look the glorious Islamic principles and see the positive side of developed societies towards dignity of teaching.