Aqeela Asifi, a Pakistani teacher, who set up her first school in the shade of a borrowed tent was nominated for top ten teachers of the world in 2016. When she came to Pakistan as a refugee, there were no schools in the refugee camp that could teach girls but she did not let this defeat her spirit. She continued with mission to educate girls. She fought against odds and mowed down all resistance against female literacy.

Aqeela is not an isolated example. She represents many teachers of our society who chose teaching as a career not so they can become rich but because they love doing what they do and want to see our children succeed. But how do we pay them back for their efforts?

When a teacher asks for a raise, it is usually taken as an indicator of teacher’s lack of empathy for students. People go so far as saying that if a teacher really cared about students' welfare, he would settle for lower salary. Why should it be wrong for a sufficiently qualified teacher to ask for a salary that is comparable with his counterparts in other professions? We must not forget that teachers like everyone else have bills to pay.

Forget competitive salary, in many educational institutions, teachers flounder to withdraw their monthly salary. Without connections in the accounts department, claiming monthly salary can be nothing short of nightmare.

Every day, capable teachers opt out of the profession simply because we fail to nurture them. In what other profession is the desire for suitable salary seen as ruthless indifference towards the job? I don’t hear many people accusing lawyers, business consultants, or coaches of being heartless because they charge exuberant fees.  

In what other profession is it okay for a client to bully the service provider? Teachers are an easy prey for bullies. Misbehavior with teachers is rampant. Influential students are often seen threatening the teacher to “take it outside”.

What other profession is held to perfection? Even when a student fails exams for personal reasons, it almost always reflects poorly on the teacher. Are police officers required to completely eliminate crime? Are doctors expected to cure every single patient? Are lawyers expected to win every single case? Are national sports teams expected to win every single round? The answer is a resounding No. Then why are teachers held responsible for every failure?

Unfortunately, the buck stops unfairly at our teachers. They are blamed for circumstances that are outside the loci of their control. We often hear teachers being blamed for poverty. But let's not forget that by only blaming teachers for poverty we are missing the bigger elephant in the room: the system that profits from having sufficient poor people to do menial work in return for subsistence wages

The one profession from which we demand the highest level of competency in our country is the one profession that is held in very low self-esteem. It is no wonder that the brightest minds of our nation tend to pick more lucrative professions over teaching.

If we want proportionate share of capable individuals to aspire to be teachers, we must provide salaries and working conditions commensurate with their level of skills. After all, we are bequeathing the future of our children into the able hands of our teachers.

If we keep sweeping the problems under the rug, it won't be long before all competent teachers abandon us, leaving our schools in the hands of those who have never set foot in one.