Imagine you’re back in elementary school. You walked one hour from your village to school. You’re excited about learning. That’s why you do the long walk. The first class is English. You’ve heard from your older siblings that English is really important, so you’re even more excited. But then your teacher is nowhere to be found. He doesn’t show up. No advance notice, no warming. Nobody explains where your teacher is and there’s no substitute teacher. Most of your classmates seem content enough – they’re playing and chatting with each other. Some go outside to play soccer. But you are disappointed. You wanted to learn. You keep wondering: Where is my teacher?
Situations like this are unfortunately all too common in poor and rural areas of developing countries all over the world. There’s a name for this problem: teacher absenteeism and it’s a big problem.
A 2013 report by Transparency International found shockingly high rates of teacher absenteeism in many countries. At its worst, 1 times out of 3, students show up at school to no teacher. Said another way, up to a third of teachers in a school miss class on any given day.
This is certainly a complex issue with many causes: underpaid teachers, lack of oversight and monitoring, health issues among teachers, administrative activities that keep a teacher out of the classroom and corruption.
Whatever the causes, the message from the report is clear: the poor and disadvantaged suffer the most when teacher absenteeism is high.
Making a Difference
At Mustard Seed, motivated by Christ’s call to love the least, we’re taking on the problem of teacher absenteeism. In the communities where we serve, we’re establishing Christian schools that provide a high-quality education delivered by well-trained, indigenous teachers who are present in the classroom.
Some of the communities we serve didn’t have a school before we started one; for them, our schools provide their children with their first access to a formal education. In others where (public) schools existed, teacher absenteeism was sometimes as high as 30%; at such rates, children, though enrolled, are effectively losing a semester of school each year. In our schools students learn to expect the daily presence of their teachers. It’s as it should be.
Where do we get the teachers who make such a difference? Our innovative, four-year teacher training program, TransformNation, focuses on training indigenous teachers. They’re sent to teach in the schools we start and operate. The discipleship training they get at TransformNation instills in them a Christ-driven love of neighbor and love for teaching. This love transforms the lives of the children they teach. It’s hard work, but they’re making a big difference!
We’re always looking for people who want to partner with us in prayer, and support our teachers and schools financially. Would you consider joining us?