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The sanctity of teaching and learning

It is time for the 2016-17 academic year to commence. Eritrean students, of all ages, are getting ready for a range of new academic endeavors. Eritrea Profile wishes success to all Eritrean students, and marks this special beginning by inviting Mr. Kebedom Tedla for our weekly Q-and-A column. Mr. Kebedom is an accomplished academic and dearly respected and loved by hundreds of thousands of his students.

What better way to raise the curtain on another academic year than to speak with a senior teacher which holds 50 years of experience?!

  • -It has been 50 years!

I know, I didn’t even notice! It has been 50 years since I started working in my profession back in 1967.

  • -What has made you stay in it for so long?

Simply, I love it. What else? I love my job with all of my heart.

  • -Now you are not a teacher anymore, are you?

Correct. I am now a school director. In 1994, I went to Italy for a course related to my job. I stayed there for 3 years, and it was afterwards that I started serving as a director in different schools. Currently, I am the director of the Asmara Technical School.

  • -Please tell us about your school. On my way in, I noticed that the school is extremely huge!

The Asmara Technical School was established in 1995 by American technicians. It used to offer diploma courses, but now we have consolidated our efforts and we now offer certificate courses. A lot goes on in our school, as a matter of fact. Within its big compound, the Asmara Technical School comprises 9 schools, including the School of General Metal Work, Auto Mechanics, Building and Contraction, as well as the School of Electronics, amongst others.

Because it is a high school, our students are extremely busy studying in two shifts, both morning and evening. They study academics and techniques, and our focus is both theoretical and practical.

  • -I hear getting through this school’s entrance gates is not easy?

We accept students with merits and good credits. To enroll here, a student must have high grades, generally having an average of 70% or above. As such, our students are highly competitive and dedicated. When they finally complete 12th grade with a certificate, they sit for the National Matriculation Exams and then they advance to study at one of the country’s higher education institutions. Most students tend to follow the engineering stream.

  • -You look proud when speaking of your students. What is your opinion about today’s Eritrean students?

They are brilliant and we are lucky to have them. They are blessed with a highly perceptive mind and possess great passion. Somewhat different to previous generations, that of mine included, they have many sources of information. My belief is that provided we keep supporting Eritrea’s younger generation of students and professionals, they can be, with little doubt, our country’s greatest asset.

  • -Wow! That is impressive. Normally seniors rather point fingers at juniors, claiming they are unenthusiastic about education and more concerned with “business” and finding “shortcuts” to amassing wealth.

Not me. I don’t think so. Like I said before, I strongly believe that they [the youth] are outstandingly bright and possess sophisticated minds. We, the seniors, should be the ones responsible in encouraging their endeavors. We should continue to promote their growth, and at the same time our growth, by approaching them on their own terms.

There is one thing that slightly makes me uneasy, though. It is the fact that our society does not raise the children to be readers. We are not good at nourishing reading habits in our children. Our youngsters do not visit libraries as much as we would want them to.

It is a good thing that they have access to internet and all the other gadgets they carry in their hands, but I see that they spend most of their time being active on SMS [texting] rather than downloading eBooks.

  • -Thoughts on young teachers

It is different. Our days and their actual days, I mean. Back in my day, teaching was not an easy job to take on. One would need to go through countless introductory stages before getting the opportunity to actually stand in front of a class.

There were intensive courses on child psychology, teaching methodology, class management, and more. Nowadays, we have sort of lost those procedures.

At the same time, it is true that learning has changed. Students get more on their own than what they learn in class. As such, teachers have now became more like supervisors…but this does not [or should not] mean that we shouldn’t feel the need to improve teaching skills.

  • -Let’s reflect on your family…your children are all successful at school. What is your secret?

I will tell you in the hope that my technique will be used by young parents, because it totally does work. You are correct, all of my seven children are exceptionally good students. Some of them are completing their PhD, while others are working towards their MA…and only the youngest one is currently working. But back to my “secret,” the one and only thing I used to encourage my children to do when they were young was to tell them to sit down.

  • -Sit down?!

Yes, simply to sit down. Be patient and sit properly on a chair. In time, they developed the habit of sitting properly and reading or studying. They spent many hours in learning. And one more thing I advise parents is to have a friendly rapport [bond or connection] with their children…it helps in constructing a healthy relationship.

  • -Any final comments or lessons?

Best of luck to all Eritrean students! And most importantly I would like to remind our society to respect teachers. Teachers are important for a society and a nation’s holistic development. They are responsible for shaping the minds of future professionals. Not long ago, the respect our society bestowed upon teachers was immense…quite incomparable to what is now. So in order for us to be an advanced society, let us never forget the sanctity or importance of teaching and learning. Let us give teachers the esteem and respect they rightfully deserve.

Again, may this academic year be a fruitful one to every single student!

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