THE Teaching Council of Zambia (TCZ) should take seriously the challenge from Minister of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education John Phiri.
Dr Phiri has urged the council to promote professionalism among teachers in the country.
The veteran educationist and academician made this challenge to the council when he officiated at the inauguration of its members last Friday.
We agree with Dr Phiri that there is need for teachers in Zambia to adhere to the ethics and code of conduct that guide their practice.
This is a timely reminder because the profession has been invaded by individuals of questionable moral standing, who are now tarnishing its image in the eyes of the public.
The media are replete with reports of teachers defiling pupils under their charge.
There have been numerous reports of teachers impregnating pupils when they are expected to be the protectors of the children.
This has turned schools into unsafe places, and this is causing parents of female pupils to have sleepless nights.
They are not sure how safe their daughter will be in the hands of randy male teachers.
The situation is even worse for those whose daughters are at boarding schools.
Last week there was a report from Kazungula district of a teacher who has married and impregnated a girl whose age is below 16 years.
It was alleged that the teacher lured the girl into the marriage by promising her that he would be teaching her at home.
In Kabwe there was a teacher who impregnated a girl and connived with school authorities to persuade the poor child not to report the defilement to police but settle it at home.
The parents, probably driven by abject poverty, charged the defiler K7,000 and ordered him to be meeting the cost of the girl’s education.
If the relatives of the parents had not alerted the media about the conspiracy the teacher would have got away with the heinous crime.
These are just some of the examples of the extent to which the teaching profession’s image has suffered.
Then there is the issue of extra lessons. Teachers would be lazying about during teaching hours but settle down to serious work after their official shift because they are doing it at a fee.
Parents were being forced to pay for the so-called extra lessons during which teachers were teaching the children what they should have taught during the official periods.
This practice posed a formidable barrier to education, especially at primary level as many poor parents would not afford the extra fees.
And the teachers did not feel any sense of guilt for depriving the children of these poor parents of their right to education.
The ministry had to intervene to arrest the bad practice. It banned the extra lessons.
Then there is the issue of examination malpractices. Many teachers have been arrested for helping pupils to cheat during examinations through leaked question papers.
Some of them are still appearing in court for being involved in examination malpractices.
We are not, of course, vilifying the whole profession, but merely pointing out some of the things that have eroded the trust and confidence the public had in the teachers.
The bad eggs have unfairly tarnished the image of even the professional and hard-working teachers.
At national level the harmful activities of some teachers have led to a fall in the standards of education.
Year in, year out Government has lamented the poor grade seven, nine and 12 results in public schools, and experts have partly blamed the issues we have highlighted above.
It is for this reason we welcome the TCZ and join Dr Phiri in challenging it to clean up the teaching profession.