Today marks the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO World Teachers’ Day. It is a day that celebrates teachers worldwide and their whole-hearted efforts to educate and care for their students, schools and communities. According to Rand Education, teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.
Education is a foundation stone of good development. We already know through the Wydick research that Compassion sponsored children stayed in school on average 1-1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers, and that’s great, because UNICEF has found that every additional year of primary school boosts a girl’s eventual wages by 10 to 20 per cent.
Sometimes, the relationships children build with their teachers can be the source of encouragement and stability they need to stay in school longer.
For Wendy in Nicaragua, it was being recognised by a special teacher that helped her thrive.
Wendy was raised by her mother, Damaris, who was so exhausted at the end of the day from doing odd jobs to make ends meet that she would often yell at her five children, especially Wendy.
“When I heard someone screaming, I cried because I got nervous. I felt I was going to be punished,” says Wendy.
Struggling to handle all five children, Damaris heard about the local Child Sponsorship Program and Wendy was soon registered. Wendy was shy and would cry when the other children teased her. This drew the attention of Blanca, a teacher at the centre.
“As a teacher, Wendy drew my attention because the class could be playing, yet unexpectedly, she would begin trembling and crying,” says Blanca.
“I knew she was able to do all the activities in the curriculum, but something hindered her from going forward.”
Blanca decided to visit Wendy at home and it was during the visit that Wendy’s grandmother told Blanca that the girl’s mother was rude to her children and that Wendy cried because of the way she was punished.
“I also found out that Wendy was not attending school, so I gave her other assignments like asking her to colour vowels and write them,” says Blanca.
“I encouraged her nice colouring and told her she was very intelligent. Little by little, Wendy began to smile, and her confidence grew.”
Blanca was able to develop a relationship with Damaris and helped her realise that she needed to change the way she was interacting with her children. Damaris realised her mistake and became more involved with her children. Wendy blossomed.
Blanca says she and the other Compassion staff feel a sense of fulfilment when they see Damaris and Wendy.
“I feel good at the [centre] because I no longer cry. Teacher Blanca helped me by encouraging me not to cry and by helping me do my homework and have friends. She is special to me,” says Wendy.
Today, Damaris has strong relationships with her children and Wendy is more outgoing and says she would like to become a doctor.
Teachers can make a remarkable difference to the lives of children all over the world. On the 20th anniversary of World Teachers’ Day, why not tell a teacher who meant a lot to you just how much you appreciate them?
Words by Ryan Johnson, Orfa Cerrato and Monique Wallace