I was impressed by the way my teachers, both in Primary and Secondary schools, had taught me. The way they taught was very motivating and contagious. That inspired me to be like them when I grew up.
Teaching was my first career choice and I managed to be on the list for Teacher Training at Corpus Christi Teachers College, Nasese. I graduated after my third year and was posted to a school in the Province of Ra in the Western side of Viti Levu, one of the main islands of Fiji. I really enjoyed my first few years there.
After I joined the profession, I realised that teachers’ lives are far away from the expectations I had. The amount of paper work we were asked to prepare was unbelievable. The records that I had to submit, I vividly remember, were 27 files on a weekly basis. I was so immersed in the file preparation that I nearly forgot about the essence and importance of teaching. As a young teacher, the main challenge I faced was certainly the documentation and updating of the files. The Education Officer’s will have to make their visits twice each term to check on them. The interest of teaching for me seemed to have been disrupted by paper work as there was a lot to do.
During the first year of teaching, I was asked to prepare a Classroom Based Assessment (CBA) planner and mark the outcomes. This exercise was the most challenging that I had encountered. As this was the latest initiative by the Ministry of Education (MOE), as at that time, exams were no longer important. CBA is an assessment tool based on classroom activities which learners construct only in the classroom. Thus, it required a lot of time in planning, marking and recording results. Reading skills deteriorated and looking back, I found this to be the reason why there was a huge rise in non-readers who came through CBA and the frequent changes in policies incorporated in the curriculum. Simply, as it was new, but also to my older colleagues, this ongoing form of assessment was an extra workload.
With this heavy workload, frequent changes in the curriculum and the country, at that time, being run by a military government, I decided to be with the union because my rights would be protected.
I joined the union without hesitation in my first year of teaching, seven years ago, when our union members visited our school. I already understood that the union will assist me by providing a social safety net and addressing the plight of teachers.
Being a unionist makes me confident; knowing that I am not alone. I have the support of other union members locally and worldwide. I can be the voice of the vulnerable when the need arises.
My greatest fear is the union might refrain from voicing out the concerns of teachers. I strongly feel that the union mustn’t stop fighting for its members and not be intimidated by negative tactics against workers to make them afraid to exercise their rights especially those covered by ILO Conventions 87 and 98. The union must continue to dialogue, speak out, and write articles, again and again. We should not give up.
The theme of World Teachers’ Day 2019 is “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.” To mark the occasion, we are launching a mini-series of blogs featuring the voices and experiences of young teachers and Education Support Personnel. This is an opportunity to hear directly from young education professionals and young unionists and discover their stories: what drew them to the profession, the challenges they face and their plans for the future.
If you are a young teacher or Education Support Personnel, or if you recently joined the profession, do not hesitate to contribute to the series and have your voice heard. Please get in touch with Sonia at Sonia.email@example.com.