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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Transformational Teacher

I recognize that you are all in the business of human capital development. You take young minds and prepare them to become engineers, doctors and evangelists. This is a very important business. It is the business of molding lives and schooling minds to change the world. In this business, we are accountable to God who delegates to us the role to teaching others. However, these days very few people recognize the power of the teaching profession to determine the destiny of humanity. So today, as I talk about your role as a Transformational Teacher I would like you to know that I deeply respect your calling and your sacrifice.
I am a leadership trainer, transformation specialist and human resources consultant. I train employees and directors on leadership, management and institutional transformation. However, I have been a schoolteacher, college lecturer and business trainer. The focus of my career has always been developing people. When you finish preparing the minds of students in schools, you send them to me as employees in industry.
The Jubilee government has chosen the theme "transforming Kenya; securing Kenya's prosperity". While this is indeed a timely theme, my question to you is, what is the role of Teachers in transformation? What is it that teachers do that only teachers can do? Kenya has had four presidents; three of the four have been career teachers. Nobody can deny that Teachers are at the very forefront of nation building.
Fifty years ago, the need was freedom and self-government. When Jomo Kenyatta started his political activities in the 1930s there were not enough people to carry the tide to force out the colonialists. Nevertheless, teachers started teaching about freedom, about independence, about self-government and gradually transformed the nation to independence. In the '60s, teachers were called upon to produce managers and administrators to run the economy. By the end of the 80s the task was accomplished. In the 90s teachers again rose to the occasion and raised the profile of the Girl child. However, teachers have not only developed leaders and managers they have also been our most visible role models in society. Much of the development and industry in rural areas was (and still is) driven by teachers. Teachers own shops, farms, dairy cattle, and Posho mills. Teachers drive the wheels of the economy even as they develop people they establish the nation's wealth and social capital.
What is the need today. Today when you look at the newspapers, you will see many things that teachers are ashamed to be associated with. We see violence, greed, political scandals and insecurity. We read about educated students turned into robbers. Children no longer have any respect for their parents because their parents are no longer respectable. It is a challenge to be called a teacher in such times. What went wrong or what is going on? Where are the teachers? If teachers do not take up their role in this hour of need, our society may suffer great loss.
When students graduate from school they become employees. I train them to be productive and socially responsible. However, I find that many of them have no clue of how to create (personal) wealth to transform the nation. I get to interview students for jobs as executives. However, out of every 1000 academically qualified applicants, employers complain that they cannot get one person of character. I work with employees to try to help them improve their performance, advise them to create personal wealth and develop character, competence and courage to work.  I have to teach work ethics and encourage them to be independent responsible citizens.
Many of the challenges employees face are rooted in their primary and secondary school education. I train managers how to manage their time, but if they never understood the importance of a timetable in school, am I really going to teach them time management 20 years later? I teach employees goal setting and work ethics. However, if the manager never developed the discipline to complete his or her homework in school, is it possible that I should teach him planning 20 years later. Today many employees retire from work without creating any wealth from themselves yet in 20 years of employment, they may have earned between 10 and 20 million shillings. A person can live in a rented house for his entire career and retire to the village with nothing. How can I teach employees to be socially responsible if they have no wealth? How am I supposed to teach business strategy to employees who do not have a kitchen budget. Yet all of these employees passed through a mathematics class?  How can this be? What has gone wrong? Are teachers not teaching?
A teacher's job is to educate student. To provide them knowledge and help them learn and prepare them for life as good citizens. However, a 2005 Stanford university paper explains that teaching may need to change to Teaching for Transformation. But it is not only about teaching students. Many of you have challenges with the teachers who you expect to teach the students. Some of them come to school with sagging trousers and very short skirts and have no work ethics. Students quickly copy them. Not only do teachers need transformation but so do schools. Especially those that continue to produce people society cannot use. People everywhere are clamoring for leaders, but I can tell you the more urgent need in society is for a new kind of Teacher – the transformational teacher, to raise leaders for our society. That is the need of the hour.
There is a huge Knowledge-practice gap between Education and Industry in our economy. It takes employers up to three years or more to train an employee to be productive. Today's graduates cannot solve problems, or apply the basic principles of the profession of which they hold a degree. Rote learning, certificates and passing exams is not helping our nation develop. The Transformational Teacher teaches VALUES, CHARACTER, CRITICAL THINKING, PROBLEM SOLVING and ENTERPRISE. The teacher will empower his students to overcome social and economic challenges and raise a generation able to transform society and create a prosperous nation!
Though we have defined the need and outlined the plan of action, we cannot conclude without taking a lesson from the Master. This short passage describes why the people called him "Teacher". The passage itself is relayed verbatim three times in the New Testament. We need to pay attention to this little passage because this teacher has been transforming the world for more than two thousand years.
Mt 22:16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. w  "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.     – repeated in Mark 12:14, Lk 20, 21
Other people recognize The Teacher. He has integrity. He did does what he says. What the Teacher does stands in the sight of God. The Teacher was willing to stand alone to bring about change in society. The Teachers word stands the truth. But the teacher has values and is not be swayed by men. This is the Teacher who will heal the nation, transform his students into citizens and teach society how to create wealth. We need you to be a transformational teacher for the Glory of God and the good of our nation.
God Bless you. Allan Bukusi, June 2013
Address to Head Teachers in Nairobi.


  1. You have articulated clearly, concisely and powerfully what I have always thought and felt about teaching.

  2. This article resonates with the very core of my being as a born teacher.
    Thank you for taking the time to think thorough this very critical matter.
    You have removed this topic from the realm of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge for me.
    I always knew it, felt it and tried to apply it. Something about teaching students to pass exams did not sit very well with me. Much as I did it with quite an impressive rate of success, I always informed my students when I changed my gear from teaching for life to teaching for examinations especially as the KCSE period drew close.
    Now I clearly understand why I felt so bothered by the premium that the 8-4-4 system put on passing examinations.

    A few days ago I was asked who my hero was and I answered Jesus the Rabbi.
    Because when he taught, most people were left with more questions than answers. He provoked their thinking, challenged their beliefs, opposed their shallowness, questioned their motives and pushed them to deeper dimensions of knowledge,understanding and spirituality.
    He forced them to interrogate their values and actions.

    Any encounter with Jesus the Rabbi could not leave you the same. It transformed something in you. You had to react to His teachings whichever way.

    Some felt so angered by this transformational power that they had to have Him eliminated. His teachings made them too uncomfortable. They could not take it.

    That is how powerful transformational teaching can be.


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