To observe September 5 as Teacher's Day is to acknowledge and highlight the extremely important role that teachers all over the world play in the life of humankind and in the overall development of the nations of the world.
In India, and perhaps in other countries too, unfortunately this importance is not universally recognised or appreciated. And the teacher's profession is often chosen as a last resort when all other avenues of higher studies are closed to the individual. Yet, it is this profession that must assume the highest priority as it is the one which is in the position to mould the character of children and provide a nation with model citizens.
The character of a child is trained primarily in its very early stages. Science tells us that the character of a child is formed by the age of 10-12 years. These early years are normally spent in the home with the mother and in the school with the teacher. Both are responsible for what kind of child they bring up. The teacher therefore has a dual responsibility of educating the child in the normal curriculum of school and also the imbibing of values by the child during the time the child is in the school.
Just like a gardener can train a sapling to grow in the direction he wants, which he cannot do once the tree forms a solid trunk with age, the child also can be moulded to become a person of integrity, honesty and uprightness, something that many nations are crying for, as corruption takes root in their countries.
Teachers, therefore are able to benefit mankind by the manner and substance of their education of the children. Material and spiritual education should form the curriculum of the teacher. One of the most important aspects of this spiritual education should be helping the child to understand the all-important principle of the Oneness of Mankind and to achieve it through removal of prejudice of every kind -- of caste, class, race, economic status, etc -- and the need to believe very strongly in gender equality.
The child should be trained by the teacher to understand that competition is good, but needs to be tempered with cooperation, so that all children shine, not just the one. Ruthless ambition is self-serving and does not help anyone else.
On this day, we pay our respects and gratitude to the teachers who sacrifice, who give of themselves, who pursue a difficult and unrewarding profession, and many times are successful in bringing out the best in the children they teach. They mould the torch bearers of the future. We loudly applaud them. And thank them.
"Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom". (Baha'i Writings)
Zia Mody is the Senior Partner of the law firm AZB and Partners.