15 January 2024

'For me, education is a way to change the world'

‘I see education as a way to change the world. That is why I started training to be a teacher in Ghana.’ Now, aged 34, Joshuah Inkum is living in the Netherlands and studying at Driestar Christian University for Teacher Education to become an English teacher in secondary education. His motivation has not changed. ‘Students need someone who believes in them and pushes them to persevere. That’s what motivates me.’ 


‘My first introduction to Driestar Christian University was when I met some of its students in 2014. They came to visit Ghana and I showed them around our country. On invitation from one of them, I went to the Netherlands in 2015. That changed my life. 

When I returned to Ghana, I finished my studies and did a work placement. After that, I wanted to go back to the Netherlands, of course. In 2016, I joined the Driestar International Class. Another year later I married my wife. You guessed it: she is one of the two students I showed around Ghana. 


Teachers as gardeners 

I have always enjoyed teaching young children. They are little seeds whave to take care of. Especially when they are young, we can nurture them and shape them. I see teachers as gardeners. You have all kinds of young plants in your garden. Whatever you do, it affects your plants. If you give them too much water, they will die. If you give them the wrong soil, they will not grow well either. 



A teacher is someone who has to bridge the gap between the teachers and the subject matter. I often act like I am one of the students. This allows you to be close to them. When it is time for the lesson, I am the one explaining and they are the ones listening. The way I see the students and the way I interact with them makes me a unique teacher. During break, I often stand outside and talk to the students. Outside of lessons I can tell them things about life, what the world is about and about my life. There is less time for that in the classroom, when you have to spend most of your time explaining the subject matter. 

I always say: the relationship with your students is much more important than the lessons you teach. A lot of the subject matter you teach will be forgotten by the students, but they will not forget the relationship they had with you or how they felt in your lessons. 


Learning from pedagogues 

When I came to live in the Netherlands, I could no longer be a primary school teacher. My Dutch is not good enough for that. I am therefore training to be a secondary school English teacher. At Driestar University, of course. I had already built relationships here and knew many of the lecturers. The lecturers at Driestar are always there for you. This really shows that they are Christians.

The most important thing I have learned at Driestar is what we can learn from pedagogues. Janusz Korczak is one who really resonates with me. He sees education in the same way I do. He wants to be there for his students, considers their different personalities and sees students as people in their own right who should be treated with respect. 


Listening and questioning 

Teaching in the Netherlands itotally different from teaching in Ghana. It takes a lot of getting used to. In Ghana, teachers have a lot of authority. When a Dutch student does something wrong, you can ask him to stand outside the classroom to calm down the class. That student then stands up and immediately asks: “Why do I have to leave the classroom?” I then explain: “You are being disruptive and I want it to be calm.” “But sir, everyone is talking, so why do I need to leave?” Students ask so many questions and do not naturally accept the teacher’s authority. 

I also think that Dutch students are given strange punishments. They have to write lines, but what do they learn from that? Or they get after-school detention, but the school days are already very long

This does not happen in Ghana. There, each class has one or two students who help the teacher. They write down the names of the students who talk during the lesson. At the end of the lesson, they pass the names to the teacher who then gives the students real punishments such as working in silence for a week. Ghanaian students listen more and question less.  


Oliebollen and sweets 

Fortunately, there are also plenty ogreat things about teaching in the Netherlands. Every class is special in its own way. In one of my classes, for example, everyone likes music. I sometimes use music for the start of the lesson or as part of the morning devotion, letting the students think about the message they get from the music. It is a great way of bringing the Bible into it too. 

The fun part of teaching is also the interaction with the students. For example, they ask me: “Sir, what’s your favourite Dutch food?” To which I reply: “Oliebol.” “Sir, shall I buy you an oliebol?” The next day, they walk into my classroom with a bag of oliebollen. 


I have no idea what tomorrow will bring or what the next month will be like. I think mostly about the present. Now is the time to follow our dreams and change the world. I try to do that through my teaching. Not long ago, students saw the word “divorce” in their textbook. One of the students said: “Sir, we are a Reformed school, so why do we have to talk about divorce?” Those are the moments when you have to pause the lesson and talk. You can then explain to them: This is what happens in our society. They need to know what it means and what they need to do to love. This is the way I let my plants grow.’