I remember the first time I read my father’s copy of the best-selling book, ‘The Struggle for Zimbabwe’, by renowned authors David Martin and Phyllis Johnson, way back when I was in form three in 1989.
by Tendai Ruben Mbofana
One of the things that immediately stood out and touched me was how most of the liberation struggle leaders where teachers – which instilled in me a great respect for this honourable profession of teaching.
It dawned on me that teaching was a highly esteemed profession and a fountain of considerable enlightenment to people – making teachers some of the most highly respected people in any country.
I do not think that I would have ever become a writer, had not my late father been a teacher – as he introduced me to the world of books and knowledge at a very tender age. He even set up a small library at home where I remember when as a little boy I developed a love for books ranging from encyclopaedia and other reference material to political philosophy, history, amongst a host of others.
Every professional in this world attributes whom they have become, to a greater extent, to a teacher – be it in Early Childhood Development (ECD), primary and high school, or college and university – a teacher played a pivotal role.
How then can a nation relegate such profound people who are at the core of our nation’s development and very existence – to the fringes of our society?
Is that in itself not committing both economic and societal suicide?
All the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and other investment and economic stimulation programmes pale into insignificance as compared to investing in teachers and education – as that is the bedrock of any nation that takes itself seriously and has a true vision for the future.
In fact, a nation is better advised to invest more in its teachers and education than in military might, as there is more security in a well-educated society than a well-armed society.
Are our government officials not the first ones – and I am sure, the loudest – in bragging about Zimbabwe’s domination of the literacy rate in Africa? Are they not the ones who tell anyone, who cares to listen, how Zimbabweans are so highly educated that they are now leaders of different fields all over the world?
Who educated those ‘great Zimbabwean minds’? Was it not that teacher in Murombedzi, Gokwe, Bulawayo, Tsholotsho, Harare, Bindura, and all over the country?
Who is recognising, appreciating and acknowledging that?
According to statistics, children spend more time with their teachers than they spend with their parents.
This means that most of the nurturing, grooming and mentoring of children in life skills is actually done by teachers, and not the parents.
Actually, most parents have reneged on their parental responsibilities, choosing to leave the upbringing of their children to their teachers.
That is why when a child does something wrong, the parent is quick to ask, ‘kasi havakudzidzisei kuchikoro’, meaning: do they not teach you this at school? This can be something as failing to cook sadza properly.
This reminds me of something women’s rights groups used to do in order to enlighten men on the important roles women played in the household.
They would list these roles, such as, giving birth, raising children, teaching the children, taking children to school or clinic, cleaning the home, cooking for the family, managing the household finances, and so on, and they would put a salary to each role. The total monthly salary would go into the thousands of dollars.
I think the same hypothetical approach to teachers’ salaries should be used.
Teachers do more than teach such subjects as Mathematics and Science to our children, they also teach them how to behave, they teach them how to survive in this tough world, they identify any psychological and physical problems they may be facing, they help them overcome these problems, they help them identify and grow their talents, amongst a whole lot more.
How much would we pay them for each of these?
It is, therefore, saddening, if not utterly bewildering, why any self-respecting nation would treat its teachers in the manner Zimbabwe is doing by not remunerating them adequately and, moreover, not even remunerating them at all.
Admittedly, teachers are not the only workers who are getting the wrong end of the stick in Zimbabwe, and all workers’ injustice should be eradicated, but in this discourse I have deliberately targeted teachers, as I truly believe that they have been looked down upon for far too long.
I urge all the high ranking officials in our government to look back to their teaching days and remember the magnificent impact they made in the lives of their students.
How through their dedication and commitment, they brought hope to that student that everyone had dismissed as a lost cause – and how that student went on to become a respectable doctor.
Do they themselves not remember the names of their teachers from grade one to university, and yet have all but forgotten most of their former classmates?
This shows how much an impact teachers have in our lives.
Every doctor, philosopher, engineer, lawyer, nurse, accountant, businessperson, you name them, have been moulded by the skilled and devoted hands of the teacher.
As such, it should not take much prodding for the government to place teachers at their rightful place in our society by restoring their dignity.
It is shameful for our government to neglect these great men and women to the point that they have to grovel and threaten in order to receive the recognition they deserve.
Let their remuneration reflect their indisputable, indispensable and invaluable contribution to our nation.
It is a great embarrassment when a nation makes international headlines for not paying its teachers.
How can a nation kill its own roots and still expect to survive?
The nation needs to rally together and appreciate the role that teachers play in our society and our future.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity. He welcomes and appreciates feedback. Please call/WhatsApp:+263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.