6 October 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Must Restore Teachers' Dignity


Yesterday was World Teachers Day celebrated on October 5 every year since 1994. The day, among other things, recognises the critical role teachers play in the development of their countries through the provision of education to generation upon generation of youths, in whose hands the fate of countries lies.

It is a day when nations mobilise support for teachers who are often marginalised in societies for various reasons but mostly for financial and political ones. In Zimbabwe, teachers have suffered most the brunt of the economic and political crises that ravaged the country in the past 15 years.

First, they saw their salaries become totally meaningless as hyperinflation bit, from about the turn of the millennium to 2008. Underpaid and hungry, they became the butt of jokes and lost their status in society.

They lost the respect of their pupils, who saw their erstwhile role models wallow in abject poverty. Often pupils were forced to bring food to the classrooms for their teachers.

As the economic crisis worsened, the teachers watched helplessly as children dropped out of school. The boys mostly went into informal mining activities and criminality, while many girls went into prostitution to survive. Sadly, the teachers joined them too.

The teachers became more susceptible to corruption; they sold school property including books and even computers. They also forced children to pay various amounts for what is called "extra lessons", when it was their duty to teach the pupils in the first place.

The political crisis saw political violence meted on teachers, especially in the rural areas where they were suspected of leading opposition incursions into the communal lands.

World Teachers Day must be a day for teachers to define what kind of teacher the country needs now after a generation of turmoil. The new government must also introspect and come up with a formula where the country's teaching profession is restored to its previous glory.

A nation needs good teachers who love their work and are dedicated to it. This can only happen if the government of the day respects them and gives them reasonable salaries and ensures they are properly housed.

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