“Boys, today there’s a nationwide teacher strike. The government has declared this strike illegal stating that any teacher who doesn’t teach will be fired immediately. To avoid that what we will do today is pretend. I will pretend to teach and you in turn will pretend to learn, so let’s pretend.”
These were the words spoken by my A-level history teacher during one of many nationwide teacher strikes. Of all the teachers that had an impact in my life, my A-level history teacher sticks out. FYI the government fired the lot of them that very day only to reinstate them two days later after realising that they could not replace every teacher in Zimbabwe in 24 hours.
The one thing I valued about him is that he was all about real talk. He was never one to fill our heads with lots of fairy tales. The latter was due to our school being a traditional boys’ school. The former was due to him being morbidly obese.
It was clear he had accepted that he was overweight a long time ago. I remember him refusing to follow the trend (at the time) of teachers migrating to the UK to take up menial jobs as care workers when the economic downturn in Zimbabwe had reached endemic levels. Regarding that issue his response was something along the lines of: “I will not be going to the UK to take up a menial job like some of my colleagues at this school have done. I will not be wiping people’s behinds (he didn’t say behinds but anyway) I have enough trouble wiping my own (he looked like he actually could have trouble doing that).
When I was younger I didn’t plan on becoming a teacher. Now that I am, I realise that it was this teacher who taught me that teaching could be a fun job as long as you showed your students respect by not patronising them. I found his ability to be frank with us very refreshing. In a schooling system that could be very militaristic in its approach to discipline he showed me that teachers are humans too (and so they should be).