SPARE THE ROD, SPOIL THE TEACHER


Writing about Africa’s educational system also leaves a chalky after taste in my mouth; more rustic than the corroded roofing sheets which hide millions of school pupils in sub Saharan Africa from harsh weather elements. It is disheartening and eerie to hear that in the 21st century Africa, the Human Development Index, being a specific comparative measure of life expectancy, education attainment, literacy and GDP per capital of nations places Africa on the lowest rung of its ladder. Noteworthy, is that Africa still runs its educational system; nursery, secondary and tertiary institutions with physical structures laid down decades ago by its colonial masters. Inadequate infrastructure has become the bane of educational development in the continent; leaking roofs, paint peeling walls, rickety chairs and no tables have become the less than ideal classroom for several students.

United the subjects have bore their pains in solidarity; agitation, protests by student and teachers to review the entire educational system have now become common place. Wide sweeping changes ranging from welfare to a new curriculum are common calls sounding from the Cape Agulhas to Drakensberg. But upon deaf ears have their shouts fallen, only to be answered by the boots, guns and sterile promises of security operatives, corrupt bureaucrats and political leaders, who appear more interested in paying lip service than shoring up the continent’s human resource base.

Last year Nigerian and Kenyan teachers were in the news when they downed tools for more than a month; they wanted their reward here on earth rather than beyond the pearly gates. The Kenyans and Nigerians are back in their classrooms but the Nigerians are warming up for a fresh round of strike this month because the Government had failed to keep its end of the deal-a classic example of the Zimbabwean teachers strike two months ago. This week it is the Tanzanian teachers that are in the eye of the storm.

The story goes like this, after an investigation conducted by a district commissioner into poor exam results in three schools, 19 primary school teachers were caned by policemen for coming to school late; their audience were their pupils. Antivus Leonard, a 33 year-old teacher at Katerero primary school, 20 miles outside the regional capital Bukoba, and one of the victims of the caning told his own tale “on Wednesday morning the district commissioner came to school. He met with the head teacher and called a staff meeting. Once we were gathered, the DC told us that they had been keeping track of the teachers who arrived late for work. He read out the names of the teachers in question, I was one of them.

I had been late for work twice in the last month. He asked each of us our reason for being late. I told him there were different reasons; it could be family problems, or if I had being feeling unwell. The DC said our lateness was causing the school to fall behind and that it was unacceptable. He said he was going to punish us now.

At first I assumed he was joking, I told myself it could not be possible. “I have been able to teach since this happened.” Once they locked the door of the staffroom and made everyone line up to receive their strokes, I knew that they meant business. Seven of my female colleagues took strokes of the cane in the palms of their hands, when it was my turn, a police officer ordered me to lie down and receive my punishment. I refused, so he kicked me and I fell down… he hit me everywhere… when it was over, I went to the hospital for treatment. I was given medicine but I still have a lot of pain in my chest…

He continued ‘My pupils did not see me take the beating but they know about it… I am married with 4 children. My wife is also a teacher at a different school, she is furious that they have done this to me.’

The Tanzanian government has ordered the suspension of the DC and a full scale investigation into the incident. However this incident has furthered fueled the growing feud between the Tanzanian government and its warring teachers. This incident is shameful especially for a continent which is already debited in this march toward meeting its MDG targets for Human and socio-economic development by 2015

emma, CONNECTAFRICA


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