Teachers should decline to meet President Khama at State House
by Kenneth Dipholo
At the height of the examinations chaos in 2010, President Khama assured the nation that all was well and good. Along the way, he somersaulted and murmured that he has been misled. Consequently, a Committee on Inquiry was appointed to investigate the conduct of the 2010 exams. Again, in his State of the Nation Address in November 2011, President Khama could only tell the nation that as government they recognize the need to improve the conditions of service for many teachers and singled out the issue of accommodation. Overall, President was categorically non-committal in respect of addressing the welfare of teachers.
About seven months later we read that President Khama made a public invitation to teachers to visit him at the State House to discuss challenges confronting the teaching profession. I am appalled that some media houses are already indulging and ululating like the rural drama queens who often seem too willing to catch throat infection while ululating as President Khama passes by.
It is not my intention to pour scorn at the invitation but I just wish to forewarn the teachers about the dangers of being overawed by this hollow gesture. It is puzzling that President Khama has remained detached from the education crisis virtually leaving Minister Venson-Moitoi to bear the humiliation in her endless efforts to dialogue with the teachers and strike a compromise. While the challenges have remained, it is an undeniable fact that a lot of ground has been covered as evidenced by government’s decision to reward teachers for their involvement in extra curricular activities. To this end, the nation must sincerely acknowledge Mma Venson-Moitoi’s perseverance particularly considering that even some of her Cabinet colleagues publicly disowned her, thus leaving her to face the wrath of angry teachers and parents who wanted immediate answers to questions most of which emanated from Khama’s leadership.
And suddenly President Khama develops interest in teachers’ issues and you figure out that the President is up to his tricks. He desires to steal the thunder and seize the limelight from Mma Venson-Moitoi. He has all along been aloof, even dismissing teachers as selfish brats with a poor sense of patriotism. Now that things are showing signs of life, Khama has decided to come to the party with passion. Put in simple words, President Khama is merely seeking attention by pretending to care. He is in fact cashing on a national crisis to prop up and solidify his political pedigree.
Unless they have astonishing short memory, teachers should know that President Khama has and will never take them seriously. His invitation is just a scheme for political expediency and convenience. In this respect, teachers must fully cross-examine this invitation and weigh the benefits and repercussions before agreeing to dine and wine with a showman President who is always itching to sort out those who have issues rather than address the issues. They must be warned that they risk coming out of the State House humiliated and annihilated like a cheeky rapist whose precious meat has been severed.
I know that many of the leaders of teachers’ unions could be clamoring for a rare opportunity to set foot at the State House and take photographs with President Khama to share the sweet memories. They are therefore likely to accept the invitation without bothering about the likely repercussions. Should this be the case, they would have played into the hands of President Khama.
Of course teachers are in a dilemma because if they decline the invitation, they risk losing public sympathy. Their critics would argue that their unwillingness to engage the President of the Republic is a sure sign that they are unpatriotic and greedy because they are reluctant to find solutions to the education crisis and save the education system from total collapse. They would be made scapegoats and may never be forgiven for being inconsiderate. Already some media houses have jumped to praise Khama for this hoax.
On the other hand, if they do accept the invitation they will be facilitating their ambush. First and foremost, the place itself will captivate them and cause them to fix their gaze at the splendor of President Khama’s mini-Hollywood and beat them into fear. They will shake hands with President Khama and lose their spine.
In the second instance, they will be required to observe protocol and show undivided respect not only to His Excellency but also to the State House in terms of its standing in society. They will be required to follow the household rules while President Khama would be entitled to walk about his yard with a demon of power. They will be required to behave as guests, remain disciplined and show basic manners so that they would be invited again for dinner. Their independence would be compromised by the obvious need to behave in a manner that signifies dignity and esteem of the State House. This would permit President Khama to charm them possibly with yummy sweets like he often gives poor people blankets and money such that they could not keep their eye on the ball. He will be at the right place to scold and intimidate them and play with their minds and cause them to retire from teaching earlier than they wished.
This is the dilemma that teachers must grapple with. It is good that the President should intervene but the timing is suspect. Could this mean that President Khama has seen and therefore want to plagiarize some of the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into the 2010 exams so that he appears like an angel? I fail to recall an instance where his intervention was sincere, principled and workable hence it is my opinion that he is only intervening to give currency to the public perception that everything he touches turn into gold.
On the basis of this, teachers are advised to decline to meet President Khama at his official residence. If anything, they should demand that they meet at a neutral venue where it would be easier for them to shout or even walk out on him if they feel intimidated. They must be reminded that President Khama’s gesture is just an invitation that they can decline without much dithering.