Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Khama’s meeting with teachers, an unproductive fuss

Writing in the Sunday Standard edition of June 24-30, 2012, veteran columnist Kenneth Dipholo advised teachers to decline to meet President Ian Khama at the State House.

Perhaps teachers took his advice to be trivial or that it was a manifestation of some jealousy on his part. They must have thought Dipholo was green with envy, that while he may never get the opportunity to have lunch with the President in his lifetime, that opportunity had knocked at their doors. Against his advice, they went ahead and gathered under a marquee erected on the State House grounds. I watched their meeting with the President courtesy of Btv and realised why Dipholo forewarned against the meeting. He had warned that the invitation was just a hollow gesture from the president.

It turned out exactly the way Dipholo had forecasted. He was so Prophet Joshua on this one. About sixty teachers from across the country were selected for the meeting, which was addressed by the President and Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

From what we were shown on Btv, the President and his minister were talking to the teachers and not talking with the teachers. Only the comments and statements uttered by the president and his minister were broadcast on the national television station. This can, therefore, mean only two things: either none of the teachers spoke at the meeting or everything that the teachers said was rubbish and not newsworthy.

I mean, why else would Btv broadcast a meeting that had more than sixty attendants and only give us what was said by only two attendants? Or it could be the meeting was for the teachers by Khama and not for Khama and the teachers by Khama and the teachers. We didn’t see any dialogue between the President and the teachers.

A week before the President met the teachers, he had invited primary school students to the State House and, unlike their teachers, the kids spoke to the president and Btv showed us what the kids had to say to the President. Dipholo had warned the teachers that President Khama has and will never take them seriously. He wrote, “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”.

Dipholo was right.

Those teachers must be heartsick after watching the Btv news bulletin. What we deduced from the Btv clip is that those teachers only went there to feast on the President’s food and pose for photographs with him. Btv never showed us any of the teachers addressing the President and until they come out and tell us that they said something and it’s only that Btv is sabotaging them, we will just take it they never uttered a word at that meeting. What we are very sure of is, they ate the President’s food and smiled profusely for the photo-shoot with the President. We are sure of that because Btv showed us that. Dipholo had also prophesised, “I know that many of the leaders of teachers’ unions could be clamouring 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.”

I think Dipholo should consider setting up his own church and be ordained a Prophet. As payment for taking photographs with the President, union leaders were ridiculed by Minister Venson-Moitoi. With a very serious face and in a very low tone meant to authenticate her statement, she told the gathered teachers and indeed all the teachers across the country, through Btv, that their union leaders are unreliable and deceitful. She told of how she always consults with the union leaders and reach agreements but the union leaders never give feedback to the teachers. She said union leaders have the tendency to push their personal agendas to the detriment of teachers. Btv never bothered to give the union leaders the right of reply.

Well, maybe I’m just blaming Btv for no reason. Maybe the union leaders were too mesmerised by the State House buildings to proffer a rebuttal. Maybe they were awed by that opportunity to be in the same space and share the same oxygen with the President and thought if they told the minister to her face that she was telling lies they risked being kicked out of the State House before lunch was served. Or it could be the minister was right about them.

Teachers ought to have known that the important thing is whether the President cares about them and takes them seriously and not whether he wants to listen to them.

Yes, he has ears and can listen but does he have the heart for them? As Dipholo rightly pointed out, it was premature to ululate at the invitation “like rural drama queens who often seem too willing to catch throat infection while ululating as President Khama passes by”.

You see, I’m one of those people who are saddened by the lack of appreciation from our government towards the teachers. This country is what it is because of teachers. Every profession and all industries have the touch of a teacher. It is, therefore, disheartening to see teachers being used as lavatories by the very people they developed to become what they are today.

Well, we know that some of them never had long relations with teachers but for the sake of future generations, teachers deserve better treatment so they can serve the students with gusto and pride. Public school teachers possess the same qualifications as private school teachers. They train from the same institutions. The only difference is public school teachers are given inferior treatment and their hard work is not acknowledged and appreciated by government. It’s about time the teaching profession reclaims its dignity. The teaching profession used to attract some sense of prestige and pride. Surely, teachers deserve better.

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