By Norbert Mao

Last Friday was international teachers day. On this day I thought of the collapsed value system in our blessed republic. While we desire to have super highways and expressways and to cuddle the latest gadgets, at the end of the day it is the values we hold dear that will define us as a nation and a people. Without good teachers to help nurture the tender minds of our children and ingrain in them a lifelong world view to serve as a compass through life’s arduous paths, nothing else will do. Teachers are partners to parents in the proper upbringing of children. The goal of this partnership is a child with a tidy and muscular mind, a strong and healthy body, well adjusted social skills and the fear of God.

Given their central role in our society, we have to celebrate our teachers. As I write this I recall my first headmaster Jenaro Odoki and Olanya Lubel the teacher who taught me calligraphy. I recall Nelson Isiko the headmaster of Magwa Primary School who made it his business to show me the straight and narrow path. Together with Mrs. Bukenya, the introduced me to the vast arsenal of the English language. But I also had informal teachers like a grand old man called Raymond Banya who opened his library to me and enabled me to inhabit the magical world of books.

With all the fond memories I have of my teachers, I was pleasantly surprised by a telephone call bringing me the message that one of those who taught me English and Literature in Namilyango wanted to speak to me. Those who went to Namilyango will surely remember Mr. James Amatre who we lovingly nicknamed Obatala. In Yoruba mythology Obatala is the child of god – a most wise and compassionate chief and judge. The name stuck.

I am not the only one who has such memories of my teachers. One day I sat with former UPC boss Ambassador Olara Otunnu and he told me that one teacher he was especially found of at Budo was Justice James Ogoola. Ogoola had finished his A Levels from Budo and was waiting to join Dar es Salaam University to study Law. In the intervening period, Budo always took some of the best students to teach at the school. Ogoola was one of them.

Otunnu got animated when he told us of Ogola’s first day as a class Teacher! A young elegantly dressed teacher walked with a measured gait into the classroom. According to Otunnu, he got hold of a piece of chalk and wrote some two strange unpronounceable words. The words he wrote were: Zinjanthropus and Australopithecus! Otunnu told me of the ordeal his Nilotic tongue went through to get the pronunciations right. Ogoola was a history teacher and he decided to start his lessons with the first evidence of early man discovered in Tanzania and South Africa respectively.

It is very important that we raise the importance of our teachers in the national renewal process. We need people who have a sense of values. It is this sense of values which will form the moral foundation of our country. According to the dictionary being moral means that something is all right, decent, ethical, honest, honorable, just, good, nice, right, righteous, right-minded, straight, true, upright, virtuous. The opposite of moral means something is bad, dishonest, dishonorable, evil, evil-minded, immoral, indecent, sinful, unethical, unrighteous, wicked, wrong. I leave to the reader to determine which of the words best describe the majority of our citizens!

We must put teachers back at the centre of the process of National formation. Short of that we face the intensification of the “I don’t Care” approach to issues. Matters are decided on the basis of a sliding moral scale. There is no absolute. Everything depends on something else. Shauri Yako! Due to the decline in moral standards even corruption is justified on the basis that everyone is doing it without shame.

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