If there is one major lesson that teachers have taught the people of Zimbabwe, it is – we can, indeed, stand up for ourselves, and fight for our own liberation, without fear and without transferring that responsibility onto others.
For far too long now, Zimbabweans have developed a most worrisome and tragic tendency to lamely sit back – amidst, unspeakable oppression and unimaginable poverty – and, wait for others, especially, opposition leaders, to stand up for us, and practically do the dirty work.
Is it then not surprising at all, that we still find ourselves crying everyday, whilst sinking deeper into the abyss of desperation and hopelessness – as it becomes ever more apparent that, without ourselves being directly involved in our own salvation and emancipation, then our day of liberation will always move farther and farther away?
Teachers, being their usual great educators, have made it abundantly clear that – going about our daily businesses, whilst at the same time, believing that somehow our grim and unbearable miserable plight would simply disappear – was quite frankly, incredibly naive and foolhardy.
We can write as many articles as we can, tweet as much as our fingers can allow, and shout on WhatsApp as loudly as is humanly possible – but, without plucking up our guts, getting out of our comfort zones, and actively taking the bull of oppression by its horns – we will forever be moaning and crying writers, tweeters, and social media keyboard activists.
Yet, virtually nothing will change on the ground.
As Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire wrote in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) – “attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building”.
In Zimbabwe, this could never be more accurate.
We have become so accustomed and comfortable in being mere objects in the fight against our own oppression – as we, for some strange reason, expect change to come from human rights activists, or opposition political parties – as they save us from our untold suffering, and punishing impoverishment.
Yet, decades later – especially, when our country’s fortunes took a most catastrophic and damaging turn for the worst, some twenty-two years ago – we are not in a better place.
Nonetheless, what we have witnessed with our beloved teachers, over the past months, more so when they ratcheted up the pressure over the last two days – whereby, they collectively declared incapacitation, and stayed away from their work stations – is how we, as Zimbabweans, need to act, if we genuinely desire a positive change in our livelihoods.
Our educators did not leave the struggle to their labour union leaders, to do most (if not all) the donkey work – but, worked together as one unit, in bravely standing up for what they deserved.
Were they not afraid?
Were they not intimidated?
Of course they were!
Who would not be scared when we are dealing with a ruthless cold-hearted regime as ours – which does not see anything wrong with unleashing heinous brutality upon a hapless innocent populace?
In fact, there were numerous reports of ordinary teachers being issued threats to report for work, or face horrendous consequences – ranging from brazen physical bodily harm, and other unspecified retribution, to the implementation of a “no work, no pay” policy by their employer (the government), and possibility of outright termination of employment.
I will not even start on the harrowing experiences their leaders have undergone at the hands of the state – including, repeated arrests, alleged abductions, and beatings up.
However, in all this, both ordinary teachers and their leaders have never quivered nor relented – rather opting to fight the good fight, and take their struggle to its logical conclusion…until their demands have been heard and answered.
Let us not forget that, courage is never the absence of fear – but, is the ability to control that fear, knowing fully well that, if one genuinely wants to accomplish a certain goal, then fear becomes an inconvenient luxury.
In Zimbabwe, the challenges being faced by our teachers are not unique to them – but, a common denominator amongst all of us – and as such, we need to unite as Zimbabweans in fearlessly standing up for our dignity, and a better life.
We can no longer afford to be mere spectators to our own lives – whilst, allowing those in power to ride roughshod over us, and pretty much do as they please with our livelihoods and wellbeing, as we lamely look on.
Each and every one of us has a responsibility to our own lives, our families, and our communities.
In fact, I had some business cards printed that showed my position simply as a “Resident”.
Why did I do that?
Well, these business cards act as an ever-present unambiguous reminder to myself that, being a resident and citizen of a country is actually a full-time job, with very specific responsibilities and duties – that can never be compromised.
Just as being a parent, or a husband/wife – these may be responsibilities we do not always think about, have no plush offices, and are never paid for…but, are actually more demanding on ourselves, and highly important than those “eight to five” jobs we get paid for.
The same applies to being a citizen or resident of a country – this is an active job, that needs each and every one of us to be actively involved in ensuring that the direction we are going as a nation is correct, holding to account all those in authority, and standing up for our rights.
I have never made it a secret that, I do not get paid for all these articles I write nearly on a daily basis – although, it would be awesome and most welcome if I did, especially in these tough times – but, am motivated to go and on, as a matter of duty as a responsibility citizen, who cares about his country and its people.
We all have a responsibility towards our country – if not for all its people, then for our children and their children.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org