If I could find justice, then I would scream at the top of my voice. Speak I can, converse I do, give speeches, I have…yet still I am unable to scream for help. I long for a helping hand, I crave justice, and my heart pleads for mercy… but scream? I cannot. If I could, I would, but since I can’t, then I won’t. Pen in hand, paper underneath, let these words scream for me.
He used to wet himself everyday in the first grade- now he stands tall and speaks boldly as vast crowds stop to listen and take notes. He does our country proud, has made headlines several times and his is a household name, both locally and in the international arena. Wisdom springs forth from his lips and money drips from his pocket; still, he is the embodiment of virtue. In my village, every parent wants their child to tread in his steps, rightly so. I remember his first day, how he held on to his mother’s dress and cried when she went away, how he stood a foot shorter than every other boy in his class, how he clung to his snack hoping no one would eat it for him, how with time, he was made the subject of every bullying session. Yet what he lacked in size and strength, he showcased in wit and will. And for eight years, he topped his class or came second and I was there, all eight years, from when he learnt his alphabet to writing and arithmetic class through to Spelling Bee, Science Symposiums, the entire lot. And there he stands today, a force to reckon with, a face to draw strength from. Mheshimiwa is his name.
I have handled many such glorious cases, a collection of African fairy tales, starting out in deprived environments, making it through very harsh conditions to great high schools and state of the art universities, finally attaining their life-long dreams to be people that matter. I have seen them grow, make their parents proud, educate their siblings and build nice houses for their families. I have heard them answer the questions ‘How did you make it this far?’ and ‘What makes you tick?’ and with every answer, I have learnt to smile and to understand that it is human nature to forget.
My name is Mwalimu and I have been in this profession for thirty two years. I teach students in elementary school, aged six to fourteen. It is such a humbling and beautiful experience; to see a six year old struggle to hold their pen straight, to see them shape all their letters well at age seven, to help them spell the word Giraffe at age eight, to help them with their multiplication tables at age ten, to mentor them through their science projects at age twelve, to read their artistically composed stories at age thirteen, to watch them win awards and graduate to high schools afterwards… and when everything goes so well, most of the credit goes to the parents, for raising their children up so well and instilling all these virtues in them. I appreciate how important that is to every parent, knowing how much energy and resource it takes to see a child through their schooling and years of dependency. More often than not, a pat on the back is all that suffices for my colleagues and me.
It is not all bliss, however. I know what it is like to find anonymous notes on your desk written in utmost disgust and disrespect by the very students that sit before you in class every day, I know what it is like to have naughty children pull pranks on you and how it is to have a parent dictate to you how to manage your class lest you get fired, how it is to punish a child for doing something wrong and have them transferred to a ‘less violent’ school, how it is like to get blamed for the constantly poor performance of a few students in your class, to have to give up long evenings and extra weekends for extra tutoring then get sued on allegations of milking money off of parents. I know what it is like to take a back seat in the success stories of your students, to have them forget you so easily and so fast, to spend the rest of your life being part of the most important part of people’s lives and still need to face meager pay and choking taxes every month, to be part of the very society whose abilities you helped nurture, the very one that barely remembers, barely cares.
I love what I do that is why I keep at it. But seriously, for the sake of every heart that has chosen to stay big enough to teach and nurture talent in the young ones, let us all stop forgetting to give credit where it is due.
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Njambi is a young and vibrant urban soul. Great poet and scriptwriter. She authors the blog callmealien.wordpress.com