World Teacher's Day

LUCAS LEDWABA looks back to a different time as the world observes World Teachers Day

Everyone dreaded the revision classes of our General Science and Afrikaans teacher Meneer Mabidikama.Just the mention of his name instilled fear in our childish hearts.

An encounter with him also meant an encounter with his tšhaba re bone, the notorious sjamboks he used to great effect to whip our palms, backs, bums and thighs.

Always neat in a shirt and tie, the sight of his bald head approaching our classroom sparked terror in our midst.He had interesting ways of ensuring that none of his pupils got away with relying on others to escape tšhaba re bone during revision sessions.

This tšhaba re bone would take the form of either a used car fan belt, a piece of hosepipe of PVC plastic pipe. It was applied with force, regardless of whether our little bodies were shivering from the winter cold or sweating from the midsummer’s heat.

One of his favourite methods during revision was to ask a question, then after getting an answer from one of us, ask those who agreed it was the right answer to come forward and those who didn’t to remain seated or vice versa.

This would plunge the tense classroom into chaos as those who weren’t sure of the answer would now have to decide which group to follow. Such a decision would usually be influenced by who had answered the question. If it was one of those among the top pupils in class, then the majority of pupils would be in the affirmative.

But this wasn’t always helpful as even the top pupils did get answers wrong, meaning a biting encounter with tšhaba re bone.Another of his favourite tactics was to instruct the whole class to shut their eyes while he walked around, sjambok in hand, asking questions.

If he poked you with the finger or sjambok then you would have to give the answer, with your eyes still closed. Giving a wrong answer would result, after a nervous wait of a few silent seconds, with a stinging lashing on your back. Hence, even in the warm summer months we put on our jerseys to minimise the sting of Teacher Mabidikama’s lashings.

We wrote monthly tests of over 50 marks. Even if you were to score 48 out of 50 marks, you would still not escape Teacher Mabidikama’s sjambok because he would lash you twice for not scoring the total mark. It was worse for those who would score less than 30, meaning they would endure a thorough lashing.

Because of the fear of being lashed we became disciplined and ensured we studied daily and were up to date with our homework. As a result, I do not remember any of us failing General Science or Afrikaans. In fact, even though Teacher Mabidikama was the most feared and notorious in our school, all the other teachers relied heavily on corporal punishment to get their pupils to pass.

To what extent the rod contributed to the high pass rate, we may never know. But there remains a school of thought that it did play a big part.Those were the days when even the thought of raising your voice, let alone a finger at a teacher was unthinkable.

It was a different time when the profession had prestige and many pupils looked up to teachers as role models and many even wished to follow the same path.The influence of teachers extended beyond the classroom.

They played a role in the upholding of discipline and morals in the community. Like the one day when it was discovered that someone had cut a hole in the school’s fence. Teacher Mabidikama rounded up all the boys living near the vicinity of the school.

By the time he was finished with his lashathon of the boys, he had already unearthed the truth that the fence had been cut by someone who had used it to make a cage for his pigeons.The teachers also enforced high standards of hygiene and cleanliness among us pupils and used the same bite that produced academic results in the classroom on the sport field.

They left us no choice but to become focused, disciplined and strive for the best in whatever we do, lessons which many from our generation still apply today.

While corporal punishment itself was traumatic and barbaric to a certain extent, the teachers were a dedicated bunch who helped shape the careers of many.Today on World Teachers Day, it is important to remember and acknowledge the role played by the likes of Teacher Mabidikama, who recently passed away, in shaping our lives and contributing to our development.

World Teachers Day, observed annually on 5 October since 1994 commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1996 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

This year’s theme by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.

Unesco says the day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, take stock of achievements, and draw attention to the voices of teachers, who are at the heart of efforts to attain the global education target of leaving no one behind.

While the event is formally celebrated on 5 October, the profession which is the foundation for all other professions deserves to be celebrated everyday. – Mukurukuru Media