We all fondly remember the great teachers in our journey through life. That is assuming you were privileged to have teachers. They never leave your mind, because they have such a large impact on your psyche. Over the last forty years I can still recall Mrs Phillips and her maths classes. Davis (aka ‘Miser’), Ms Mirembe, Muddu and Kigongo in Budo. Balunywa and Wahab in Makerere. In between there were many who made you dislike being there.
The point is that these great teachers did impart to us some gems that make us different from those who didn’t have that schooling experience. We learnt to count, to speak the ‘Queen’s language’ properly, and to keep a decent set of accounts – speaking for myself. They also taught us Pavlov’s principle – how to behave when ordered by our superiors. They did a good job, preparing us for the job market.
What they didn’t teach us (and probably couldn’t) was how we would survive in a cruel world, were Darwinism ruled, where Pavlov’s dog got eaten for dinner! Three years on the undergrad, a year on the IT diploma and six years on the PhD and I am no wiser! I must confess there are many out there who didn’t get schooled who can still have me for dinner! It is a dog’s life indeed.
While Makerere did teach me to reason and assess risk, it basically inculcated in me an attitude of adversity to risk. The risk of failure, the attitude to do nothing wrong and wait to be told! But success in life is about experience. And most experiences, being expensive, require you to get up and start all over again. Take some more risks, hustle and cut out a piece of the turf for yourself.
Makerere couldn’t teach me what it meant to spend the night perched atop a lorry, to start a business with no ‘capital’ except your mother’s battered old typewriter or how to open a letter of credit and communicate with the Chinese in – you guessed it, the Queens language. Your well-meaning teachers couldn’t have taught you these things because they had probably never experienced them! They didn’t have a million dollars to lose, nor had they ever spent time in jail. They didn’t file tax returns and didn’t have to go around writing business plans or proposals nobody was interested in! They could teach you the principles, but they could never teach you how to survive outside that cloistered world.
My teachers, not to take anything away from them, taught me many things, but what they didn’t teach me counts for a lot. The irony is not lost on me because I am a teacher. And how do you teach these things? That there is no honour among thieves, that you could get killed for thinking aloud, and that if you want to get own in life, you better agree with everybody who is your senior.
But with hindsight, I think I was privileged to have met these honourable men and women. They worked for a pittance but they still made a man out of me. If you asked me – would I prefer to have a billion dollars in my pocket rather than to have gone to school, my definitive answer is no thank you! Keep your billion, I will keep my intellect. May God bless you all my teachers!