Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Why Teachers are Destitutes (Part I)

By Dominic Hamooba Kamangu

            Before I go into the heart of this article, let me state from the onset that this is just my opinion as Dominic Hamooba Kamangu thus it is open to correction and debate.
It is an open secret that teaching as a profession is not as prestigious when compared with other professions. However, can this be the reason why most teachers are swimming in the bondages of self-pity and lack of self-esteem. I think the answer for this question is definitely NO! Then why do most teachers live their lives as destitute, even if they are working or when they retire. Having been in the staffroom for one year as a teacher the following has been my observation from my association with my fellow teachers of course not just from my lovely school Jasmine but with teachers as a whole.            
Most teachers suffer from the problem called SDS. Many will wonder and really ask what disease is SDS. For my comrades who don’t know SDS, this is an acronym for Salary Dependence Syndrome. Majority of teachers have become so dependent on the salary that the only talk we hear in the staffrooms is when is the next increment, when is DIDACC due and the like. This attitude has enslaved most of us teachers such that we live our lives Hand to Month (HTM) syndrome which is again another big problem. This is a problem in that we are normally left with no income to invest or save. Some teachers have argued out this point that the salaries for teachers are too little, but the counter argument to these people is that government pays us a lot of time for us to be innovate and plough into our entrepreneurial skills. According to Cambridge dictionary, an entrepreneur is someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity. I believe it’s high time we start walking this road of entrepreneurship and stop these habits of SDS and HTM. Staffrooms can make better forums where we can share business ideas and stop wasting time on gossip.
Another big problem that is killing us as teachers are NKONGOLE- AMA loans. Teachers are the ever faithful customers for lending institutions such as Bayport, Blue Finance, banks and micro finance institutions. These days even the shylocks in our ‘compounds’ always wait for us to knock on their doors for KALOBA. A large part of teachers get loans to use on liabilities and not on assets. Most of us we get loans for consumption not investment. We get loans to pay other loans. We buy luxurious cars for ourselves, the ones that we even end up parking at our door steps because TWALIPYA, and we don’t have money for servicing and fuel. Please get me right here, am not saying loans are bad. Loans are good if they are invested thus you will not be caught in the vicious cycle of paying them back with stress because the loan will back itself. For each loan we get, let us have an investing plan for it so that when time to pay comes we won’t be crying that the banks are getting half of our salaries. Worse we still bother the government because the pay slip can’t “breath." Let us learn to borrow for appropriate reasons and at a right time. Let us not borrow just because our workmate has done so. We should never act on impulse.  Remember it is relatively easy to get a loan but the difficulty thing is to administer it properly. There is usually a tendency to feel ‘power’ once money is in our hands and we start squandering it. Like my lovely sister always says, “THE REAL CHARACTER OF A MAN COMES OUT WHEN HE HAS MONEY”. So always establish real purpose for getting the loan and stick to it. Allow me to end here on loans because my next article will be on this lengthy subject.
Most of us teachers are bad planners who, in reality are supposed to be the total opposite. I know some people disagree with me here. Even so, a good practical example is that most of us write lesson plans after teaching a lesson. Hope you get my argument. The disastrous part is that this extends into our everyday life. However, life doesn’t work like that. It demands that we plan for tomorrow today. Let’s plan for life after the service now not a year before retiring is when we what to become farmers. When we don’t even know how a hoe looks like. Let us live with the spirit of entrepreneurship side by side. Remember failing to plan is planning to fail. Always put the plans on paper and refer to them.
A large percentage of teachers suffer from self-pity. Self-pity may be defined as a psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have confidence nor ability to cope with it. It is characterised by a person’s belief that he or she is the victim of events. It’s funny that most teachers even me include do feel we were not meant to be teachers. In fact this is common among us that come from The University of Zambia; we usually have a negative attitude towards work giving an excuse that teaching is but a stepping stone for us. Let’s learn to appreciate our work and have a positive working culture. As matter of fact, the so called stepping stone has become a rock for most of us so the earlier we change our mind-set the better. And to the old-timers in the service with my due respect please change your mind–set and have some self-esteem. Yes it’s possible for you to hold your heads high. So stop burying yourselves in the sand. Lastly, in this part one of ‘WHY MOST TEACHERS ARE DESTITUTES’ allow me say let’s stop the PHD syndrome (Pull He/Her Down). Let’s us embrace a bracket of cooperation and not competition.  After all, we all have a common goal TO EDUCATE OUR FUTURE.

                                                  Watch out for part 2 
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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Talent Yapa Zed Exposes Us

I have a confession to make. I began watching Talent Yapa Zed with great expectation having seen similar shows such as America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent. I was hoping to see a great production, entertaining judges and above all explosive talent that were waiting to be discovered. Alas, after watching a few shows, I have learnt to lower my expectation and I began watching it for a whole different reason. It turned into a must watch show to see talentless individuals embarrass themselves on national television.

The show produced by Location Challenge, is a good production by Zambian standards. The reality show productions are in their infancy in Zambia thus I will not dwell too much on them or even dare compare them to similar shows in South Africa because we definitely pale in comparison. There is some formula about such shows that just make them tick, the production, judges and the contestants. If a show can have this mix it is bound to provide loads of entertainment and many people glued to their television screens. Unfortunately, barring the production side Talent Yapa Zed falls short on the judges and the contestant’s front.

Most of the judges on the show sorry for lack of a better word are simply BORING. There is nothing going on among them. No chemistry whatsoever and sometimes their comments are just bland. The judging panel’s only saving grace is Ballad Zulu. He dishes out the advice as it is supposed to be. If you are a horrible singer then you are a horrible singer period. Then to some extent the judges fail to appreciate talent in its merit. It appears as if they have already preconceived ideas of who should win the competition and in my opinion it has to be a singer. So if an individual goes there to rap or do anything funny the chances of them being shot down are extremely high. The fact that a person is a singer or an actor, does not automatically translate into them being good judges for such shows. The producers need to consider finding the right mix for the judging panel in the event that the show will be back for another season.

Then coming to the essence of the show that is finding the best talent in Zambia, I have come up with two assumptions. It is either that the talented Zambians did not turn for the show or there is simply no talent in Zed. With all due respect to the contestants that have been put through there are only a hand full of contestants that I can truly say, ‘Wow! That is talent!” Most of them really are sub standard and need more time to develop their talents and definitely I do not think that they are worthy of the ZMK 100 million that is being dangled in front of their faces. Maybe it is just me who needs to stop comparing them to other participants I have seen on other shows. Then again I am right to compare them to those individuals we are in a global community after all. Perhaps it sounds hypocritical of me to comment on the talent, when I did not bother to compete myself.

If you watch Talent Yapa Zed long enough, you can be forgiven to think that Zambia only has two talents namely singing and dancing. You could also be forgiven to think that people only listen to gospel music because more than three quarters of the singers sing gospel songs. I have no idea whether singing a gospel track is to buy sympathy or perhaps it is easier to overlook such issues as melody or pitch in a gospel song. On the lack of diverse talent however, some of the brunt should be borne by parents and guardians. Little is done to develop a child’s talent. Anything else that has nothing to do with academic work is seen as a waste of time and will only make the child dull. Therefore, the child’s talents are stifled and eventually the talent becomes underdeveloped. It is for this reason that I am not a fan of nursery and primary schools that are formed in someone’s backyard. However, this is a rant for another day.

Finally, the path to greatness begins with the first step. Therefore, applauses for the birth of Talent Yapa Zed are definitely in order. It is however, important that the producers of the show take this first show as a platform to learn from their shortcomings and improve in the next season. For the participants I expect them to practice much harder and perhaps we will see a better and diverse crop of talent to grace our screens. We need to find talent that is truly worthy of the K100 million and if they can offer car to go along with it then, I might be tempted to participate next year.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Maids Are Human Too

When the news that the minimum wage for domestic workers, commonly known as maids was announced it was received with a mixed sack of emotions. The labour minister Fackson Shamenda was adamant that the new wages have been revised from K250, 000 to K522, 000. Immediately, that became the hot topic in the offices and a discussion that would continue for the week to come. How on earth does a maid deserve to be paid K522, 000?
Maids have been an integral part of many households. They have helped bring up kids, doing the laundry, cooking the food, caregivers to ill relatives and some even the cleaning of the yard is an additional duty. I was rather dismayed at the harsh protest that the increment in the minimum wage ignited. I heard people say that should their maids entertain such thoughts they would be given the boot. They were already getting their monies worth. K250, 000 are you serious?
“I already feed the maid breakfast, lunch and sometimes I give her food to carry home.… Besides she watches my DSTV,” another uttered.
The debates have continued on Facebook, radio stations, television stations and pubs. The arguments generally are that maids whoever they are do not deserve a salary increment. The sad part about the arguments no matter how rational they maybe most forget the most vital part, maids are human too. It is not as if they are robots that have no feelings and emotions. It is not as if they are programmed and they do not feel the pinch of the harsh economic climate. Maids are real people just like you and I. Maids are daughters, mothers and grannies. They have the very same worries that we all have, that are to provide for our families and ensure that they are well taken care of even if it means sacrificing. It is sacrificing that they do most.
We complain when Zambians are abused in mines, we complain when the shop workers are underpaid, we strike when our employers do not increase our pay, however, we forget the injustice that goes on in our very homes. Maids have no unions to speak on their behalf. No one hears their voices and nobody asks their opinion. Let us be honest, the reasons we have maids is so our lives can be a lot easier. Maids are usually expected to work six days a week. This is usually in an average household of six people. She is expected to wash for each individual, cook the meals, if there is a baby, babysit and do all the other chores the madam does not have time for. It is not an easy thing. Personally doing my own laundry is hell and if someone can do it on my behalf that is such a relief. Incredibly people still find a way to make their job insignificant and seem like a by the way thing that we can all do without if we choose.
It is further disheartening to know that people, who earn millions of kwacha, blow up what the proposed minimum wage is in one night of fun, a pair of shoes costs that amount and yet when the increase is proposed we become tight fisted. Hence the rich will become richer and poor will remain poor. The fact that some maids may be desperate for employment does not give us the right to exploitation. Indeed that is what I choose to call it. If we allow ourselves to step aside for a moment, and critically review the salaries we give our maids. How do we expect a person who earns K250, 000 to survive for a month? This is a person who also has to feed her children, take them to school, pay for rent, and help out in the extended family. It is really difficult and hard as it is. 
Therefore, I think that the minister’s announcement was welcome and long overdue. When we debate this topic, we need to avoid seeing this as an increase in the pay of maids who are from some distant planet. Let us take them as human beings, not as people who do our laundry or take care of the kids. They are people too. They are trying to make ends meet. The fact that there are many unemployed people who are desperate for jobs does not give us the right to deny them a chance to make a decent living. They may be maids but they are people too.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Africa through Hollywood's Stained Eyes

Last week Friday, I had the opportunity to go watch the premier of MUVI TV’s production ‘Street Circles'. The Henry Joe Sakala written film was shown on the big screen at Freshview Cinemas by Levy Junction Mall.  As I watched the movie, it felt different from the ones I am constantly fed. Above all what was most impressive was that this was a Zambian story told by a Zambian lens, it is about time. This is because the rest of the world has been forced to see Africa through Hollywood’s lens and the picture is often distorted.

            It is no secret that Hollywood is the movie-making capital of the world. The movies produced are worth a hundreds of millions of dollars. It is an actor’s dream to work in a Hollywood production. Hollywood is known for putting out movies in diverse genres from the comic book heroes such as Spiderman and X-men to romantic movies such as Titantic and Notebook it is never short of variety. However, when it comes to Hollywood’s portrayal of Africa, it has one simple formula for that. Showing Africa in its worst light and only the Western world can rescue it from itself.
            If you are going to watch a Hollywood movie about Africa, be rest assured that you will see one of the following, stick thin people, brutes massacring each other, impoverished humans, the vast savannahs or little civilization. Do not believe me? Just watch these movies and you will see what I mean, Tears of the Sun, Hotel Rwanda, The Interpreter, Sahara, Beyond Borders, Blood Diamond or The Constant Gardener need I mention more. This week I watched another film about Africa that I can add to the list and it is Machine Gun Preacher. All these movies seem to follow a very familiar script- African people are suffering probably being slaughtered by some despot, and then lo and behold a white man comes to the rescue. Like a messiah to save the lost, so are the American or European characters depicted in these films. It is never African people finding solutions to their issues. It is rarely an African coming to the rescue, and hardly do you see urban African unless it has been gutted by war.             These releases by Hollywood have been very stereotypical and have often been bad publicity for the continent. Africa has been viewed as a continent that is refusing to move with time, amplifying its colonial label as the Dark Continent. The power of the media should not be underestimated in this day and age. If all someone a thousand miles away is constantly viewing Africans hacking each other’s limbs carelessly, skeletal children with outstretched arms or a lion walking in the savannah that is the picture that will be developed of the continent. They cannot be blamed for drawing the wrong conclusion about the continent. It is only people who have actually stepped foot on the continent who may appreciate that Africa is not all about what Hollywood shows.

            This blog by no means attempts to dispute that Africa does not have its share of issues. Indeed, there are wars, dictators who refuse to give up power, children somewhere are going hungry and we do have wildlife. Nonetheless, Africa is so much more than this; there are good stories to be told about this continent. We do have love stories brewing, selfless politicians other than Nelson Mandela. We have cities bursting with life and promise, individuals who are making a difference in their communities, heartwarming sports stories (I specifically have the Chipolopolo’s victory in mind) or the rhythm of our drums. There are so many untold stories that need to be heard and seen.
            The solution to this perhaps is not convincing Hollywood to start telling Africa’s other stories. We need to tell our own stories to the rest of the world. The film industry needs to be supported and allowed to flourish. This means going to watch the African movies that are released in order to encourage the industry. Policies should be in place that makes movie-making equipment cheaper to import by providing tax breaks. Develop the capacity of actors, producers, script writers and directors by setting up film schools.  The more movies we begin to make the faster the rest of the world will begin to see these beautiful tales of Africa. Nigeria is already leading the way and rest must follow in line. 

            When the credits for Street Circles rolled up, everyone in the cinema applauded. We were perhaps applauding for different reasons.  I was clapping not because the performances were Oscar winning, or it was an incredible big-budget production, rather it was a step towards the world seeing us through our eyes. A Zambian story was not being told by someone looking through a Hollywood lens but through a Zambian one. So instead of me waiting for Hollywood to make the Chipolopolo film probably starring Will Smith’s son as Mayuka, it is about time I get started on that script.