“Mr Oketha is not with us any more…”, read a status update on Facebook. I scrolled past and continued down the page. After a while of endlessly scrolling about, I noticed my focus wasn’t on the sleazy picture of some city socialite or the badly cropped selfie of… I was fixated upon a mental image of that status update I had read. I scrolled back to that post and reluctantly clicked on the comments to make certain of my imagination. It was true…I reached for a phone and dialed mum’s number but it was off. I couldn’t think of who else to call. “The chicken!”, I thought.
Ever since I can recall, I have always had very little respect and tolerance for teachers. I grew up painting them as the agents of terror and a bunch of bloody idiots. This is mostly out of good reason – and ignorance. I read widely and learn relatively fast. I favor practical approaches to examinations. I also have a blinding boost of ego every now and then – which makes me come off as a Kanye West. So naturally teachers that didn’t recognize and appreciate my philosophy were nothing but idiots to me. What irked me the most were teachers who were less proficient of their syllabus than I was.
Mr Oketha was different. I first met him in my primary three social studies class. He came of as a highly knowledgeable guy. This was a time when I had just started picking interest in short stories and scampering about mummy’s novels. He told me of amazing places like the Great Wall of China and the River Zambezi. He told me of the roaring Victoria Falls and places far off. One day he gave me a geography picture book on two conditions; the first was that I return it after class and the second was that I shall give him a chicken as appreciation. The child in me took condition two as seriously as the former. This was the beginning of my first friendly relationship with a teacher. He never stopped asking for his chicken even when I was in secondary school…What Mr Oketha did was make me read about all kinds of places on Earth. When I met great reading friends like Amnon in my upper primary, it was just dessert.
So I find myself today in a situation where I might be referred to as a teacher. I do not favor the craft nor the methods of rating used. But I spend countless hours trying to understand the abilities and interests of a small group of budding engineers and give them a proper approach to learn the right programming tools and techniques to make them practical folks. I do this merely because I feel there’s a need to equip our society with breakers and makers – the necessary catalyst for a science and technology puffing society. Maybe Mr Oketha had an equivalent motive. Maybe it’s just the thrill that comes with it. I should have asked…
He had never crossed my mind in a long time. Partly because I am quite disconnected with the home town that raised me into what I am today and partly because of my ego issue. But now I regret never having given him that chicken. I still don’t like teachers. I am going to miss Mr Oketha. Whatever lies beyond the last breadth, may it be to your liking.