Letter to my teacher

Zimbabwean students in class
Zimbabwean students in class

I went back there last week. I even sat in the class you used to teach us. I met some of my former classmates, and it got me thinking about the way things used to be. And how the future has turned out so differently.

I remember your painstaking and patient explanations during lessons. Sometimes it got to you, we did not all get it at the same time; It took longer for others. But you used your good humour to ease the pain, unease and insecurities of those who were struggling to grasp what you were saying.

It all came flooding back into my mind. I sat there in the classroom remembering the camaraderie we shared. We were like one family. We stuck together. Even outside the classroom, the kids from other classes could not break us apart, yes some of them were our friends but they could not come between our bond as your pupils.

Shattered dreams

As I sat there, I began to think of the life we envisioned we would one day have- the life you helped us imagine, the life we were living at that time, the life we are now living and what has happened in between.

I thought of the friends I have lost, classmates and schoolmates, many to the ravages of AIDS.

I thought about those prematurely resigned to living the life we all dreaded, the life we saw growing up in the village, and hoped to escape.  They have become the old men and women we all thought we would never become. We are still young but they have given up hope. I don’t think they dream anymore.

I talk to them, they don’t want to hear it anymore, they don’t want to hear of “childhood fancies”. They want to talk about “real life”.

I ask myself; is it right to give up so young? No it can’t be. We can still dream, our lives are still right in front of us, the best is yet to come.

Questions, and more questions

But they ask me questions that make me mumble before I can find the answers. What makes me so sure, they ask? Why do I think things will get better? So do I think the jobs will come? Can I change the government? Why do I think we can succeed at something we have failed to do for 15 years?

It is really difficult to answer these questions, especially when they are staring right into my face and I see the anger, despondency and the pain of crushed dreams.

They want to know if I have the might to take on a regime that is not just ruthless, but deadly efficient in its ruthlessness.

Where is the money?

“Nobody can remove these people,” one former classmate says shaking his head firmly. He also wants to know why there is no money in the country. Where does the money go? How can there not be money in a whole country? I try to explain with the little economics I have mustered, and try to make it sound as rudimentary as possible.

What about the platinum? It is a very expensive mineral. And we have lots of it. What happened to the diamonds?

I am supposed to have answers to all these questions. I was one of the brighter ones, and I live in the city. And I’m a journalist. So I should have answers.

What about the president’s trips? We always hear on the news and in the papers, he is here, he is there, everywhere. So you are telling me that nothing has come from those trips?

It is about the African Union mostly, I try to explain; but he is still the president and that should give him more access shouldn’t it, they interrupt me before I can finish.

Absent local representatives

Maybe I am not the one who should be answering these questions. Where are the elected officials? I remember during the campaigns, they were a constant presence here. But now the election is over and won, who cares, they are nowhere to be seen.

I really want to give my friends this one word, hope, to hold on to. Like you taught us not so long back; it is a good word, a good thing.

18th century writer Oliver Goldsmith said hope adorns and cheers our way, and that still as darker grows the night it emits a brighter ray. But it’s hard to give hope when everything around speaks things contrary to it.


Farai Siebert Mabeza is a freelance journalist based in Harare and has been practising for six years. He likes working on stories that expose the abuse of the weak by those with access to the levers of power.

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