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  • Simon Sakala

The Solution to the Economic and Political Problems Lies In The Hands of Primary School Teachers.


The state of any state depends on the state of the mindset of its PEOPLE. The incessant blaming of leaders as the only cause of the problems in the society is logically rather lopsided in my opinion. The most important fact that everyone forgets is the fact that it is THE SAME SOCIETY that breeds these kinds of leaders. In other words, they are the veritable fruit of the society. Like father like son, goes the old adage. The apple does not fall far from the tree. The expectation society has from its leadership is tantamount to expecting to gather bananas from a mango tree. There are instances when a good leader emerges from a corrupted society. Such a case is similar to the emergency of a good fruit from a tree that is accustomed to bearing bad fruit. However, sooner or later, the situation is likely to revert to its default setting. The only way the status quo can change is by changing the conversation and refocusing on how we can work together to mend society. A leader, no matter how good, has LIMITED CAPACITY. A very good leader’s skills can come to a very challenging test if he were to lead goats, for instance. However, his skills would flourish if his subjects were sheep. I’m not implying that people are goats and sheep.

Mindset is everything. I have lived in Japan for twenty-one years and I have been searching to find what it is that makes the Japanese who they are and Japan what it is, Here is what I found. The Japanese education system is among the top education systems in the world and the Japanese are smart people and they work very hard. However, there is nothing that is more powerful than the Japanese mindset. The Japanese respect work and time. For instance, I was surprised one day when one of our office staff asked me for permission to call her son on her cell phone because she had something urgent to communicate to him during office hours. They also respect people and uphold rules and procedures. If a Japanese promises she will do something at 3:00 pm, for instance, expect it to be done by 3:00 pm and not 3:01pm, unless something beyond her control gets in the way, in which case she will call as early as possible well before the appointed time to say she will be delayed. Traffic or bad weather are not among the obstacles beyond her control. She already put those in the equation when she saw them coming. Children in elementary schools follow rules and procedure and are aware of their individual responsibilities. Primary school classes can go on normally even in the absence of the teacher. To a Japanese child, including my children who are Japanese at heart, cleaning up the surroundings and picking up trash is not a chore. It is a habit like brushing your teeth and taking a bath. Obviously they grow up with the habit such that it becomes second nature when they become adults. The whole society thrives on values of honesty, faithfulness, personal responsibility, high personal hygiene and hard work. Productivity and efficiency are very high. Elementary school children in Japan hold a very special position in society. Events such as schools’ sports day, school entrance ceremonies, graduation ceremonies are so important that work, and other commitments are put on hold in order to attend to these more important children events. Every member of the local community is involved. They do everything to invest in the young souls that are the future society. The results are very obvious. Economic development depends on high productivity and efficiency. It also depends on a workforce that takes full responsibility and are proud of their roles in society, whether they are a judge or a janitor. Democracy and freedoms of speech and expression are premised on a people that have a disciplined mindset and think about and understand the consequences of their utterances and actions on others The mindset of the people is formed during the early years of schooling. Children generally have no independent opinion, except that which is given to them by the society in which they grow up. Stereotypes, belief systems and habits are embedded in society and children are at the mercy of what society chooses. The primary school teacher, therefore, holds the strategic position to shape the mindset of the pupils during the seven years they are in primary school, as in the case of Zambia. This is so because the pupils in the primary school have minds that are still malleable and are apt to form the right kind of mindset, if nurtured properly. The more demanding part of the equation, though, lies in transforming the mindset of the teachers themselves in the first place. Teachers need to possess the right mindset that can in turn be transferred to their students. And these teachers desperately need help, in one way or the other, from each and every member of society they serve.

In order to develop the mindset that can bring about positive change, children should be taught the following. 1. Honesty or saying and acting the truth. 2. Faithfulness or being reliable 3. Respect for self and other people. 4. Respect for other people’s and public property. 5. Personal hygiene 6. Hard work 7. Personal responsibility and a sense of responsibility to others. 8. Respect for the rule of law and standard procedures 9. Respect for time.

The first step in the right direction is to admit the bitter fact and to take responsibility as a society. Since education in general and primary education in particular play a pivotal role in instilling values in the society, we need to focus on reforming education. We need to come up with a model that enable every community to support teachers in primary schools through providing training and resources they need. Colleges and secondary schools have alumni associations that go back to support their alma mater. Primary schools generally do not. Supporting only tertiary education in this way is like trying to strengthen an ailing tree by propping the leaves. I would like to suggest a trilateral entrepreneurial model to the issue of improving both the availability and quality of primary education to every child. The three parties are the teachers, the supporters and the facilitators. It is an all-win model.

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