Guardian Inspire! – A few months ago, I left my air-conditioned office and hurried through the blazing heat of the midday sun and slipped into my car which was parked a few yards away.
As I powered on the vehicle, the rush of the cool air-conditioned atmosphere engulfed me and my mind soon went back at ease.
After all, it’s a BMW that is equipped with internal body temperature sensors and many other luxury advantages to ensure that the driver and each person inside, received the exact amount of air conditioning temperature to bring their respective body back to normal coolness again.
So in less than 30 seconds, I was all comfortable, and began reflecting on how nice it was to be fitting with such a luxurious car.
Looking out the car window, I wondered upon the people I observed walking in the sun, and forced myself to believe that probably they have a car parked somewhere and is rushing like I was doing before to reach it so that they can find comfort. Or maybe, it was their choice to battle the midday heat.
That’s life, I thought to myself.
As I cruised through one of the city streets, I noticed a man with his shirt almost drenched in perspiration struggling on the pavement with a bag in his hands. I immediately recognized him.
I powered down my window and shouted to him “Sir!, Sir! Sir!” But the noisy street made it difficult for him to hear me.
So I drove up a little more and find a slot where I could have parked my car, and I came out into the midday heat again.
Within a few seconds, he was in my path, and I immediately outstretched my hands to greet him, while saying “good day sir” in an elated tone.
He did not seem to recognize me. So I went on saying “Sir (name hidden). I am Dennis Adonis. You taught me in my earlier years at Central High School on Smythe Street”.
Still, he couldn’t remember me, but was happy that an old student of his had recognized him anyhow.
He told me that he was in his final years of teaching because he is way past retirement but is “just holding on”.
His bag on his shoulder seemed to be weighing him down, as it was loaded with books, which I assumed was probably his teaching texts.
Looking at my old teacher, I immediately felt sorry for the man, and asked him where he was off to.
He told me that he was going over to get a box of whiteboard markers at a nearby store and might be late for his afternoon teaching session at school. So I offered to take him there, once we get the box of markers.
Looking up at me and drying his face with an already too-wet face cloth, he suggested that he was already close to where he has to get the whiteboard markers, while nicely declining the ride.
I insisted, but I guess because he didn’t recognize me he was not sure what to do either.
As he pondered on my insistence, the midday heat sank into my head and I began to wonder, why is he suffering himself so much.
Realizing I am stuck in thought, he lamented on his regret at not having a car especially now that his body was frail, but choose to simply thank me for my time.
As he attempted to walk away, I reached into my pocket and took out all the money I had, at that time.
It wasn’t much ($6,000 Guyana dollars which is equivalent to about US$28) and I said “please, take this as a thank you from me, sir”
After a few seconds of hesitation, he accepted it and then hurriedly give me his cell number, as I had requested it.
We then parted ways.
As I sat in my car and drove off again, I looked across at him as he jostled for space to walk on the crowded pavement.
Slipping himself sluggishly among the other pave users, he seemed to sigh before wiping away the perspiration away from his face again.
He soon dangerously maneuver out of the path of an oncoming taxi, before pushing his failing body structure across the other side of Regent Street.
All I could have done was nod my head in sadness as I watched him gradually melted away into the crowd.
I just couldn’t imagine that after all of those years of slaving himself to serve the educational needs of this country, he was rewarded with nothing more than a meager salary and a cycle of poverty that has befallen many other teachers before him.
At that moment, reality began to step in.
Here I was driving a luxury vehicle that would take my old Teacher approximately ten years of his entire salary to buy.
And here I was in comfort when one of the persons who molded and educated me, is still stuck in a life and profession that seems to offer nothing more than dimmed hopes to its bearers in this country.
Many of the other students from my old class have also lead successful lives and careers as a result of this man’s teaching.
One I know is a successful Barrister in England, and another that I usually communicate with is a well-respected surgeon In Germany that earns an extraordinary salary in that country.
Then it somehow dawned upon me that teaching in Guyana is really an ungrateful job.
Teachers always put all of their efforts to mould and educate the nation’s children, yet the system and even the very students would often become ungrateful to them, down the road.
Can you imagine teaching a bunch of people and helping them to be moulded into successful doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, scientists, authors, businessmen, and political leaders, only for them to lead a better and and more wealthy life, without looking back at you?
Inspired by my old teacher, and deciding to highlight the wonderful job that they have done for people like me, I decided that I will let the Guyana Guardian carry an inspiring story.
But for that story, I had prefer no one else than my old teacher to be the first voice in that article.
Hence, I decided to call him up to let him know what I am doing and to get his opinion for the article.
After locating the piece of paper that he had written his number on, I took out my phone and dialed it.
After two rings, a female voice answered, prompting me to wonder if I had the wrong number.
But after identifying myself and asking to speak to him, she murmured in a cracked voice, “I am his daughter. Sorry, but he died at the hospital after falling down the back stairs about two weeks ago. Last Sunday was his funeral”.
I immediately went silent, pressed off my phone and just sat in my office for almost thirty minutes before composing myself.
My old teacher will never know how much he had done for me at school, and how further in life his dedication to teaching has pushed me, and much more like me.
Even so, I always kept wondering if he ever had any regrets about how ungrateful the teaching profession in this country had been to him.
After all, only God knows how many more students he has moulded into men with BMW’s, Mercedes, and Audi’s.
Yet, he was never even rewarded with a bicycle.
And the more I think about how cruel the system and his past students had been to him, the more I realize how ungrateful this country itself had been to teachers.
So whenever they protest for an increase in wages, I want those people in power to sit down and remind themselves that it was teachers who dedicated their time to make President Granger an educated man, to make Bharrat Jagdeo an economist, to make Ramjattan a lawyer, to make Nagamotoo a lawyer, and to make Nicolette Henry among others, the powerful people that they are today.
It is in that same spirit I want to ask our leaders to stop winding up your car windows on the teachers, and step out your luxury for a few minutes just to hear what they have to say.
After all, they are only asking you for what they rightly deserve; – a raise of pay, and better working conditions.
About the Author: Dennis Adonis is an investigative writer at the Huffington post and also serves as the Editor in Chief at the Guyana Guardian. He has written more than 20 published books.