In the eighth grade, after we were handed out our exam papers, a classmate of mine with tears in his eyes for receiving an average grade of “B” confided in me. He spoke of how much of a failure he felt he was.
As I tried to console him, he told me he felt he was failing everyone. Curious, I asked who “everyone” was.
He replied, “my community”.
In the hour that followed, we spoke in great length about what our privilege as educated students meant and the many at the time who were not getting access to education.
Many in my school grew up with this riding on the back of our minds. We thought often about the responsibilities of our privilege. While we all learnt how to navigate our way through the cards we were each dealt with, a lot of us reacted differently to how we could live this life. Many felt like being in Ethiopia and filling the gaps was an important step, while others went overseas looking for skills they believed Ethiopia cannot provide.
Yet, we were all united in a dream for a better Ethiopia. Even living in the bubble of our existence, our parents, our age and school shielding us from the many realities of our country, we were raised to feel responsible. I have a deep appreciation for all the teachers in the school I went to who had the infectious energy of seeing a better world.
I think the educators in our community deserve more appreciation. Most do not have enough pay and teach simply because it is their passion. They have an unbelievable power to influence young minds who will become the adults that will shape this world.
Often times, educators are under appreciated. My late uncle taught in public schools all his life, and when he was told his school could not accept more children for lack of chairs, he brought chairs from his own home. Educators fill in the gaps from their own hollow pockets, and they should never be put in that place.
The reality is that Addis Abeba is mutating to a city many of us do not understand. It has become overrun by a survivalist instinct. It seems we are unable to move forward without destroying the pillars in a community.
As we celebrate stars on TV, we have yet to celebrate those who contribute much to our society, often without fanfare.
It is better in the countryside as the status of a teacher is a respected one. Teachers are referred to as “educators”. They are esteemed advisors and members of society.
It is nice that other cities in Ethiopia are developing now. Hawassa is one of those places in Ethiopia that seems to be doing something right. Their clean streets and helpful demeanour matched with the ever-growing interesting scenes has me thinking that there is some hope. Yet I have not heard of anyone being brave enough to move to the other cities in Ethiopia.
Addis is ver-populated, cradling an unbalanced development. And it is with giving attention to those who deserve it that we can really build a nation worth respecting.
A friend the other day told me a story of a small industrial town in India where he was from. He said the town produced millions in revenue just by supplying to a French retail company. And the workers were the happiest and most fulfilled he had seen from anywhere around the world.
He commented with awe that the factory owners would touch the feet of their factory workers to say thanks. The owners would always choose to seek comfort for their workers even when they have wealthy buyers coming over to visit.
The reason these workers are appreciated was because the owner of the factory believed that appreciating his employees, who worked very hard to help him earn this money, was crucial. It made them feel valued to the point that they stayed in their jobs for years sometimes even through generations.
This is an exemplary way to work. Our economy and future lie on the backbone of these workers. Yet we do not treat them with the respect and provide them with the support they deserve. Our county should not only strive to attract foreign investment but make sure the people who are working in these industries are also taken care of. Happy workers can build a nation we can all be proud of.
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