Unsung heroes of the struggle…as teachers carried the day

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THE resoluteness of teachers in schools during the struggle carried the day for both ZANU and ZAPU.

Taking care of comrades too young to be trained to fight was something very close to the hearts of both ZANU and ZAPU. 

They needed to, and they wanted to do their best for these very youngsters who, though so young, had left the comfort of home to fight for their country.

To carry out this task, the liberation movements needed comrades who were resolute, caring and committed, especially as life in the struggle for these unarmed youngsters was difficult. 

The vicissitudes were so many.

For this task, the parties selected trained dedicated ZIPRA and ZANLA combatants to take care of these young comrades. 

The young comrades needed a lot of reassurance because they could not be trained or armed, so they felt very vulnerable and besides, they had come to fight not to be put in schools. 

Although the two liberation movements chose to do this for their protection because they were so young, they need to reassure them that they honoured and rested the cause for which they had left home, thus it was necessary to choose trained fighters. 

A fully trained ZANLA or ZPRA cadre, though unarmed, was best placed to give courage and strength to the young ones; they had the courage and the will of indomitable fighters which the young ones needed. 

They also were able to help students with military tactics, in case of attacks. 

Equally important was the need to reassure the youngsters that in being put in schools, the liberation movements were not rejecting their offer to fight for the country. 

And so, the camps were organised along military lines to entrench in the minds of the youngsters that they were ZANLA and ZIPRA cadres-in-waiting, it was only a matter of time. 

So, the youngsters felt very much ZANLA, very much ZIPRA and they were at peace. 

Their days began with military drills. 

They had the morning and evening parade. 

They were organised in detachments. 

They had their detachment commanders, commanders at every level and it is in these units they carried out their activities in the camp schools. 

To achieve all this, the parties ZANU and ZAPU needed dedicated cadres and the teachers did not disappoint.

They raised the youngsters to carry the mantle, to be brave and committed to the cause that had made them leave home and its comforts.  

The teachers who were the commanders of these youngsters ensured they adhered to the harshest military discipline, no less strict because the comrades were so young.

In the classes, the teachers centred everything on the liberation struggle; by their example, they kept the youngsters afire as they waited for the day they would be trained and go to the front. 

The curriculum and the attitude of the teachers made the students feel secure about their mission in the struggle.

In both liberation movements, camp schools came up with curriculum that was relevant to the struggle and to the aspirations of a free Zimbabwe.

At Matenje Base in the Tete Province for instance, the Research Unit produced teaching and learning materials such as the books: Zimbabwe is our Country and Women in Struggle. 

They produced epic plays such as ‘The People are Invincible’ and ‘Black is Beautiful’, thus the teaching and learning materials kept the revolutionary fire burning in the students.

So, the teachers, combatants themselves, who had embraced the liberation ethos, were prepared to die for their country and were actively involved in the struggle. 

They were an inspiration for the youngsters and helped to keep the youngsters as a revolutionary force ready to continue with the war of liberation when their time came.

Since the teachers themselves were staunch revolutionaries, they were able to shepherd the very young comrades during the hardships and tragedies of the struggle, the bombings, the hunger and disease. 

At Nyadzonia, hundreds of children were murdered in cold blood and thousands more were injured.  

Teachers gathered these youngsters, injured, bleeding in their bodies, in their hearts and souls, nursed them through the physical and psychological trauma, embraced, shielded and consoled those young hearts still in shock from encountering such brutality. 

They needed someone to console them, to tell them that it is the price they had to pay for the liberation of their country; that the enemy was vile, which is why they all had to fight to dislodge such evil. 

They needed someone to help them heal. 

The children were brave and courageous in themselves. 

It is this bravery and courage which had made them leave home for the struggle, but they needed others to keep them going, to help them make sense of it all and it was their teachers, their commanders who were closest to them who had to assist them.

Their encouraging words and attitude helped the students to keep going, doing Zimbabwe, the Party, the struggle and the children the greatest favour. 

The children were able to continue with the struggle, resolute as ever; but it was not normal for children to go through such trauma.

This brutality was replicated throughout the liberation war, and at Chimoio, only 15 months later. 

Hundreds of schoolchildren were murdered. 

At Mkushi and Freedom Camp as well as other camp schools in Zambia, children were brutalised and murdered in cold blood. One young comrade, after such brutal bombing in Zambia in which many of his compatriots were killed, asked his teacher: “Comrade, how can we be burying the dead when we are still so young?” 

The teacher replied: “When you join the struggle, you are no longer a child.”  

Rhodesians had no compunction about doing the unthinkable. They still murdered children en masse in both Zambia and Mozambique. 

In these horrendous times, their teachers were their succor, an incredible source of strength and courage.

The teachers had to shepherd the children through times when there was no food, no medicines and so many were dying from starvation and disease. 

It was an excruciating task. 

However, the teachers shepherded the children through such untold suffering. 

Though they too needed to be consoled, they bravely carried their burden and that of the young comrades under their care. They fought on, fuelled by the desire to free their country. 

The teachers and students are incredible heroes of our war of liberation and we can only thank them by pursuing what they fought for, for which they endured such excruciating pain and sorrow. 

ZANU and ZAPU achieved their goal of caring for the comrades who were too young to be trained as fighters because the teachers were staunch revolutionary cadres. 

The two liberation movements wanted to give the youngest comrades the best care under the most harsh vicissitudes. 

They wanted them to be nurtured as fighters, as revolutionaries to carry the mantle of the liberation fighters and they succeeded because of the teachers who selflessly gave of themselves and took care of the young ones as their own brothers and sisters. 

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