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Dear Mwalimu wa Maths, here’s how you wronged students

By Winnie Mabel November 25th, 2023 3 min read

For many students, especially in junior secondary and senior schools, sciences and math subjects were often dreaded. As students advanced in classes, the concepts became more complicated and tricky for them to understand- especially math. Students often dreaded having to sit through the lessons that somehow morphed into double lessons when the math teacher would announce at the end of their class, “oh, I already spoke to the physical education teacher, we can continue with our class. There’s no P.E today.”

Aside from the hard concepts, students hated math because of who the teacher was, how the teacher taught and how the teacher made them feel. But we have come full circle and Kenya’s social media is awash with mockery aimed towards Mwalimu wa Math (math teachers) who often doomed slow students to a life of poverty.

“Mwalimu wa Math, hapa ni wapi? (Maths teacher, where am I now?)” is a popular mockery phrase gaining momentum as people mock their dreaded past math teachers after achieving some level of success be it going on vacations, owning property or achieving something the math teacher said they would never achieve.

And while some math teachers may be dumbfounded about being the butt of this mockery and jokes, Nairobi News is going to shed some light on why they are disliked by millions of former students across the country, and what they should do to change the negative perception towards them:

First and foremost, you cared little about their wellbeing outside having your math lessons, and taking over lessons they looked forward to (P.E, music, agriculture or home science classes) because you felt math was more important to them that the other subjects. You gave them no say in the matter or no heads up so that they can manage their expectations prior to taking over the next lesson. You only earned hostility for yourself and that is why you endured spaced out students during the ‘double lesson’.

Secondly, you showed no patience towards students who were slow in understanding certain math concepts. You openly told them off in front of their peers, unnecessarily humiliating them when you could have used kinder words and exercised some patience to help them understand. What’s even worse is that you compared them to the quick to catch on students, implicating that the slower students were wasting your time by dragging others behind. If ever students transfer schools, its not because of the facilities, but because of hostile teachers who have no patience to help them understand subjects.

Third, while it may have been the norm for you to point out someone would not achieve anything in life because you were older and had seen many instances of such cases outside the school gates, you erred by bringing those instances into the classroom and dooming students who did not perform well in your class. “How will you ever do this in life if you don’t understand this math lesson?”, “How will you ever achieve that if you can’t even grasp a simple algebra concept?”…see, people can succeed in life without needing math as a key tool. Your myopic thinking is the reason why today you are being mocked by former students who are achieving great things in life. You forgot that there is life after those math lessons and you would someday need your former students- where are they now? where are you now Mwalimu wa Math?

See, there is power in the tongue. By you failing to remember you were dealing with young minds and youth who achieved milestones at different paces, you alienated yourself. Mwalimu wa Math, ever wondered why music and home science teachers are well liked even though they had to exhibit some level of harshness to keep students in line? It’s because most of them did not go the extra length in condemning the futures of slow to catch on students.

If you want this “Mwalimu wa Math, hapa ni wapi?” question to go away, you should try and show some level of patience, empathy, flexibility in teaching methods, encouragement and resourcefulness in getting all students on the same page. Then the question might one day be, “Mwalimu wa Math, are you able to join me here?”

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