THE news that the Teaching Service Commission of Zambia is planning to procure breathalysers to distribute to all schools as a way to curb rampant drunkenness among teachers cannot pass without comment.
Of course, in many instances, breathalysers have proved to be a good safeguard measure to avoid unnecessary accidents in many industries due to poor judgment as a result of alcohol consumption.
On the road, they have prevented a drunk driver from driving to their death. And we cannot even begin to consider how many lives the breathalysers have saved in industries such as the mines where it is strictly applied.
But before we even begin to tackle the solution being considered by the teaching commission, we must critically examine the problem that has led the commission to procure the breathalysers.
To begin with, if the problem of teachers reporting drunk for work is so big that it warrants the procurement of tens of thousands of breathalysers at a huge cost, then there is cause for worry about the quality of our education as well as the morality of our society.
Teachers are supposed to be the custodians of good moral behaviour.
The calling of a teacher is to high moral standards. Teachers are the pillars of our society, the foundation upon which our nation is built.
It is for this reason that society gasps whenever we publish stories about teachers engaging in immoral behaviour, especially when that behaviour affects or involves children entrusted in their care.
Teachers do not only teach academic subjects, but also teach good behaviour and serve as role models to our children. And in some rural parts of our country, they may be the only role models that schoolchildren look up to.
Therefore, to imagine that some of our teachers stand in front of our young children in their drunken state is in itself a frightening thing. For what value will a teacher who is drunk on duty be to the pupils? That it is okay to drink on the duty?
But we must also question how we got to this situation in the first place?
It is said time and time again that teaching is a noble profession, but what nobility is there in a drunk teacher standing in front of pupils.
The responsibility that rests on the shoulders of our teachers is so great that they can only carry out their task with a sobre mind.
We have seen of late teachers engaging in behaviour that does not only lower their profession, but is also detrimental to the children entrusted to them.
A case in point was an incident in Mkushi late last year where teachers engaged in a sex party with pupils.
Clearly, the Teaching Service Commission has a lot of work to do in order to sanitise the teaching profession, but we do not think breathalysers in themselves are an end-all solution.
And some may even argue that this problem is blown a bit out of proportion.
Nevertheless, a solution must be found to curb any bad behaviour from our teachers.
And in our view, a corrective, rather than punitive solution, is more desirable in this regard.
And of course, we cannot demand sainthood from our teachers for they, too, are private citizens living private lives.
There is a danger that a well-intended move could bring about anarchy in the teaching fraternity, if not well-handled.
Those who will be entrusted with the power to hold up a breathalyser must not use that power to humiliate or victimise others.
Our call, therefore, is to teachers across the country to rise above board and live and act according to the calling of their profession. They must restore the dignity and nobility associated with their profession by behaving in a noble manner.
Breathalysers should be left to other industries or sectors where there is no high demand for, as for teachers, they must always walk the high moral road with or without breathalysers.