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How I outwitted the HM and closed school early

Sunday November 22 2015

Bensouda then dismissed the staff meeting and told teachers to go to classes. “Come to my office,” she ordered me. We had a long argument with her. She insisted that only she could decide the closing date. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH

Bensouda then dismissed the staff meeting and told teachers to go to classes. “Come to my office,” she ordered me. We had a long argument with her. She insisted that only she could decide the closing date. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH 

By MWALIMU ANDREW
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You do not need to be from Mwisho wa Lami village to know that although I am the deputy headmaster of our primary school, due to the HM’s intellectual shortcomings, and the fact that she is forever absent, I am as good as the headmaster. As such, increasingly, I am having to make many decisions for the school. Decisions that the HM does not always agree with.

That is why the other week, a day after KCPE, when learning resumed, I called for a staff meeting, during which I told the teachers to prepare the report cards quick enough so that we can close school early. Now who wouldn’t want to hear such great news?

“I hope we can close on Tuesday Dre,” said Kuya. “There isn’t much happening as students already sat  their end year exams long ago.”

“Tuesday is a little too early,” I said. “But if we are ready with the report cards by Monday evening, I can consider closing the school on Tuesday.”

Once I said this, teachers went into overdrive. Every teacher was busy, and quite a few of them called some bright students to help them compile marks. Indeed, over the weekend, I was informed that several teachers turned up to complete whatever had remained. Every teacher worked hard to be ready as early as possible — except Saphire.

On Monday when I arrived at school, several teachers had completed their report cards, and they were only waiting for the HM to sign. I tried calling Bensouda but she did not pick my calls nor did she return any.

“Dre wacha mchezo,” said Mrs Atika when I said that the report cards had to wait for the HM for signing.

“You sign the reports, you are the deputy. We don’t know for how long we will wait for Bensouda.” Other teachers supported her and after this I started writing my comments and signing the report cards.   

By Monday afternoon, only two classes had not completed their reports, both delayed by Saphire. For the two classes, he had not even collected the answer sheets for marking.

FIRST IN SCHOOL

The teachers assured me that they would sort out that small matter. We agreed that if by Tuesday the two classes’ report cards would be ready, then we would close on Wednesday morning.

“The earlier we come to school, the earlier we will close,” I told the teachers.

That evening, Bensouda tried to call me severally. I did not need a calculator to know why she was calling me. It was clear that Kuya, while urging me to close schools early, had gone ahead and told Bensouda that I planned to close the school early.

So when I received an SMS from Bensouda, I was not surprised. It read: “Who gave you powers to close the school, who elected you to be the headmaster of the school and when?” I did not respond.

Later on, several teachers contacted me seeking confirmation that closing day would still be Wednesday.

“I have already booked my bus to Nakuru,” said Nzomo. Mrs Atika as well had planned to leave for Nairobi with her husband on Thursday morning. “I can’t wait till Thursday or Friday.” I gave two teachers (Sella and Lena) permission to be away that Wednesday as they had different pressing commitments

I was the first one in school on Wednesday morning – having gone early to complete signing the remaining report forms. The students started strolling in very late, all in a school-closing mood. None of them had carried any books. Most of the boys had their shirts untucked.

The teachers came in later. From their faces, they were not planning to stay for long. For example, Kuya came to school in shorts and a T-shirt. From her looks, Madam Ruth had just come to school to give pupils their report cards then go back to sleep.

On her head she had some long brown socks tied around her hair. She was in slippers.

Once we had quorum, I called for a school closing staff meeting in staffroom. The agenda is usually to have every class teacher tell us about their top performers, agree on a schedule of the teachers to be on duty during holidays and to agree on the next opening day.

I also expected every teacher to brief us about the general performance of their class, and measures put in place for better performance next term.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this has been an amazing year,” I started. “We thank God who has seen us through the year.” I then allowed each teacher to make a presentation on the performance of their classes. Nzomo was giving us a brief when Bensouda arrived. She was visibly fuming.

“What is happening here?” she asked. “How come no teacher is in class?” No one answered her. “We should all be revising with the students for the exams that we did two weeks ago.”

Since no answer was forthcoming, she called me out: “Dre, what is not happening?”

THE CONFRONTATION

“We are closing the school this morning and this is the final staff meeting,” I said, then looking at Nzomo, I said: “Proceed with your presentation.”

“Maths still remains a challenge…” Nzomo continued but was interrupted by Bensouda.

“May I know who the headmistress of this school is,” she said. “Who gave you the powers to decide the closing day? Have you sought authority to have the school closed earlier than the ministry’s date of 20th?”

She then dismissed the staff meeting and told teachers to go to classes. “Come to my office,” she ordered me. We had a long argument with her. She insisted that only she could decide the closing date.

“But you are rarely in the school,” I told her.

“That doesn’t mean I am not working, and it doesn’t mean that you can make such big decisions,” she added.

She went on and on but was interrupted by her phone ringing. She was on call for about 10 minutes during which she kept nodding.

“You are lucky I am needed at the county office today, and in Nairobi tomorrow,” she said when she hang up. “Re-call the staff meeting I talk to the teachers before I leave. But come January, one of us has to leave this school.”

The other teachers were too happy when I recalled them for the meeting, and once Bensouda had made her address and left, they all praised me for standing my ground against Bensouda and even saying that I should be the HM of the school. By 10am, I was done with the meeting and half an hour later, the school was closed.

Word of how I had outwitted Bensouda and closed the school two days before any other school in our county has spread far and wide. So many schools would be ready to welcome me should the HM make good her promise of kicking me out of Mwisho wa Lami in January.