Mr President, we teachers have suffered enough!

Sunday October 25 2015

And it is not just teachers alone who are suffering. Maina, the shopkeeper, who a few weeks ago made it clear that he would not give anything on credit again, is almost closing down his shop. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH

And it is not just teachers alone who are suffering. Maina, the shopkeeper, who a few weeks ago made it clear that he would not give anything on credit again, is almost closing down his shop. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH 

By MWALIMU ANDREW
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Your Excellency Sir,

My name is Mwalimu Andrew. Or Dre for short. I hope your people have told you about me.

But just in case they haven’t, I am the Deputy Headmaster of Mwisho wa Lami Primary School, a position I got after years of sweat, blood and tears. I actually should be the HM of this great school were TSC to be serious, but that is a story for another day.

Besides my many academic certifications from Kilimambogo TTC; and recorded successes in choir, volleyball and leg ball; I am also a scholar at Kenyatta University and a man renown in this county and beyond for his strategic foresight, pedagogical wisdom, warmth of character, and natural intelligence. That is why during census, elections and referendum, the government of Kenya always relies on me to run things in Mwisho wa Lami.

With all these accolades and expertise, I should be respected. But I am not.

All because I am broke. As a teacher, I hope Kaimenyi has told you that he pays us peanuts. Most of the time we can’t make ends meets. But this month there are even no ends for us to try to make meet since we received nothing in our accounts last month. Zero. Not that we would have received a lot but that little means quite a lot to us.

And this has put me in such shame and problems. Many problems.

Let’s start with the immediate ones for me. My son, Branton, was last week chased from Busy Bees Academy, as I have not paid any school fees since he enrolled; and the owner of the academy, Tito, did not see any hope of money coming from my end soon. Branton is now staying with me at home, but spending most of the time at his grandmother’s, for in my house, even the few cockroaches that remained are complaining. The bright cockroaches and rats already left for greener pastures.

CLOSING SHOP

The house that I started constructing last month stalled. All I managed to do was dig the foundation, which was covered after a week of heavy rainfall. As such, it seems that I will remain in this simba in my father’s compound for some time, something that does not befit the status of a deputy headmaster.

Mr President, even walking around Mwisho wa Lami is difficult. You must have been told that I go to school very early and leave very late. That is true and everyone thinks I am a dedicated teacher. That is partly true, but there is a different reason why I spend most of my time at school. Life outside school is difficult. I can’t walk around Mwisho wa Lami in peace.

I owe almost everyone some money: Hitler, Anindo the milk supplier, Maina the shopkeeper, name them. Being in school for me is therefore more peaceful. Last Wednesday, I stumbled upon some Sh50 in one of my pockets. You should have seen how I celebrated.

I don’t want to tell you all my problems. Were I to tell you all, I would tell you about Fiolina, the enviable laugh of my life. She studies at Morisot TTC and the fees for this term hasn’t been paid. And I do not know if it will be paid. Last weekend she was chased from school but did not travel as she had no transport to come home.

When I told her that I had no money, her response to me was embarrassing to say the least. “Go withdraw money from MPESA,” she texted me. “Si walimu wamechangiwa pesa? I am not a full,” she was refering to the “Okoa Walimu” fundraising initiated by the opposition sometime back.

Things are so bad that I have had to borrow money from my mother. My mother who has never worked a day in her whole life. I even no longer walk around with my phone. I switched it off. Because the only calls that come in are from people asking for money. But what is surprising, and several teachers have complained, is that no one is picking our calls. Mr President, calls from teachers are not being picked across the country as everyone knows that we want to borrow!

Your excellency. I am not the only one suffering. I am not aware of any colleague of mine who is not suffering. May be Mrs Atika but that is because her husband works at the County Government. Nzomo, my beautiful colleague remains holed up in Nunguni, unable to raise money to travel to Mwisho wa Lami. Sella has been playing hide and seek with the landlord. You heard what happened to Saphire last week. A day after he resurrected, Saphire went back to Hitler’s, and it is only a matter of time before he ‘dies’ again.

I haven’t told you the story of Kuya. Last year he bought a motor cycle and hired Nyayo to run for him boda boda business. Since he had no money during the strike, he fired Nyayo and started ferrying passengers by himself. Even after the strike was over, he has been ferrying passengers early morning before coming to school and after school to make ends meet. He is not a good rider, and unsurprisingly, last week, he caused an accident, and has been in hiding ever since.

And it is not just teachers alone who are suffering. Maina, the shopkeeper, who a few weeks ago made it clear that he would not give anything on credit again, is almost closing down his shop.

WRONG SPEECH, PERHARPS?

“With teachers broke, there is no money in Mwisho wa Lami,” he told us the other day when he came to visit us in the staff room. “I always laughed at how you teachers liked borrowing, but I have now realised you are my only true customers.”

Last Tuesday, on Mashujaa Day, for the first time, Hitler’s was closed. There was no teacher with money to go there. And since the likes of Alphayo, Rasto, Nyayo always rely on us teachers to buy them a drink; with our empty pockets keeping us away from Hitler’s, this has forced Hitler to scale down, and unless the situation improves, he may close down business soon.

Anindo, Nyayo’s wife, already stopped selling mandazi, and you can imagine how this is affecting her family. She used to supply to a few teachers’ homes and to the staff room every day. But after several weeks of supplying with no pay, she ran out of money to buy unga and cooking oil, and her once successful venture collapsed. Is it any wonder, Mr President, that a bank collapsed last week? I strongly believe the bank would never have closed down if teachers had been paid.

If I had time, I would have told you that Mr Lutta has had to relieve his herds boy of duties, and he now takes care of his cattle himself. Madam Ruth also sent away her house girl. But she is clever. She has been using a few Class Seven girls to run some chores like fetching water, and washing for her. I can’t stop her. I would do the same if I were in her shoes.

Last Tuesday, Mr President, I thought that during the Mashujaa Day celebrations, you would be our Shujaa. That you would direct our God-ordained salary increment to be implemented. Or at least you would order that our September salaries be paid. I listened to every word of your speech.

To my horror, you did not even mention the word teacher in your address to the nation. May be they gave you the wrong speech. Even when you talked after reading whatever they had written to you, there was no mention of teachers. Nothing. I was shocked.

But all is not lost, Mr President. This evening, you can, like you did a few weeks ago, address the nation, and tell the TSC to do what it should have done with our accounts in September – and rescue the lives of many teachers and as well save Mwisho wa Lami’s economy that is currently in shambles. You still can be our Shujaa Mr President!

Yours expectantly,

Mwalimu Andrew;

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