Following the directive from Bensouda, our female Headmaster, that all teachers report last Monday, all but two teachers reported. Only Nzomo did not report, as she is still holed up in Nunguni, Ukambani, waiting for the government to pay her September salary to enable her to travel to Mwisho wa Lami. And of course Saphire, who no one at school knew his whereabouts.
Although Bensouda had called for a staff meeting at 7.30 am, it wasn’t until about 9.30 am that she arrived at school. She was in a foul mood – as she started quarrelling right from the gate, saying that the school was dirty.
“What kind of deputy are you?” she asked me when I went to her office after she summoned me. “Is this how your home looks like?” I wanted to tell her that I had no home but just kept quiet. With no money in the pocket, I was in no mood to pick an argument with her.
“The staff meeting will begin in the next five minutes,” she said. “Ensure every teacher is seated when I come.”
I sent one student to call all the teachers who were in class, but Bensouda came to the staff room about half an hour later.
“Has the meeting began?” she asked on arrival.
“We were waiting for you,” said Sella.
“What if I didn’t come? No meeting would be held?” she asked. “Dre sometimes you amaze me!” And looking at Kuya, she said, “Kuya, never hesitate to take up responsibility whenever you see a problem. Otherwise this school will come to an end if we rely on the so called Deputy.” The meeting was brief, as she told the teachers that she expected them to be in class.
“The strike is over and we need to be in class to compensate for lost time,” This was interrupted by some noises from outside. It was a woman loudly wailing.
“Luwere Saphire wanje, Luwere Saphire wanje!” cried the woman. “Walimu mlikuwa wapi Saphire akienda, mlikuwa wapi?” she went on, bringing the school to a standstill.
It was Saphire’s mother and we did not need a compass to know that that was a funeral song.
“What?” wondered Madam Ruth, tears rolling down her cheeks. “That can’t be true, I was with Saphire yesterday.” Mrs Atika, went and held Saphire’s mother who was now hysterical, asking why the school had abandoned her son.
She then told us that Saphire’s body was by the roadside near Hitler’s place and I rushed there, followed by Kuya, Oscar and Sella.
We found a crowd around Saphire’s lifeless body. It was not uncommon for Saphire to be found drunk by the roadside but this time it was different. The women were wailing while the men spoke in low tones.
Shortly afterwards, the assistant chief arrived and, looking at me, asked where Saphire had been all along. “He has never been in school since school opened,” I told him.
“Have you ever tried to look for him?” the administrator asked me. I told him it was not unusual for Saphire to disappear then reappear.
“I blame the government for all this,” said Rasto, who had just arrived. “After missing his September salary, Saphire was so broke that he had to start splitting firewood for Hitler so that he could get a drink everyday.”
“And he was not eating,” added Alphayo. “He has had no money at all to buy food but has been drinking everyday.”
It was agreed that the body be carried to the dispensary. A blanket was found and wrapped around Saphire’s body. The chief ordered that only few people should accompany him to the dispensary, and asked the rest to go to Saphire’s home. Some went to Saphire’s home while others, with twigs and anything they could get went to Hitler’s home baying for his blood – for it was clear Hitler’s drink was responsible for Saphire’s death.
Together with Kuya, Oscar and Sella, we followed the team headed to the dispensary. Along the way, just near Nyayo’s home, they stopped.
“He is not dead,” said Nyayo as he touched Saphire’s face. “Can someone get us porridge please?” Nyayo loudly called his wife Anindo and ordered her to prepare light porridge for Saphire.
“Stop your jokes Nyayo,” said Tito, looking at Saphire, “He is gone.”
“His body is warm,” said Nyayo. “He is just too drunk and hasn’t eaten for several days. This has happened to me before so I know.” Within minutes, Anindo came with the hot porridge.
Nyayo tried to force the porridge down Saphire’s throat. With the porridge not being swallowed, nothing happened. Nyayo did not give up, he kept trying to push the porridge down Saphire’s throat and at the same time, tried to open his eyes.
Then a miracle happened. Saphire coughed — a faint, weak cough like from an old, sickly woman. We were all shocked. Nyayo made him sit upright and this time round, Saphire swallowed a little porridge. Nyayo asked for cold water which he poured on Saphire’s body. Saphire shivered slightly as a reaction to the cold water and shortly afterwards, opened his eyes.
“Wululululu!,” Anindo ululated while everyone else clapped on seeing Saphire open his eyes. He closed them again, then lied down again, looking quite tired.
“Saphire amka, usilale,” said Nyayo, pouring more water on him. He then made him sit down and forced him to take a cup of porridge, after which, Saphire opened his eyes.
“Where am I?” he asked. I told him that he was in Nairobi and everyone laughed. We tried making him stand up but he was too weak to stand on his own so we supported him and walked him to the dispensary. The nurse said that there was nothing she could do.
“He is just drunk and will sober up with time,” she added. We started the journey back to his home. By then, Saphire could walk by himself, although he was staggering Nyayo aided him to ensure he did not fall.
For some reason, we had not communicated that Saphire was now alive and so we were not prepared for the shock when we arrived at his home. There was a crowd already at his home and preparations for the funeral were in earnest. Two trees to be used for firewood had already been cut and women were already in the kitchen cooking tea and mahenjera. The home was full of activity.
Almost everyone took off on seeing Saphire walk home. All except his family. His mother came and hugged him, as did his sisters. His father was happy too although I could see he was already wearing Saphire’s shoes. His brother as well was already wearing Saphire’s Kaunda suit — and I could see disappointment on his face on seeing Saphire alive.
It took a lot of convincing for people, especially those who had seen his lifeless body, to come near Saphire. Although Nyayo told everyone that Saphire had been drunk, Alphayo and Rasto insisted that Saphire had died and resurrected. As such, a goat had to be slaughtered so as to appease the ancestors or else they would “call” Saphire again.
We left for school as the goat and some herbs were being looked for. There would be a feast at Saphire’s home.
When we narrated the story of what had happened to the rest of the staffroom, I felt as though some teachers were disappointed that Saphire had resurrected.
“He should not have resurrected so that TSC could see the suffering they are putting teachers through,” said Erick. “He doesn’t teach or come to school anyway so it would not have been a big loss!”