I have never understood how Bensouda became a teacher, let alone a head teacher (HM).
This is the only HM I have met with zero interest in the academic affairs of a school.
But once in a while, usually in third term, Bensouda behaves like she is the most academically focused teacher South of The Sahara. This usually happens when we have a teacher in school serving their first third term.
Like this term, when we have Alex here for his first third term. Bensouda began the term on a high note, and anyone who saw her in action would believe she is committed to delivering fantastic academic results.
On the week that the school opened, she surprised everyone by coming on Wednesday. Bensouda ordinarily pops in school towards the end of the second week, like Saphire.
Even before that Wednesday, she had been giving a raft of instructions to me via WhatsApp.
On Sunday before schools opened, she wrote to me asking me to come up with a remedial classes timetable targeting Class Eight and Seven.
“This year we have to deliver much better results than last year,” she wrote, adding that she was ready to support everyone so that we all improve.
I did a draft timetable and shared with the teachers on Tuesday that week during lunch time, just to get their feelings before the matter could be discussed formally in a staff meeting.
“Forget about that Dre,” said Mrs Atika. “Tuition of any kind, whether holiday, morning, evening or weekend, was banned by the government.”
Nzomo supported her, saying that what we need to do is to ensure we complete the syllabus early and use the remaining weeks for serious revision.
“I will not commit an illegality. Not when Magoha is in the Ministry of Education and Matiang’í is in charge of Interior.”
“I agree with you Nzomo,” I said, then added: “But that is what every school is doing. How then do we stand out?”
“What is important?” asked Mrs Atika. “Is it helping the students do well, or just competing with other schools?”
She went on: “It is better to deliver good results and be number last than bad results and be number one.” Several teachers supported this.
“Let me tell you the truth Dre,” said Sella. “We are ready to come to school early and leave late and teach during weekends. Lakini jua mkono mtupu haulambwi.”
A good number of teachers cheered her. Kuya said nothing, I think upset at the fact that the HM was working through me instead of him.
That evening, I called Bensouda and told her what I had picked. “Unless you get some money to motivate teachers, forget about the third term remedial plans. The hearts are willing, but the stomachs are not ready.”
“What do you mean?” she asked. “We all signed performance contracts. We can’t start asking for extra money to do that which we are paid to do.”
“Call for a staff meeting this Wednesday at 9am,” she said when I tried to explain where the teachers were coming from. “They are all coming from their homes!”
I did not need a calculator to know that the Wednesday staff meeting would have fireworks.
As usual, many of us assumed that Bensouda would never arrive in school early. The earliest she has ever arrived is at around 10am. Her usual time is 11am.
That Wednesday morning, she arrived at 8.30am. Only Kuya, Nzomo, Alex and yours truly were in school.
She took a walk around the school without talking to anyone, then went to her office, closing the door behind her, a sign that she wanted no disturbance of any nature.
I tried calling all teachers who had not arrived: Mrs Atika, Saphire, Madam Ruth, Sella, Anita.
Madam Ruth, Mrs Atika and Sella were just around the corner. Saphire was not reachable, I doubt he was even aware that schools had opened.
I could not get hold of Lena and Madam Mary. At exactly 9.03am, Bensouda came to the staffroom, fire written all over her face. Madam Ruth and Sella had just arrived.
“Where are the rest?” she asked, looking at no one in particularly. “Mrs Atika is just around the corner," I started.
“I did not reach Lena when I called her. As for Shaphire, I have no idea of his whereabouts.”
“Dre, I made it clear to you that this was a mandatory meeting, and everyone needed to attend, didn’t I?”
“Yes you did, and I communicated to everyone,” I said. “That’s all I could do. I can’t drag teachers to school.”
“How can you speak like that Dre? Is that what I expect from my deputy? In short, you are telling me that you can’t ensure teachers keep time?”
“Not really Madam HM,” I started. “Don’t madam me, Don’t!” she interrupted me.
“I am very upset this morning. I arrived here at 8.30am and found only four teachers around, with only two in class.”
“Nzomo and I were not in class because we did not have lessons at the time,” I started explaining.
“Please speak for yourself Dre, you have proven to me you are hopeless as a deputy, so just speak for yourself.” Mrs Atika arrived just then.
“What time is it Pricilla?” she asked her. Mrs Atika said that she had been breastfeeding.
“You are lucky,” Bensouda said. She then went around asking anyone who came late why they had arrived late.
“We all miss classes yet when I ask us to do remedial classes you start asking for pay and saying that it is illegal,” she said.
“Is it legal to miss classes? Were you still not paid a salary when you missed them?”
She was not letting anyone speak. “I expect us to be in class at 7am, lunch time and evening, every day; Saturday included, to make up for the many classes we have been missing. Dre, please prepare a new timetable starting next Monday and include me,” she directed.
Madam Mary arrived at that time and was sent away. Bensouda then went around and asked everyone to say something.
Mrs Atika said she was not opposed to the proposals, “But I don’t teach Class Seven and Eight, so that doesn’t concern me."
“What?” exclaimed Bensouda. “That should concern you.” Then, looking at me, she said: “The timetable should cover Class Five to Eight, and every teacher - including lower primary teachers - should be on the timetable.
“For those of you who think Sossion will help you, I am sorry, he has bigger problems than this,” she said, then ended the meeting.
I made the timetable then hung it in the staffroom last Saturday and notified everyone.
I had given Bensouda two lessons during lunch time. To the shock of everyone, she attended them last week dutifully. After that, no one had an excuse not to attend.
But for those of us who know Bensouda well, we are very sure she will not come to class – even school – this week, and by next week, we will all be back to normal!