MWALIMU ANDREW: Why I’m eating independently

Friday May 26 2017

I arrived at school twenty minutes after two, just twenty seconds after Sapphire, a non-member of the club had swallowed the last piece of chicken. ILLUSTRATION| JOHN NYAGAH


Although there are many bad things to say about Bensouda, the female headmaster of our school, I want to say she is much better than Catherina, the immediate former acting head.

While Bensouda is tough and unpredictable, she is always quick to forgive and move on. For instance, she will be critical of a particular thing one day but by the next she will have forgotten. Bensouda keeps no grudges. Catherina is the opposite. She is not particularly harsh on anything but once she dislikes you, that’s its – and it is usually for very small things.

Yes she is young and beautiful, yes she has a great career ahead of her, yes she is the mother of Branton, but she is not that good. If she were that good, then there is no reason why I would not have married her. In any case, she is not as beautiful as Fiolina.

So in as much as Bensouda returned and immediately blacklisted me in favour of Kuya, I prefer her to Catherina. I am confident that the current situation where Kuya is on Bensouda’s speed dial while I remain just in her contact list, is temporary. I will soon reclaim my rightful position on the speed dial.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one happy with Bensouda’s return – the rest of the teachers were as well. Within days of her return, the staffroom started filling – again. In Catherina’s days, teachers avoided the staffroom. Many only came in for staff meetings or to pick books and chalk. Others like Madam Ruth and Sella would just pass by to sign the attendance book Catherina introduced. Lena, her bad hair notwithstanding, operated from home to class. But now the staffroom is full once again. And lively.

And we soon realised we could do a number of things together.


“Given the price of commodities out there, we need to revive our lunch club,” said Kuya. Madam Ruth supported him.

“At home things are tough, it is better to get home with a full stomach!” I agreed. With all teachers agreeing that we had to do a lunch club, we immediately formed a tribunal consisting of Madam Ruth, Nzomo and Kuya to work out the budget. 

Their budget was about Sh1,950 per person per month. It seemed to be on the higher side but once we saw the menu, we all accepted to pay. What stood out was Terrific Tuesday and Sumptuous Thursdays. Terrific Tuesdays was the day for kuku and ugali. On Thursdays it was chapati, beef, rice and cabbage. Plus juice! As for the other days, there is nothing to write home about.

Most of us did not have the full amount to pay. Even people like Mrs Atika, whose husband has a big job in Nairobi pretended not to have that much. We petitioned the tribunal to accept payments by instalments. Any teacher who would pay at least a third was allowed.

From previous clubs, we realised that quarrels emanated from some people paying and not eating while others ate without paying. That is why we only admitted those who raised a third. Bensouda said that the school would provide firewood, water and pay the cooks and, therefore, sought for a direct ticket to the club. The tribunal deliberated the matter and agreed to issue her with a direct, free ticket to the club. After all, she was rarely in school.

We started in earnest and had a good first few days. On the first Terrific Tuesday, I had gone to the county headquarters to sort a few issues, but planned to be back before lunch. The Msamaria Mwema I used on the return journey took long. I wanted to communicate that I would be late so that they keep for me my share but my phone battery ran out. I arrived at school 20 minutes after two, just 20 seconds after Sapphire, a non-member of the club, had swallowed the last piece of chicken. It was painful missing out on Terrific Tuesday. But I could not complain – the rules were clear!

Come the next big day, Sumptuous Thursday, I was quite around. And as expected, the aroma of rice, the scent of beef and chapati made it impossible for any normal teacher to concentrate in class. It was a good day. A few teachers were not in and I took three glasses of juice. It was a  memorable day!

At the beginning of last week, I committed to take full advantage of the lunch club. But things did not go as expected on Terrific Tuesday. On that day, I was in class after tea break when we heard some noises coming from Bensouda’s office. On checking, there was a student who had returned to school after suspension with his guardian. I have no idea what happened, but the boy attacked the grandfather after he reported that the boy had committed more sins while on suspension.

To cut a long story short, the matter became an assault case and Bensouda asked me to take the boy to the police station. It took quite some time to complete the police paper work, and I was quite hungry when I returned. I was looking forward to a great meal.

I knew there was trouble when I met the cook at the gate. She was leaving for the day. It was just a few minutes after 3 pm. She had cleared everything plus washing, even utensils. No one had remembered that I was out on school duty. Once again, I had missed out on Terrific Tuesday. It was painful. So my hope was to look forward to the next great day – Sumptuous Thursday.

I vowed to have a free Thursday. But there was a problem. After tea break, the tribunal announced that anyone who had not paid half the amount had to add. I was reminded that I had only paid for a third.

“You must top up to continue enjoying our services,” said Nzomo, in a tone that reminded me of SMSs from a certain company that I will not talk about here.

I reminded them that I had missed out on two Terrific Tuesdays, and there was no way I could be asked to pay more.

“We had clear rules,” said Sella. “If you didn’t tell us that you would not be in, how could we have known that?” I protested but they would hear none of it. “We still bought the same size of chicken,” said Kuya.

In that case I am resigning from the club,” I protested. “I can’t continue being in a club that doesn’t listen to me.”

“You can go,” said Lena. “The club will not collapse if you leave,”

“No one is bigger than the club,” said Kuya.

“I am off,” I told them, and went to the market, where I, independently, bought a meal at Kasuku Hotel. In the meantime, I will be operating as an independent in everything I do!


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