Mr Sossion, tell teachers that they really need performance appraisals

Thursday January 14 2016

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion at a press conference at the Ministry of Education offices in Nairobi on January 5, 2016.

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion at a press conference at the Ministry of Education offices in Nairobi on January 5, 2016. Mr Sossion is opposed to performance appraisals for teachers. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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I would like the secretary-general of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Mr Wilson Sossion, to advise teachers to welcome and enthusiastically take part in performance appraisals.

My own experience is that the work of teachers has to be measured because of the distractions in their lives.

When I last taught at Naari Secondary School, the teaching supervision structure had not entirely collapsed, but I do recall, perhaps because I was young, how heady and divertingly intoxicating life was.

I remember how clear and blue the skies always were, how clean the air was, how strong and optimistic I felt, how clever, brave, and fanatically committed I was to teaching and helping the children of Forms One and Three (I think).

Our headmaster never used to come to school.

He would only show up when there was chapati on the lunch menu.

We used to contribute monthly to one female teacher, whom we all called “Mrs”, who supervised the procurement and cooking of the food.

Chapati was so popular, the staff room was always full on chapati days.

The headmaster, who was rumoured to spend his days in town eating roast meat, did not have a car; he would emerge from the thickets with a copy of the Daily Nation stuck in his coat pocket, on chapati days.

The richest teacher was a former headmaster, a delightful rogue who regaled us with stories about the epic political battles between Mr Jackson Angaine, the so-called king of Meru, and a former assistant minister, Mr Nteere Mbogori.

But what I remember even more vividly was the centrality, not of alcohol or sex, but of food and romantic love in my recollections of that season.

We loved food. The other teachers and I were always cooking and boiling meat and eating it in insane quantities.

And then there was the epic love affair between my friend, whom we nicknamed Njorua (that is a synonym for njamba, the hero), and a wondrously beautiful girl from the village near our school.

Njorua and I were an odd pair.

I was a thin, little booky fellow, he was a six-footer with a patrician air.

He was partial to suits that clung to his slender frame like a second skin.

He was then an interesting, handsome fellow with a passion for music, which he taught, and a husky voice rather at odds with his penetrating, severe gaze.

He saw her on the road one day as we walked to my house at the shopping centre.

She was a tall girl — as tall as he was — at once haughty and softly friendly.

She walked with a strange, hypnotic sway, way beyond words.

When my friend laid eyes on her, the entire sunshine of the north from Thuchi River all the way to the Ethiopian border shone from his face.

The way he laughed, talked to her, looked at her, I knew we were lost.

He loved her with such open joy that there was never any hope that this was going to be a quiet affair.

When I discovered that he was walking around with articles of her undergarments in his smart coat pocket, my heart sunk. We were going to be killed.

For she was not unencumbered; she was betrothed to a giant of a man, decent enough, but whose sorrow and native hot temper had converted into a veritable Taliban.

He had mobilised an entire gang of teachers and layabouts and they plotted to do us in for stealing his girl.

A look at my friend’s granite face confirmed what I already knew; he was never going to give her up, and he never did.

So when they finally cornered us, filling my little room, I was afraid but calmly resigned.

They ran through the gamut of threats and promises of violence until the giant broke down and cried pitifully, heartbroken by this impostor who had stolen his sweetheart.

I felt sorry for him. My friend’s patrician face was cruel and unyielding.

In the end, the oaf and his army withdrew, defeated not by kicks and blows, but the obstinacy of two fools, one fuelled by love, the other by loyalty.

My friend had many issues going in his life, but the defining characteristic of his life was the happiness he found in his girlfriend, whom he married with his usual triumphant, unapologetic manner.

We taught and taught, many times late into the night.

We were committed and full of energy, but without a strict regime of enforced objectives and results, there are way too many distractions in the life of a young teacher. Appraisals are good, Mr Sossion.

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