Speech Day in Muchinga
Speech Day in Muchinga
Sara and I had come to Speech Day at Muchinga Secondary School, to witness our grandson Kondwa being awarded the prize for mathematics. All the teachers were sitting at the back of the stage as the Headmaster walked to the front.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he began, ‘I am the Headmaster, Mr Noplan Chimbwi, and I am pleased to welcome you to the celebration of our greatest achievements during the past year. Behind me you see the rest of the staff who work closely with me in bringing your children to a bright and prosperous future. Ours is a closely knit team, working in close agreement and harmony to achieve the great ideals of this long established and distinguished academy, always remembering our resounding motto One Muchinga, One School, One Headmaster.
‘I hope the old fart gets a move on,’ Sara whispered in my ear.
‘To give you some examples of the latest developments in our school,’ continued Chimbwi, ‘I ask our Deputy Headmaster, Mr Scotty Cholaboy, to join me here at the podium. As he spoke a bent figure in a faded salaula suit shuffled to the front, and groveled and slobbered before the headmaster. ‘Tell me, Cholaboy,’ rasped Chimbwi, ‘What have you been working on recently?’
‘I’ve been buying second-hand books for the library, Headmaster.’
‘You’ve been doing WHAT?’ screeched Chimbwi. ‘Why have you been doing that?’
‘I know it’s a long time ago since the school was able to buy books, Headmaster. But these second-hand books are very cheap.’
Chimbwi now looked round at the other teachers. ‘Can someone tell this old fool why we can’t buy books?’
A hand shot up. ‘Because, Headmaster, the book allocation is being spent on your fuel allowance.’
‘Nonsense! Shut up! Leave the room! Don’t come back!’
‘Where is all the unity and harmony?’ Sara whispered.
Now an ancient old man hobbled to the front, with the help of a stick. ‘Ah, at last, our History Teacher, Mr PaModzi Munshumfwa. I’m sure he can help us.’
‘During colonial times,’ explained Munshumfwa, ‘this library was full of many books. Subversive books. Scurrilous books. Seditious books. Revolutionary books. The students read these books, and rebelled, and took over the school. We must never make the same mistake as the colonial authorities!’
‘Exactly,’ said Chimbwi, as Old Munshumfwa hobbled back to his seat. ‘And you, Dotty Cholaboy, try to stay awake in staff meetings in future. Now tell us, what is our policy on books in the library?’
‘No second-hand books,’ muttered Scotty.
‘No!’ screeched Chimbwi, ‘No books at all!’
‘Very sorry for my awful mistake,’ groveled Scotty, as he shuffled back to his seat.
‘They shouldn’t have let in the parents,’ said Sara, ‘just to see them quarreling amongst themselves.’
‘The only books allowed in the library,’ shouted Chimbwi, ‘are the Bible and the School Rules. Now let us hope we get a better report from our Communications Teacher. What have you been doing, Mr Manuel Mwalwe Mwalwe?’
‘I have put up new notice boards for students to express their opinions, analyse current affairs, and to ask questions of others.’
‘What!’ squealed Chimbwi. ‘As Headmaster, I am the one in charge of information dissemination. All information must first be approved by me and then put on the Headmaster’s Notice Board.’
‘No,’ said Manuel calmly. ‘We have the Independent Board Authority which authorises other groups to have their own noticeboards.’
‘All Independence rests in me as the Headmaster,’ growled Chimbwi, ‘So your Independent Board Authority is cancelled immediately, and so is your job. Shut up. Go away. Never come back. Shooo!’
‘It looks to me,’ said Sara, ‘as if this Headmaster has completely lost control of his staff and has no idea of what’s going on.’
‘Good gracious,’ growled the Headmaster, as he turned back to his audience, now restless and muttering amongst themselves. ‘Let’s hope there is better news from the Maths Department. I call upon Mr Redhot Piri Piri to explain the latest developments in maths teaching.’
‘In this modern world,’ began Piri Piri, ‘we’re teaching modern mathematics, such as set theory…’
‘Sex theory!’ shrieked Chimbwi, ‘I don’t want any homosexuals here!’
‘I said set theory,’ said Piri Piri. ‘It’s about how we analyze the mathematical relationship between members of different overlapping groups.’
‘Different groups!’ shouted Chimbwi. ‘What are you talking about! This is subversive talk! This is seditious! The motto of this school is One Muchinga, One School, One Headmaster. We’re not supposed to have different groups!’
Now his arms began to wave wildly, his face went purple, and he began to march up and down the stage howling ‘So now I see it! You are the one behind all this! You have foolishly revealed yourself! You are the divisive influence! You’ve been dividing this school into groups and cliques, plotting against me, trying to bring me down! Well let me tell you that before this day is out I’ll…’
But as he was ranting on, two men in white coats came onto the stage. Each took him gently by an arm and guided him, still ranting, down the steps and out of the hall.
Then onto the stage waddled the ample figure of the School Matron, Ms Christine Award Winner. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ she said, ‘I do apologize for that. Our dear Headmaster is not feeling very well, so he has asked me to distribute the School Prizes on his behalf…’
But by now the school hall was more than half empty, as parents scurried out with their children, quite frightened by their strange experience.
‘If we all run away,’ I said, ‘that’ll be the end of his career as a Headmaster.’
‘From what I’ve seen,’ laughed Sara, ‘It’ll be no great loss.’
[Story line suggested to Kalaki by Facebooker Victor Kabwe]