MWALIMU ANDREW: How I rescued teachers from a merciless Alex

For a few weeks now, Nzomo, the lovely teacher all the way from Nunguni, Ukambani, has not been in school. If your memory serves you right, then you know that Nzomo got a job in this school in unclear circumstances and started looking for a transfer even before she reported. She has been looking for one ever since.

“I will vote for the side that promises to end delocalisation,” she said earlier in July, a month before elections, referring to the unpopular TSC policy of punishing teachers by sending them to schools that are far away from their homes.

When she was posted here, Nzomo could only seek a transfer after five years, another uninformed and archaic TSC rule. She completed those five years about two years ago and embarked on seeking a transfer ever since – unsuccessfully.

So, when the new government won elections and the president was sworn in, Nzomo told me she had had enough of Mwisho wa Lami and it was time for her to get back and work near her people, just like everyone else. So, soon after the swearing-in of President William Ruto, she travelled to Nunguni, Ukambani, and has not been seen ever since.

Before she left, I had signed the transfer forms on condition that she gets another teacher to swap with, something that Nzomo is very aware of.

“I do not see any teacher in Makueni County who wants to come Mwisho wa Lami,” she said.

But a week after she left, she had neither communicated nor returned.

“I come to the district office every day and I am hopeful that I will soon find someone ready to swap with me,” she would tell me when I called her.

Things were getting out of hand for, without her, we were being overstretched with class attendance. Remember, ShaPpire too was last seen in this school when Kinoti was still the head of DCI.

“Relax, Dre. I will make up for any lost class if I come back,” she told me and added that news on the ground indicated that the government had stopped delocalisation.

I told her that was just a proposal that would take long before implementation.

“In any case, the Cabinet has not been appointed, such will only happen once we have a Cabinet in place,” I said.

She told me that the Cabinet had been appointed but I reminded her that a Cabinet had just been nominated and no approval had been done. She could not see any difference. Two weeks ago, Nzomo sent me, via WhatsApp, a sick note from a doctor. She said she was unwell and had been given one week off duty. I wished her a quick recovery and told her to keep me updated on her progress.

In the meantime, I had appointed Alex the acting deputy. I may not admit this, but his sharp differences with Kuya influenced my decision.

“With no Sapphire and no Nzomo, many lessons are being missed. Remember you also do not go to class and Kuya is also not dependable. How do we complete the syllabus with four of you missing in action?” He asked me.

“I get you, Alex,” I said. “Many of you just want a promotion but do not know the challenges of leadership. A school like ours will always struggle with staffing.”

He asked me if he could give each teacher two extra lessons per week to cover for the missing teachers. I told him to proceed.

Last weekend, he announced via WhatsApp that he had crafted a new timetable to ensure that we are more effective, efficient and fit for purpose.

“Please have a look at the new timetable on Monday morning before you embark on your classes,” he wrote.

“The current timetable is working just fine. Are we changing for any reason or just for change’s sake?” Asked Sella.

Alex answered that the changes had been necessitated by the need to optimise resources and cover more classes: “We, as you know, are short of teachers and have to all do a little more.”

When I arrived at school last Monday, I found the staffroom in disarray.

“We will not teach for others! At least, I will not,” said Sella.

“We do not share salaries. Why should we share lessons?” Lena, her bad hair in tow, was also up in arms.

“Do not take advantage of our goodness. We could also choose not to come to school. What will you do, give others our lessons?” Alex tried to explain that we were short of staff but this fell on deaf ears.

“I would understand and take extra classes if this school genuinely lacked teachers, but I can’t go to class for Nzomo who is busy dancing and posting videos on TikTok,” said Lena.

I told her that Nzomo was sick and even showed the doctor’s note.

Sella laughed loudly.

“Come see,” she said as she whipped out her phone.

She showed us videos on her phone of Nzomo dancing and enjoying life.

“This is today,” she said.

I asked Sella to call her and put her on loudspeaker. They talked and Nzomo was excited and happy, telling her how life was good and how she was enjoying everything.

“Dre is here with us and wants to speak to you,” Sella said about five minutes later.

Immediately, Nzomo started coughing, sounded frail and disconnected the call, claiming that the network was poor.

“And you want me to go to class for someone who is enjoying life? Never ever!” said Madam Ruth.

“We also know how to drink!” said Mrs Atika. “Saphire should not think that he has a monopoly of drinking.”

She declared that she would not take an extra lesson: “Over my dead body!”

With teachers expecting me to say a word, I refused to get involved, only saying that it was the responsibility of the acting deputy to address the matter. I went to my office. Alex came to me for advice but I told him he was now the deputy and in charge of academic affairs.

“I will not micromanage you, not at all,” I told him but added that I expected no lessons to go on.

This continued causing disgruntlement in the staffroom. On Friday, I joined the teachers during tea break and announced that after listening to teachers, I had overruled Alex and directed that we revert to the old timetable.

“Alex insists that we go with the new one that has extra two lessons for each of you, but I feel that we must listen to your views,” I said.

All teachers clapped for me and praised me for being considerate to their needs. The truth is that I had not talked to Alex on the matter, but I had managed to get teachers on my side! I left the school as soon as I announced that. I’ve not picked Alex’s calls since then.