As the whole world knows, the laugh of my life, Ms Fiolina Dre, was unfairly, illegally and maliciously fired from a great sales job of a big company in Kakamega, her only crime being that she was suspected to be sympathetic to the previous regime.
Although while working she despised me and considered her boss more important than me, the good person that I am, I did not take revenge. I stood with her, went to Kakamega to be with her, gave her a shoulder to lean on even though I at times enjoyed seeing her at her lowest — given how she had behaved when she was at the top.
“Your wife will need a lot of support, and only you can provide it,” said my brother when I told him of Fiolina’s situation. “Losing a big job like that is not easy and if one is not supported well, they could slide into depression.”
I told her I would do everything I could to support her.
After a few days in Kakamega, Fiolina travelled to Mwisho wa Lami. She had paid fees for the first term and said the kids would come later on.
“But that is if I don’t get another job,” she said. “I am sure that I will get a new job soon.”
I asked Pius how I could support her, as I intended to heed his advice.
“You know she was used to waking up and going to work. It will not be easy to adjust. She may still find herself waking up to go somewhere,” he said. As Pius had said, Fiolina would wake up and, after breakfast, dress up ready to go to work. Only that there wasn’t work to go to. On the third day, she asked if she could accompany me to school. I accepted.
My malingering colleagues at school were excited to see Fiolina, with many shocked to see the transformation she had undergone in just two years. She sat in the staffroom, quietly doing her stuff on her laptop. With no one sitting in the deputy’s offices – since I relieved Mrs Atika of Deputy HM’s responsibilities – on the third day I asked Fiolina to sit in the office.
Although I did not know what she was doing all day on her laptop, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, and in choosing my battles wisely, I did not ask anything. What mattered was that Fiolina was happy.
On Thursday the other week, she complained to me in the evening that the teachers were too noisy.
“I wonder whether you have a staffroom or a market!” she exclaimed and added that she would be ready to bring sanity to the staffroom if I allowed her.
And bring sanity she did. From what I gather, the next day she came to the staffroom at least twice to remind teachers to keep quiet.
“I have some work that needs concentration,” she had said. “I am sure you also need to prepare for lessons and mark books.”
Teachers heeded that, but not all of them.
“Who is Fiolina in this school?” Wondered Kuya, though not in my presence.
“And she is ordering us as who?” Asked Lena.
Last Monday, Fiolina went a step further. From what I am told, it so happened that three students had made some mistake, I think noise making. They were frog marched to the staffroom. They were asked to kneel as teachers shouted at them. Kuya wanted to cane them. Well, until Fiolina stopped them.
“You cannot do that when I am here,” she said. “These kids need guidance and counselling, not caning and shouting at them. Let me handle them!”
She then invited the three to the Deputy’s office and spent time talking to them before releasing them.
“Who is Fiolina in this school?” Kuya asked in the Monday staff meeting.
I told them that Fiolina did not hold any position, and that she was using the school offices to get some work done. He asked why she couldn’t do that at home and I told her we did not have power at home. “Plus, we get many visitors at home who will distract her.”
“OK. As long as she doesn’t interfere with our work, it is OK,” said Lena. When I told Fiolina that, she said she would not cause trouble, only that she wanted to support me both at home and in school.
The next day, I later learnt, Fiolina called Lena and asked her if she had any problem at home that made her come to work late every day.
“I am ready to assist you,” she had said.
She also called in Kuya and wondered if he had any lessons at all.
“I always see you in the staffroom. What time do you teach?” she asked him.
While Lena politely answered her, telling her that all was fine at home, Kuya did not take it lying down.
“Are you the deputy of this school to ask me such questions?” She asked. “Mind your own business, woman!” he said, left her office, banging the door behind.
Fiolina was not amused and in the evening she told me that I had jokers in my staffroom.
“I think you are now overstepping. Yours was to come to school and work there, period” I said.
“I know that, Dre,” she said. “But how can I concentrate when your teachers are noisy and rowdy?”
She went on: “And based on what I have observed, you need some support to stabilise your staffroom, and I want to use my experience from the private sector to help. I am not asking for pay.”
“Can I suggest that we have a small staff meeting in the afternoon?” Madam Ruth wrote on the staffroom WhatsApp group the next morning. “Dre, please confirm your availability.”
They wanted to know the role of Fiolina. I told them what I had said earlier, that Fiolina was just using the space to do her work.
“No one pays her, but I believe we will benefit from her being here given her corporate world experience.” Before dismissing the meeting, I added: “Only the guilty are afraid of Fiolina!”
When we arrived at school the next morning, we found some writing on Manila paper stuck on the door of the deputy’s office. It read: “Office of the Spouse of the HM.” It was Kuya’s handwriting. We removed it and Fiolina entered the office to continue working.
They can call Fiolina what they want, but she will continue working from the school and supporting me in whatever little ways she can. She does not get paid and she needs no title to that. Kuya and his ilk better get used to that!