The long holiday made my tutors forget their calling


Last Monday, the official school opening day, I woke up ready to go to school.

Photo credit: John Nyaga |Nation Media Groiup

Only a few teachers showed up on opening day and even those who did reported so late 

Long ago, before Prof George (son of) Magoha became the Cabinet Secretary for Education, we used to have long school holidays. That was way before we even had Cabinet secretaries; they were called ministers. In those days, KCSE would start in late October while KCPE would be done in early November. If you remember well, KCPE used to take place in the first week of November.

Schools would close immediately after KCPE. Schools actually closed a week before KCPE started as there was nothing else to do. By then, end-year examinations would have already been done and marked. We would then close until January.

There was another thing: although schools would be scheduled to open in the first week of January, the president, when opening the New Year in Mombasa, would postpone school opening by one week!

Several things happened in the last few years, least of all being the appointment of the son of Magoha – may his soul rest in eternal peace – as CS. It wasn’t long before Covid-19 hit, and we had many changes, including a drastic change to the school calendar, where we have been having very short school holidays — mostly a week or two.

Therefore, the just-ended school holidays have been the longest in a long time. As a deliberate pedagogist, I would have been a fool to expect teachers and students to behave like they always do after short holidays. But it would seem that I was not ready for how the teachers have changed.

Veteran manager

Last Monday, the official school opening day, I woke up ready to go to school. But I remembered the advice of Pius, a veteran manager. “The best way to start a quarrel with your team as a boss is to go to work early, or arrive early for meetings,” he once told me.

I asked him why.

“If you are early, everyone who arrives after you is considered late even when they are on time. This puts you at loggerheads with people unnecessarily,” he replied.

I therefore decided to go to school late so that I could find the teachers already there. Didn’t I have an acting deputy anyway? When I arrived at 10am, I was surprised by what I found. The school was like a market. It was noisy and students were just roaming around. I did not even go to the office first; I literally chased all the students and forced them to go to class. I then  walked from class to another to ensure they kept quiet.

I was fuming as I walked to the staffroom. How can teachers sit in the staffroom when there is mayhem outside? I wondered. To my shock, only Lena was in the staffroom.

“Where are the rest?” I asked her.

“Should I not be the one asking you?” She wondered, seeming unperturbed.

“Surely, Mwalimu, how can you be comfortable sitting here when there’s mayhem outside?” I confronted her.

“What do you want me to do?” She asked. “I am just one person against hundreds of students, what can I do?” She also added that she was not on duty, and that that was not her responsibility.

“What do you mean, Mwalimu?” I asked, reminding her that we all have a responsibility to keep the school in order. “You can’t argue that you are not on duty.” “But is it true that I am not the teacher on duty, is it not?” She asked. I agreed with her on the lack of the duty roster but disagreed with her on why she did not take responsibility.

“Even the staffroom and classrooms are dirty and dusty!” I exclaimed.

“By the way, I arrived after the official parade time and assumed the students had done morning cleaning,” she answered.

Alex arrived as we were quarrelling. On hearing Alex approach, Lena started shouting. I answered back.

“What kind of woman can comfortably sit in a dusty and dirty room? You couldn’t even call a student to come sweep the staffroom?” I asked. “Surely.”

“Mr Deputy HM, this is 2023. Let us not start it with makasiriko,” she said. “Do not get me started.”


“What is so not happening?” Wondered Alex, banging the table. “It is just the first day of the year and we already want to fight.”

“Tell Dre! I do not know what he ate over the holidays,” she replied. “I was the first teacher to arrive and instead of being praised and congratulated, I am being asked why the school is dirty and dusty.”

“Okay, Lena. Congratulations for being the first to report. But for having not been interested in anything in the school, it was useless for you to come early,” I said.

“What do you mean it was useless for me to come early? Are you saying that I should not have come at all?” She asked. “Then let me just go home.”

“Those are not my words, Lena,” I answered. “All I am saying is that being here early made no difference at all as you did nothing.”

Alex intervened by saying that Lena was right to go home.

“Did you not just call her useless?” He asked.

Lena left as Alex was speaking.

Sella arrived shortly afterwards. I called an emergency staff meeting of three and we agreed that we need to ensure that the school was clean.

“Sella, you will make sure all classes are swept while Alex will take care of the many leaves that have littered the compound,” I directed. It was almost 12pm. The two requested that the work be done after lunch.

“Let us do it when the students are not hungry,”  said Alex.

They also left for lunch at the same time as students.

WhatsApp group

By 2.30pm, by which time all students had arrived back from lunch, the two – Sella and Alex – had not returned to school. Sella had left her sweater on her desk while Alex had left his jacket behind. I tried to call both but they were unreachable.

By 3pm, I realised that I would be alone for the whole day and it was becoming difficult to manage the school alone. I called for an assembly and released the students. I then spent the afternoon making the school timetable as well as the duty roster, which I placed on the school notice board, took a photo and posted on the school staffroom WhatsApp group.

Since I was travelling to Nairobi on Tuesday morning, I informed all the teachers that Mrs Atika would be in charge in my absence. For the whole week, I have not talked to anyone in school. I just want the anger to build up so that they can know my true colours from tomorrow when I am back. 2023 will be different, quite different.


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