The Mwalimu Andrew laws of power

If Alex won’t have changed by next Friday, I will not hesitate to appoint someone else as my deputy!

Before making Alex the acting deputy HM, I had a long session with him. Some people would call it an interview, but it wasn’t. It was a conversation during which I wanted to assess his demeanour, his cultural fit, competencies and leadership capabilities. After he had told me all that he could do, I asked whether we would have differences and how we would handle them.

“As you know, Bensouda and I had major differences that affected the running of the school. Kuya and I already have differences that will only get worse if I make him acting deputy. Am I likely to have differences with you?” I asked him.

Alex looked at me in the eye and told me that will never happen.

“There is quite a lot to do in the school that we will have no time to start squabbling like has happened in the past,” he said.

“Bensouda left this school in a big mess that all our efforts will be directed toward transforming it, not quarreling. In any case, me and you have great chemistry and even physics. I do not see us differing in anything, except maybe when it comes to football,” he added, and reminded me that as an Arsenal fan, this is a good season for them; they are not gloomy at all.

But last week’s case seems to have sowed seeds of discord between us, and if not well handled, may lead to a full-blown fight between us. If you remember well, I told Alex to ensure that since we had few teachers, all lessons would be covered. He redid the timetable and added every teacher two additional lessons. There was uproar in the staffroom, but I advised him to stay put, reminding him that leadership was tough and lonely and that he had to make tough calls.

Alex stayed put, sure that I would support him, but when the noise become too loud, I, without consulting him, announced that the two extra lessons would no longer apply. I told the teachers that I had their interests at heart and that is why I had overruled Alex. In short, I was saying that I was pro-teachers while Alex was anti-teachers.

As expected, from Monday, teachers have been saying what a great leader I am. This actually meant that Alex was a problem. This came out clearly in the staffroom on Monday during teatime.

“I wonder what happens to people when they get a little power,” said Sella.

“Their true characters come out when people have power or some money,” chimed in Lena, her bad hair in tow. “Someone you have been working with very well forgets all the problems you have had together and become a different animal altogether.”

“That is human nature,” I added. “We all want power, but we do not know that there are hard decisions to be made up there.”

Sella supported me: “That is true, Dre. But people need to learn and consult more, like you have always done. You have never made bad decisions for us, and that is why we are praying that you become HM. You will be a good boss and I have no doubt that once you become HM, you will protect us from overzealous deputies.”

“As a leader, you need to know when to ignore some things, when to turn a blind eye and when to act,” I added. “Not everything requires to be handled.”

Alex, who was in the staffroom, did not say anything but left shortly after tea without any explanation to anybody. He did not even seek my permission. He did not answer my SMS that evening when I asked him when the next staff meeting would be.

On Thursday, I decided to go to class and polish up my Swahili while also teaching the students.

But teaching was difficult since I was interrupted by the noise from the next class. I went there and asked them to shut up. They did, but just about 15 minutes later, they were even noisier than before.

“What lesson are you supposed to be having?” I asked as I stormed the noisy class the second time. Madam Ruth was the teacher who was supposed to be in that class.

I tried calling her but she did not pick my call and she was not in the staffroom.

I called Alex, who was prettily seated in the staffroom, to my office.

“What is happening in this school?” I asked him even before he could sit down.

“Is there a problem?” he asked. I told him that several classes did not have teachers.

“I have tried teaching and I can’t because the neighbouring classes are so noisy. They have no teachers,” I said.

“Where is Madam Ruth and Mrs Atika? Aren’t they supposed to be in class?” I asked him, rather harshly.

“I know they are supposed to be in class, but I do not know where they are, nor do I know why they haven’t come to school.”

“What do you mean you do not know? Aren’t you the deputy of the school?” I asked. “Do they have permission from you to be away from school today?”

“They have no permissions from me. Might you have permitted them to be away?” he asked. I was shocked.

“You do not seem concerned that some teachers are away from school with no permission? What kind of deputy are you?” I asked.

“I hear you, Mr HM,” he said. “But my experience in the last few weeks tells me that not every issue needs to be handled. I have also learnt from you that you have to learn to turn a blind eye to some transgressions.”

“This is not how I expect you to run this school,” I told him. “Remember this is not a marketplace.”

“I know it is not a marketplace, but I am not so sure I have the support to bring order,” he said. I dismissed him and told him I would not have appointed him if I had no confidence in him.

“I am going to be away for one week,” I told him. “I hope there will be sanity and order by the time I return.”

Alex has just one week. If there will be no change by next Friday, I will not hesitate to appoint someone else as my deputy!