Uproar as teachers’ children dominate the prefects list

If you have been reading these second-class stories, then you will remember a few years ago when the government, through a mis-informed circular, directed schools across the country to stop appointing prefects.

It was thought that the time had come to start entrenching democratic tenets in the minds of children at a very early stage. We introduced a system where students voted for their leaders.

Kenyan children are our children. They are no different from us, and they learn everything from us.

Instead of it being an opportunity for true leaders to be elected, it was all about popularity. And no one was popular if they had no money or if they had nothing to give.

It is no wonder that the two years in which we allowed students to carry out elections were the worst in this school from a discipline and performance perspective. The winners were those who bribed. Or promised hot air.

One winner bought kangumu for everyone on election day, while another promised to give free lunch to all students every day — an impossibility.

As such, I banned the election of school leaders because while elections did happen, leaders did not emerge. Only charlatans propped out.

“This goes against the ministry policy of allowing students to elect their own leaders,” said Kuya, as usual opposing anything I did or proposed.

“I know, but maybe this is a special school. The method is just not working,” I said.

“Then can we make it work,” said Saphire, who had not been in school for at least three weeks prior to that day.

He went on: “If we are not getting good leaders, it is our responsibility to teach the students how to vote for good leaders.”

“I get your point, but you have no idea what you are talking about Saphire,” said Mrs Atika. “You are never in this school, so you have no idea what quality of leaders we got. It was a mistake.”

Lena, her bad hair in tow, also chimed in: “Unlike before when you could issue instructions to prefects and be sure you will find tasks done, not anymore. The current leaders owe their allegiance to their voters.”

“Then let us review how the elections are done,” said Saphire.

“Had you been in school every day, I would have gone with your suggestion,” said Mrs Atika. “But you are insisting on something though you will not be there to implement.”

“We have to start inculcating democratic ideals in the young minds this early and show them that leadership is not about money and goodies but about abilities,” said Saphire. But no one was ready to do that work.

With a majority supporting me, we reverted to appointing prefects by teachers.

There were some complaints from the students but we were able to neutralise any such opposition. Indeed, the quality of student leadership improved dramatically.

As per the tradition of appointing them in third term, we started the process of appointing next year’s prefects a few weeks ago.

Last Wednesday was the day to ratify everything before we could make announcements. We started off with the class prefects and monitors before we looked at other roles. There was not much argument as we ratified the class prefects. But issues came up as we considered higher roles.

To my shock, Brandon was proposed as the head boy. I was the first to express my reservations, even though deep down I wanted him appointed.

“I am not so sure he is the right choice to lead others,” I said, adding that I rarely interact with him in school.

“He really has improved and is now a role model to many,” said Sella, adding that she saw no one else who could do a better job than Brandon.

“And I agree. He was previously a bad boy,” said Mrs Atika. “But from experience, the best prefects have been those that had issues before.”

Kuya opposed this, saying that in the past there have been many accusations levelled against Brandon and that he would not recommend him as a junior prefect, let alone head boy.

“But were they not just accusations, Kuya?” Wondered Alex. “In any case, as a country we recently confirmed a minister who admitted having 35 active court cases. Can you compare that with the few and minor accusations against Brandon?”

I said that, for obvious reasons, I would not participate in the discussions. I excused myself and asked Alex to lead and call me back once they had a decision on Brandon.

The teachers went with Brandon. Next was to call for a parade and announce them.

“Before we announce them, can we please invite each of them to come and talk to us,” said Kuya. “We need to be sure who we are appointing.”

Most teachers opposed this, but I overruled them and ordered that we conduct vetting the next day, Thursday. They all came in, one by one.

Only Kuya had reservations.

“I have no issues with the quality of the appointees,” he stated. “But some things concern me greatly.” Sella asked him to explain.

“There is a high number of our relatives and children in this list. Brandon is Dre’s son, Maryline, the sanitation prefect, is Mrs Atika’s daughter; Jason is Lana’s son while Jayden is Madam Ruth’s son. And I haven’t counted nieces and nephews. This should not be a family affair.”

“And what is wrong with that?” asked Lena. “All that we were looking for was discipline and leadership capabilities.”

“I know that, Lena, but what message are we sending when our children and relatives dominate the list?” Asked Kuya.

“And what message are we sending when we deny people opportunities because they are our children or relatives?” Asked Mrs Atika. “I am from this village and everyone technically is my relative. What should I do?”

I calmed everyone down.

“Let me first say that we appointed the candidate in an open, competitive and transparent manner, and we even vetted them here and we did not find any red flags,” I said. “On Brandon, I want to first remind everyone that he is not my son, and secondly and more importantly, you all know I was not involved in his appointment.”

Interestingly, Saphire, who had attended neither the appointment nor the vetting, also opposed the list: “This is how nepotism begins. And before we realise it, this culture of favouring relatives will happen at workplaces and even in political circles. I strongly oppose these nominees.”

I ended the discussion.

“Let us sleep over this matter for the weekend and discuss on Monday on whether we want to proceed with the appointments or we want Kuya and Sapphire to trash all the great and hard work we have all done,” I said and dismissed everyone.

I can’t wait for Brandon to be the head boy. And there is nothing Kuya and Saphire will do, other than just making inconsequential noises.