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A Lone Voice In The Wildness [THE AUTHOR IS THE ACTOR]

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A LONE VOICE IN THE WILDNESS

[THE AUTHOR IS THE ACTOR]

On a hazy morning, I entered the surgical ward to solace my grand-pa who was terminally ill with Lukaemia. Incidentally, as I headed for the door to leave in bereavement, a stranger beckoned me from the very end row of beds.

At the first sight, I recognized the hospitalized stranger as Tedeo, a classmate in high school. He frowned with excruciating pain of the scalpel and nursed multiple injuries sustained in a fatal accident in an unprecedented road carnage.

After my grand-pa’s funeral. For he died of Lukaemia, I spared precious moments to pass time together with my old comrade. Tedeo, relieved of pain and distress, narrated fascinating but down to earth heartening experiences of his career. I hearkened endearingly with a lot of empathy nevertheless. Tedeo loved knowledge and embraced teaching to pass on that knowledge to the leaders of tomorrow. In the first eight years, he taught as an assistant teacher. He came across ‘bush children’ in bush primary schools-as the non-mission schools were called-neglectedly desperate for education. Inspiringly, he stirred them up to work hard for a better future and taught lavishly extra hours without gratuity. Sooner than later, Tedeo became the darling of the ‘bush children’ who came to love what they had been denied.

Qualities of self –dedication and excellence were obviously manifested in the young man’s diligence. The chief education officer appointed him headmaster to reward his good work, exploit his talents fully by posting him to anew primary school in the country side. Where abject poverty and illiteracy abounded as twin sisters.

Tedeo visited the school and surprisingly incredible he had this to say in total desperation, “At the site of the proposed new school, I only found a ‘mabati’-structure used as a prayer house.”

The energetic Tedeo was transfixed in doldrums, realizing a challenging task that lay ahead of him. Tedeo had been put to the test and stood the test of the time. He mused, “Nothing else but faith-in-myself can help me to face up to the challenges in the bleak future”. The inexperienced headmaster convinced himself, “I have a bitter pill to swallow; nevertheless, I will grapple resolutely with problems, then be my own man and prove myself a hero.

The existing primary schools were built of simple structures mud-‘mabati’ roofed-classrooms. Tedeo, persuasively inspired the parents to press ahead of others, ahead of time and put up permanent structures. The headmaster’s vision became hopelessly frustrated by absolute poverty and illiteracy.

It was all hopeless! The chief was indispensable in the circumstances. The poverty –stricken parents needed motivation, encouragement and exposure to reality. Tedeo invited the chief anticipating he would rekindle hope in the despondent parents, convince them that the sky is the limit and they could in the least land on the moon if not on Mars.

Eerily, the parents hearkened to the chief who regrettably took a dim view of the headmaster’s vision and said, “Be realistic, fifty poor parents! How then, can you ever raise enough money to build a single permanent class-room?” characteristic of majority of chiefs, this chief was only too eagerly ready to use the chief’s order to raise money perforce, form these same poor people for non-existence projects. Who could possibly forget the brutal force used to raise these funds!

 

The parents couldn’t agree any more readily. They applauded wildly with a deafening boom and the women ululated in total support. The men chorused in unison and said what was boiling in their minds, “There is no way we can make the heads meet”

The majority of parents hardly understood the value of western education. If anything, this white man’s education was estranging their children from their traditions and customs.

The headmaster stared blankly silent at the chief and swallowed the bitter pill. He was not disheartened though. He, on the contrary, realized that in the person of the chief; any chief at all could not fail to baffle the headmaster.

A wondrous coincidence; hammered the chief with pretended disillusionment that more or less drove in the last nail on the coffin to the parents wildest dreams. To them, the chief was their savior. What a pity! The chief was preparing the lamb for the slaughter.

In subsequent days, the headmaster said optimistically confident to the parents, “I cherish the interest of your children at the bottom of my heart. I appeal to you, have faith-in-me not to pilot you to the Mars but to the moon. To climb a ladder you will have to start from the first rungu! What do the white sages say! Rome was not built in a day! But you must start so as to finish! But this was a lone voice in the wilderness.

The chief had injected a doze of believing –in-impossibilities. The headmaster explored for an antidote-fund raising was his hidden strategy. But to the chief this was impossibility. What was chief indeed but a tin-god in the village!

A government permit was a ‘conditio sine qua non’ to solicit funds from the public. The headmaster applied for the permit but disappointedly albeit expected, the chief declined to sanction the same.

Smartly dressed in a black suit and a tripped clip-on bow tie, the daring novice headmaster sat face –to face with the District Commissioner; the latter hearkened regardfully as Tedeo lay his cards on the table. Tedeo insisted resolutely, “failure to approve the permit leaves me with only one frustrating alternative, namely, to have the classroom under the mango tree come sun or rain.” The District Commissioner was overwhelming shocked to learn that Tedeo was an headmaster of a school that existed only on paper. He endorsed the permit emphathizingly.

The campaign for general elections was just around the corner. Pio, a parliamentary aspirant was invited as the guest of honour to preside over the fund raising. The occasion turned out to be rewarding despite the doubting Thomases. The emboldening fundraising ended at dusk under torrential downpour. The despairing parents now emerging from their cocoons realized they could make the heads meet.

The headmaster, forced by the prevailing robberies with violence sought for the guaranteed safety for the money over the weekend. He drove to the chief’s camp to secure the money under the custody of the District Officer. Although prior arrangements had been made, the headmaster found the District Officer and the chief had already retired to their respective residences at the time of his arrival.

 

Gifted in wits, Tedeo talked with the Sergeant, pleadingly entreating him to save the situation. The Sergeant thought for a moment and nodding smilingly said, “Nothing to worry you. We are entrusted with the security of everything within the chief’s camp. The money you have brought is safe. And to guarantee its security, I gonna lock it in the armoury and you retain the key of the armoury”.

Tedeo in person placed the chest with money on the floor inside the armoury and locked the door. Self-assured the money was in safe hands, Tedeo retained the key of the armory over the weekend until Monday when the money would be banked. In expressing gratitude, the Treasurer gave the sergeant appreciatable gratuity- a little ‘chai’ as they say.

In the mean time, the headmaster had converted the prayer-house into a class-room. The prayer-house-cum-classroom was shared alternatingly- primarily children attending school in the morning and pre-school in the afternoon with a lady teacher employed by the parents.

The construction of the classrooms started enthusiastically and were completed before long. The chief saw the permanent structures and remarked strikingly, “Tedeo has exhibited his own guts. A hero he is indeed, a man of his own inspiration and vision, an accomplished master planner and a man of his own with a leeway. He has achieved what many and I included imagined impossible and unachievable. Faith –in-himself has translated a dream into a reality.”

The headmaster killed two birds with one stone. He had defeated the chief’s pessimism and provocation of optimism in the parents possessed with despondency.

The ecstatic Tedeo was delighted with the leap which not only had landed him on the chimney but also on the moon. Confidently, he embarked on his second prime agenda. Perseveringly, Tedeo concentrated his efforts on teaching to achieve academic excellence. Ever aware what the sage say, “One finger doesn’t kill a louse; Tedeo consolidated unity and team work amongst his teaching staff dedication and studious exertion of pupils, the school earned reputation in academic excellence. The children excelled better than urban children illusively considered the “bright pupils”.

The sages however never cease to say, “where goodness abounds abundantly, therein the artful devil takes root firmly! Education officers lauded Tedeo and appealed to other headmaster to emulate Tedeo’s excellence.

Tedeo set academic standards that were unbeatable. A neighbouring school headed by Ballimbio remained in the shadows. Ballimbio naively thought that Tedeo’s excellence was achieved by wishful thinking. Instead of emulating, he nurtured an envious malice. Notoriously naive, he wooed two other local teachers and formed a tripartite alliance of crafty conspirators. He incited parents to violence, rocked squabbles and provoked parents to disown the headmaster. Ballimbio’s hidden motive was to be a substitution in the famed school and reap the glory.

The never –ending squabbles deprived the pupils of any meaningful learning environment and retrogression of academic excellence was the obvious consequence. Lest the children lose their bearing, the headmaster convened a parents meeting to elicit ignorance. As an effective teacher Tedeo was never lacking in teaching aids- he primed the following in a parents meeting; a plastic container of cow-dung, three notes of ten shillings denomination, two white pieces of cloth, a snail shell and a hole scooped in the ground. These were symbolically manipulated to drive the message home.

The money symbolized thirty pieces of silver that betrayed the innocent blood. Tedeo said broodingly grimaced, “I have used every coin at my disposal to do what you imagined impossible yet you label me a thief’. The embezzlement of school funds is often used as a weapon and a bizarre allegation to battle with one’s rival. The ‘trio’ had engaged themselves in a heated campaign convincing the parents that the headmaster had swindled the school’s thousand of money.

The two white pieces of cloth symbolized the innocence of the child, Tedeo stained one piece with cow-dung. The immaculate and the stained pieces of cloth were on display for the parents to compare and contrast. The stained piece had a double symbolic message, namely the mud-slinging and witch-hunting of the headmaster. The other symbolism reflected the saying of the sages; when two elephants fight the grass is the one that suffers and when two hens fight in the brooding place, they are the eggs that are damaged. The ‘trio’ and the parents were killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

And who can just dare seat unconcernedly and turn a deaf ear to the dramatized cry of a desperate child!

 

Mother nurtured me in her womb whence I came into the world; an angel in the community wherein I live; I’m neglected and exploited in child labour, sexually abused and worst of all denied my God –given-rights. Meek lambs abandoned in the midst of wolves. Who has my interest at heart! Ever imprecating efficaciously. These egoistic individuals who selfishly begrudge my own God-given rights.

To sacrifice oneself unselfishly, and defend my own right! Tedeo has proffered own self. A sacrificial lamb. To defend the defenseless child. But here he stands, a meek lamb in the midst of wolves; a victim of ridicule, condemnation and harassment, one thing is certain, nevertheless, a child shall live a thousand and one years, a blissful old ag

The snail shell like the eggs and the grass symbolized the fragility and defenselessness of the child. The hole scooped in the ground symbolized the eternal burial of all destructive evil elements that tamper with the children’s right to education.

The ‘trio’ crafty conspirators, conspicuously absent from this meeting, relied on hearsay. They conspiringly wrote letters to the District Education Officer feigning they were the subject of defamation and character assassination. They distorted the message of the headmaster and classified the teaching aids as portents of evil charms. They fabricated that the headmaster acting as a wizard performed a ritual with the craps of children where he bewitched them and wished them all sorts of evil. He then invoked evil spirits upon them, they said, and prayed for them to be as dead as dodo and then buried alive in the hole scooped in the ground.

The ‘trio’ courted an education officer, Mako-nde, the officer, with whoever satisfied his greed. Indeed, the cardinal virtues in his ‘Achilles heel’ are inordinate guzzling and dallying. Mako-nde connived with the ‘trio’ and formed a Quadruple alliance to execute a vendetta that would harass Tedeo to exhaustion and defeat. They corruptly bribed the officer and brewed honey-bear-the best staff brewed by a courting man for his father -in -law to be.

In his usual mood of intoxication, Mako-nde said assuringly to the tripartite alliance, “Once I brief the District education Officer, Tedeo will be demoted.” Determined to fulfill his promise of abetting their evil machinations, Mako-nde stigmatized Tedeo to the District Education Officer with the bizarre allegations and added conclusively that, “Tedeo acted unreasonably strange and crazy and to my judgment he deserves nothing short of demotion.”

Mako-nde deceptively thought that he was subjecting Tedeo to a life-scourge. However, in reality, he failed in his machination to defend the rights of the defenseless child. Mako-nde turned a deaf ear to the cry of a desperate child and abandoned the innocent and defenseless child to the growing wolves.

The intelligent headmaster knew a Priori that Maskonde, with malice aforethought would do anything in his power to fling mud at the headmaster once he meets the District education Officer. Ever before he set foot in the latter’s office, Tedeo wrote a fifteen page report to the District Education Officer. No sooner he received the headmaster’s defensive report than he summoned him to his office.

The headmaster was a stranger to the senior officer. However, after introducing himself, the officer said to him, “Wow! You are a writer.” The headmaster responded, “Thank you Sir.”

“Tell me Mwalimu, how is the situation n the school?” The Officer asked.

“Everything is under my control”, the headmaster replied.

The District Education Officer, a man of integrity said to the headmaster, “Mwalimu, go back to school and give the children the best in your power”.

 

As Tedeo left the office with a sigh of relief, his mind meditated on the words of William Shakespeare. “The good that men do lives after them and the evil they do is intertwined with their bones in-the grave. The reality of these words remains to be: the good is the best legacy to leave behind, the evil is a disgrace.

 


 

 

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Comments

Nov 28, 2012 11:03am
Marlando
Wow--Ihave to tell you not only a great article but what a great writing job!!! I give you 5 stars for both/ (And thanks for a mindful journey).
Nov 29, 2012 2:27am
Januarius
Thanks for the five stars. I never imagined such a compliment.
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