Rhesus Factor


By Happiness Chinangwa*

The village had not yet woken up to life when the health expert from town, a young woman in a miniskirt and a blouse that exposed her mature two domes of India planted on her chest, arrived. The few people she had seen around, while snaking into the village, were the diligent ones – washing away yesterday’s sleep as they readied themselves for their respective farms.

Happiness Chinangwa - promising Malawi female short story writer
I was one of such people. Since my failure to complete my secondary school education at St. Mary’s Girls Secondary School, I came back to my roots – to till and turn the earth like everyone else. The village did not question the phenomenon. The village was let down by my failure. The village did not sympathize with me.

I was the one to blame, so it bragged. I agreed. Had I finally become a doctor as the village had waited? No. I did not. I did not even manage to enliven the spirit of my dying father who had labored for my school fees – waking up before the whole village and going to bed after the whole village for the sake of me. Tobacco farming is no mean business and, that is what my father plied for my school fees. It was therefore an act of gross disappointment to come back with a four-week pregnancy instead of a Malawi School Certificate of Education. I admit.

The day I had returned, the village was not at the bus terminus expecting me as it always did. Later, I learnt that it had already learnt about my mischief. Bad news spreads fast. Bad news!

That very same evening, Che Mbuyanga, the village’s richest man came to our home – to mock my father.

“Did I not tell you, friend,” he said after they had exchanged formal greetings. “That it is useless to send a girl child to school?”

My father was quite.
“Girls must not go farther than primary school education,” Che Mbuyanga said matter-of-factly. “It is wastage of time and money. Look, if you had married her to me that time, you should have been a rich man now.”

“Have you finished?” I heard my father ask.

Che Mbuyanga did not answer, and my father left him outside entering our house.

The moment Che Mbuyanga had left, father called me to the living room. Mother was there. My big brother too. He called me a pig. A maggot. A headless chicken. A stupid fool. Then he beat me up, sincerely; but, very badly. My father had never been that angry.

As he whipped me with his cane, I recalled how I had ended up in my sorry predicament. I remembered Rhesus Factor, my biology teacher.


The sun had just set at St Mary’s Girls Secondary School, and we were all rushing to our respective study rooms. I was late. I usually reported late for activities. For no apparent reasons.

But, unlike other teachers, Rhesus Factor did not take my lateness with a grain of salt. He invited me to his office where he told me he would recommend to the school authorities for my expulsion.

I shuddered. You see, Rhesus Factor – apart from him being a brilliant Biology teacher – he was also the boarding master; therefore, a very mattering figure in the school’s administration. He was fairly tall, with handsome eyes – so inviting. He was light in complexion and talked to students only when there was something serious to talk about.

If he invited you to his office, you were sure trouble had called. And; I was invited to Rhesus Factor’s office that afternoon. The no nonsense teacher. The intelligent Biology teacher. The fresh university graduate. The dream husband of all Form Four students and St. Mary’s. I was only in Form Three.

When I entered his office, I felt nervous, afraid and without peace. But I was mistaken. Rhesus Factor was not even bad at all. He smiled more than necessary. He called my name softly. He laughed with me. He was so open with me.

Rhesus Factor, the Biology teacher, told me he loved me so much. That he would help pay my school fees and then marry me. I felt good. Who in the whole of our village would be luckier than I to marry an intelligent secondary school biology teacher like Rhesus Factor?

So, that day I let him do whatever he wanted with me. I let him fondle the two hills on my chest with sincerity. I let Rhesus Factor, my intelligent Biology teacher, mess up with my virginity – just like that.

The affair went on for months. Sometimes we made love in the dark corners of the St. Mary’s campus whilst he was on his evening patrols. Sometimes in the staffroom when he was alone. Sometimes it was at his house where he smuggled me to with exits he personally signed.

And then, I got pregnant. I told Rhesus Factor about it. He refused responsibility. I reported him to the headmaster. The headmaster wanted evidence. I gave him – a photo Rhesus Factor and I had taken one time - while at Kusangalala Lodge, naked.

He was fired – a teacher-student relationship was forbidden by law. I was suspended too, because of my pregnancy. I couldn’t proceed with my school in my state. The head teacher asked me to come after delivering my baby. But when I delivered, my father said enough was enough.

I had lost out. My dream to become a medical doctor.


We were all seated at the village square as soon as the young health expert from town arrived. We had been summoned actually. Everyone from town was important – no matter the age. Town was town.

She talked of male circumcision – with no shame – in front of small boy and girls. In front of toddlers who knew nothing about bedroom business. Actually, no one actually understood the English. Even me, the interpreter, could not understand pretty well. Five years out of school was long time. But there wasn’t a thing I could do. I had to speak because the village head man had assigned me the task.

She spoke in English, which was a very deadly mistake for I think I interpreted what she said wrongly. I think. I would have been sure if Rhesus Factor, my intelligent Biology teacher had not given me an early baby.

I told the villagers, the men, that with circumcision there was no way they could get HIV. It rendered the transmission impossible, I said. Scientific research had proved, I added.

If only I had known better. If only I had understood English better. If only Rhesus Factor had been patient enough with my virginity, I would have saved many, many of my kinsmen.

My elder brother was seething and convulsing with pain, crying out loud. My brother was dying.

He had wasted away. He looked pale, weak and very sickly. He had left a week after that health expert from town was in our villager to seek greener pastures in the city. My elder brother was a Standard 8 drop-out.

“Am I going to die, sister?”

I did not respond. My brother was dying.

“Didn’t that health expert say we couldn’t get HIV after circumcision?”

I did not respond. My brother was dying.

He coughed, badly – spitting out bloody mucous. I was frightened.

“Did she tell us the truth? Did she?”

“Why can’t you talk to your brother,” a doctor, who I suppose had been standing near the bed for a moment now, asked.

“Tell me,” he smilingly sat beside my brother. “What do you want to know?”

My brother coughed badly.

“Does circumcision really prevent one from getting HIV?”

The doctor looked at me. He looked at me with keen interest.

“Do you remember me?”

I did not respond. My brother was dying.

“Do you remember me? Do you remember this face, Yamiko?”

My heart skipped a beat. It was him.

“Does it, doctor?” I heard my elder brother ask again.

The doctor did not respond. I did not respond.

My brother did not cough again. He did not.

About the Author
*Happiness Chinangwa is a third year Bachelor of Arts (Education) student at Mzuzu University majoring in History and English. She has written extensively for the Mzuzu University Writers Forum – where she is a very vocal member. Rhesus Factor – a moving story about the new topic of male circumcision in Africa -  is her first published short story.

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  1. Illiteracy killing every facet our society,,, Circumscion is not "an invisible condom" simwingafrances.blogspot.com/2013/11/circumscion-its-not-invible-condom.html

  2. Anonymous3:51:00 PM

    Happiness, you are such an amazing writer who can spin the pen with admirable dexterity.
    As i began reading your story i couldn't give myself a second to breath...i was wholly usurped into the life you have with great care and passion poored into 'Rhesus factor.' Thumbs up girl and keep up the good work!

  3. This is great writing. Keep it up.

    In case you did not, read this as well: http://levimanda.blogspot.com/2013/08/if-male-circumcision-were-answer.html.

  4. Great writing young lady. Keep it up. All the best...

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