The Obama generation, by PIUS NYONDO

Malawi Heat

The atmosphere in the staffroom was tense. Even though the weather forecast said the day was partly cloudy with potential occurrence of thunderstorms in low-lying areas, the sticky downpours of sweat accumulating on faces of passersby was a signal that it was hot and humid.

Rubbing profuse rivulets of sweat on his face, Magaga sat on his chair with unmistaken authority - after all he was the headteacher of Kapenda Full Primary school.

As if exaggerating his inflated sense of self-importance, the school head gazed at the young visitor with blood-shot eyes. By then, the old man was no longer breathing, but panting like a dog ducking for cover under the noon sun.

“Sir, you don’t understand,” the young man insisted on his point, “Government has directed that all people aged sixty-five and above must retire with immediate effect. So, get ready to leave this office while government is looking for your replacement.”

The old man could not utter a word as the young man’s fury thundered in the confined room.

Do you have manners where you come from? That was the only question reverberating in his heart. He had taken pride in growing old, knowing the elderly are celebrated calabashes of wisdom.

But that was not the case now. He was being ridiculed as a spent force, a good for nothing caricature, an expired member of the third millennium. This was so confusing that he could not open his mouth.

To him, the young man from the Ministry of Education was not only dramatising an otherwise sombre piece of news but also belittling his father’s age mate.

No, that was unbecoming and his draconian upbringing had taught the 74-year-old headteacher that such boorish boys should be taught a lifetime lesson or they would continue terrorising the elderly who ought to be basking in the fruits of their innumerable service at the service of humanity.

“Young man, how old are you?” quizzed the old man as he reached for his whip hidden under his desk.

“How does that make you younger? Please it’s time you left that seat to young blood,” the young man hit back.

“Well, since you have chosen to behave like a Standard One pupil, I have no option but to treat you as a sneezing standard one toddler,” bellowed the headteacher.

At this juncture, the headteacher unleashed his whip and it landed on the back of the official from the ministry, producing a loud sound as it left creases on his well-pressed, three-piece suit that could not sheathe his stupidity.

“Sir! You must be very stupid and I don’t understand how you manage to teach the young ones. Don’t you know that the use of the rod is as out-dated as your grey-haired brain? You have no place in the modern classroom. You are fired, no, I will recommend that you get fired!” the young man threatened as he ducked for the door amid a sound thrashing.

“We will see,” sighed the old man with a wizard-like tone.

And it might have been just that - for the young ministry official died in a car collision two weeks later.

Meanwhile, Magaga was still headteacher. He had been there for two decades. As if that was not enough, he vowed never to leave the school until his death even though he was the only teacher at the school.

He was everything. The all-in-one! Legend had it that all teachers who had been posted to the school only lasted a few days before they were ferried to the grave. Others run away never to return after snakes were found in their cooking pots, the most recent being a young TTC graduate who claimed seeing the veteran teacher trying to kill him in his dream.

Incredible! For the accused belonged to the soft-spoken kindred least associated with evil.

He was the most hardworking farmer in the vicinity. He was the best preacher at his church and the most generous if you met him at the neighbouring beer halls.

Who would believe such a virtuous leaned man was a wizard? As a teacher, he was comfortably commending government for introducing an extra amount of money for rural teachers. As a farmer, he had run short of words to describe the magic of the subsidised fertiliser programme that had transformed the village from hunger to food security overnight.

All in all, the K5000 hardship allowance for rural teachers meant more food for his family and more beer for imbibers.

So, was it not an act of aggression that somebody was asking him to stop working? Swine!

Life continued and the government never dared to send any more teachers to Kapenda for fear of losing them. Young Barak Obama might have swayed American voters to make him president of the world super power but the remote village in Kapenda was not ripe for more Obamas if that meant waylaying the elderly into retirement.

So, he clung on to his chalk and duster, convinced that he would live at the school forever. Indeed, the dry season left the stage to the rainy season.

And to mark the opening of a new term, Magaga, clad in a black jacket, a green neck-tie and a white shirt, took a majestic stroll around the school as his pupils looked on.

Being the first day of the term, parents were also in attendance. They had never stopped wondering how Magaga managed to serve eight classes in a day and managed to help many pupils go to secondary school.

After the national anthem, the unsung hero stood up and coughed to clear his throat. His pupils knew something was amiss.

“Dear pupils, today marks the beginning of our first term in this academic year. With sincere gratitude allow me to...,” he coughed again, this time seeking appropriate words to make the uneducated parents realise that he was not an ordinary man.

Surprisingly, he fell like a bag of subsidised fertilizer. He mooed like a cow in agony. He was seething and convulsing. Something was amiss.

“God should forgive me...I killed them...teachers...I killed that young man from the Ministry of Ed...” the surprised parents surrounded Magaga as murmurs of disrespect for the fallen teacher gained momentum among the pupils.

By noon, word of Magaga’s demise reached the District Education Manager’s office. Perhaps, it was the turn of the Obama generation.

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  1. Mpha Chitheka9:15:00 PM

    Nice piece Pius. I have enjoyed reading this. Bravo

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