In Summary
  • Looking at me she said. “Dre I need your assistance. Sijui kama watu wanaoga chai or what? I have now missed tea for the second time this week.”

  • Having been one of the teachers who had taken three cups, I could not say anything as other teachers would remind me of the number of cups I had taken.

  • “But why were you not there when tea was being served?” asked Mrs Atika. “You are breastfeeding and know very well that you need a lot of tea so where had you gone?”

  • “Atika that is not the issue,” Lena said. “The tea has always been enough for us.”

Finally, Nzomo, our beautiful colleague from Nunguni, arrived in school last Monday morning after travelling over the weekend. We were all happy to see her as her presence would relieve teachers that had stepped in to fill her spot in the classroom.

“Karibu,” said Sella when she saw Nzomo back. “At least I will have time to read.” Sella is a student at Maseno University and had, grudgingly, taken up most of Nzomo’s classes. The two are anything but friends.

With Nzomo around, I planned re-assign Saphire’s lessons but other teachers would hear none of that.

“Why would you want to redistribute? Is he sick?” asked Mrs Atika. “I see him every day so please do not start giving us his duties.”

Lena, her bad hair notwithstanding, also refused to take up any of Saphire’s classes. “We have never shared his salary,” she said.

“Unless he is dead, I will not take any of Saphire’s classes,” said Nzomo. She had not heard of the story of the death and resurrection of Saphire, and Lena told her the story, but then added: “You should be the last to say you won’t assist anyone having been assisted while you were away.”

The next day, Saphire passed by the school, and after a few minutes in the staffroom, went to the toilet – and never returned to school. That was just before tea break.

With our lunch club having collapsed, most teachers were taking maximum advantage of the tea, and taking several cups of tea to compensate for no lunch. The staffroom was therefore full at tea time. To make ends meet, Mrs Atika was selling ndumas to teachers and a few colleagues took some on credit. Since I did not buy any ndumas and had no other escort, I took three cups of tea – but I was not alone.

A few minutes later, Lena, who had left the staffroom just before tea break returned? She was carrying two mandazis – I don’t know from where – and when she went to take tea, she was surprised to find the two flasks empty.

“Kwani mmemaliza chai?” she asked. No one answered. “And this is the second time this is happening this week,” she said.

Looking at me she said. “Dre I need your assistance. Sijui kama watu wanaoga chai or what? I have now missed tea for the second time this week.”

Having been one of the teachers who had taken three cups, I could not say anything as other teachers would remind me of the number of cups I had taken.

“But why were you not there when tea was being served?” asked Mrs Atika. “You are breastfeeding and know very well that you need a lot of tea so where had you gone?”

“Atika that is not the issue,” Lena said. “The tea has always been enough for us.”

STRONG TEA HAPANA

I called the tea lady who said she could make more tea but it would be “strong tea” as there was no milk. “Kama ni strong tea wachana nayo,” said Lena.

“For the sake of your baby, please be carrying your own tea or milk,” Mrs Atika told Lena. “I used to do so many years ago when I was a mother.”

“That is not the issue Mrs Atika,” Lena said. “The issue is why are teachers taking other people’s tea?”

Oscar, who had been quiet throughout joined in the discussion. “If Lena can’t make her hair, do you really expect her to carry tea to school?”

“What you smoker?” asked Lena. She then told him words that I can’t write here. Luckily for us, tea break was over and teachers left for their classes. As I went back to my office, I could sense a lot of tension in the staffroom, and wondered what was causing this.

Teachers had been telling one another things they would not normally say. I don’t know if it was because the pockets were malnourished but I had observed that teachers were quarrelling over small things. I planned to call for staff meeting to cool tempers. Before then, I decided to start the process early by talking to each of the teachers individually.

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