Kalaki’s Korner: Thoko Fights Corruption

By Roy Clarke
I was sitting on the veranda, studiously contemplating my third brandy of the afternoon, when round the corner swept a pair of pencil blue jeans and a clinging pink top bearing the strident message ‘SOD OFF!’
     ‘Grandpa!’ she crowed, as she bent down to give me a peremptory kiss, ‘Caught you at it! Mummy says the brandy will kill you.’
     ‘Don’t try to divert attention from your own misbehavior,’ I said sternly. ‘It’s Tuesday afternoon and you’re supposed to be in school!’
     ‘I’ve run away from Zambia National High School,’ she declared. ‘I’m now a refugee here in Kalakiland!’
     ‘You mean you decided to Sod Off!’
     ‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘I’m now Secretary of the Secret Society of Sod Off!’
     ‘Congratulations!’ I said, ‘Now go to the kitchen and get yourself a coke, and fetch me another bottle of brandy. Then I’ll grant you asylum.’
     ‘That’s corruption!’ she laughed, as she danced off to the kitchen.
     She was soon back with the two bottles. ‘So,’ I said, ‘I remember you told me about the terrible corruption at that school. Was that why you had to run away?’
     ‘Hah!’ she laughed, ‘it was certainly corrupt, but I don’t think it was any different from other schools. The headmaster was stealing the PTA funds, the boarding master was stealing the food, the prefects were renting out the dormitories, the teachers were sleeping with the Form V girls, the exam papers were on sale beforehand – you know, just the normal sort of things.’
     ‘So what had happened to the School Rules?’
     ‘Look, grandpa,’ laughed Thoko, ‘do you know the meaning of the word corruption? It means that nobody is following the rules! Or rather, there is a completely different set of rules operating.’
     ‘So you got to understand the other set of rules?’
     ‘Oh yes, I soon got to know how it worked. I became a prefect and got my own mattress, helped my friend become a food monitor so I could eat well, bought exam papers at half  price, and got a strong boyfriend to protect me from Speedy Gonzales the Biology Teacher.’
     ‘So you were learning a lot. A real preparation for life after school. What went wrong? Why did you run away?’
     ‘When we came back this term there was a new headmaster. He said he was going to lead the fight against corruption.’
     ‘That sounds good. Did he put things straight?’
     ‘He just caused confusion. Every morning at assembly he made new announcements. One day old teachers would be fired, and new ones appointed. Then the next day the old ones would be brought back, and the new ones fired. Then the English teacher was told to teach Physics, and the Physics teacher became the English teacher. And so it went on. On day the Chemistry Lab became the Geography Room, but the next week the Geography Room became the Library. Then the Library became the gymnasium, after he has sent all the books to poor children in Botswana. In the end we were all too confused to be corrupt.’
     ‘Perhaps that was a good thing. What was the name of the new headmaster?’
     ‘We used to call him Cycle Mata, because he was always going round in circles.’
     ‘So did he bring back the Old Original School Rules.’
     ‘No. Nobody knew what the Original Rules were, they had been thrown out years ago. And the changing staff and changing curriculum was just causing confusion.’
     ‘The pupils were getting angry.’
     ‘Of course. We were now failing our exams because we didn’t know who was selling genuine illegal papers and who was selling fake illegal papers, and even the teachers didn’t know which were the genuine papers that were supposed to be used for the exam.’
     ‘So what did Cycle Mata try to correct this confusion?’
     ‘He told us all to join a new school organisation called the PF, the Pupils’ Fantasy, and all would be well. The new PF School Secretary was Mr Splinter Kapimbe, and he was appointed to supervise the Deputy Head, poor old Dotty Scotty.’
     ‘And how did Splinter Kapimbe set about setting things straight?’
     ‘He announced that if we saw anybody doing anything corrupt, we should report the matter straight to him, quite ignoring Dotty Scotty or the prefects or the Disciplinary Council.’
     ‘And did Splinter Kapimbe explain what he meant by corrupt behaviour?’
     ‘Yes. He said that we should report any person who did not belong to the PF, or spoke against the PF, because such people were sympathetic to the old regime, were in favour of corruption and were enemies of the school.’
     ‘And what did the pupils think of this Splinter Kapimbe?’
     ‘We never saw him. Some people said he was too small to see. Others said he was a witch who was casting evil spells. Others said that the PF had taken over all the schools, and Splinter Kapimbe was the one in charge of all of them.’
     ‘And you decided to run away?’
     ‘I liked the previous system, where the system was corrupt, but we knew and understood the rules, and could organize our own corruption. But now this Splinter Kapimbe had corrupted corruption so fast that we completely lost control. He was in charge and could change the rules at any minute.’
     ‘A most unsatisfactory education,’ I admitted. ‘So what is your message to Secretary General Splinter Kapimbe?’
     ‘He should just SOD OFF!’ said Thoko.

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