Cheater

Mbio za sakafuni huishia ukingoni.

-Swahili proverb

‘Do you like it?’ Tr. Samson asked. He had handed me a drawing by his toddler daughter. It was a rough one but criticizing it was out of the question. Being allowed to stand idly in the staffroom was already a privilege. I couldn’t abuse it by really telling him what I thought of it.

‘It’s good,’ I nodded to seem more believable.

‘What is it, then?’ He had caught me.

‘An animal, of course,’ I was guessing. I’m sure even the artist didn’t know what she had drawn.

‘Which animal?’ That was Samson for you, ever the pursuant one. He lived up to his name by being the most feared teacher in the whole school. He worked hard to earn this reputation. I don’t know if that was the reason why he had been so thin, because of the hard work. I recall long ago, several grades below, when we would go out for games, his formal wear trousers would do a dance for the wind fit for a skirt to feel envious. That was the Samson of the past for every Samson had to have his Delilah. Not to be the gossip monger but it’s common knowledge that he married a Mokorino girl. Rumor has it that she had a sweet tooth when she was young and that ended up ruining all of her teeth, make of that whatever you will. Now he is well fed and the pants don’t dance as much. I even observed that he got a bit of a tummy protruding.

‘A mouse…perhaps,’ it was clear that I was clutching at straws. He laughed.

‘No, it’s a cheetah! Look here, she tried drawing the spots and they came out as doodles,’ I smiled. It must have felt good to be a father.

‘Do you know that a cheetah never changes its spots?’ He was serious now. I could tell from the note of his voice.

‘Well, neither does a leopard,’ I said in jest trying to reduce the tension that was building up in that small room.

‘True, but a cheetah is different though. It runs, really fast!’ He had leaned forward towards me and he looked as though he was expecting me to answer him before he asked. A typical teacher if you ask me. I nodded albeit slowly.

‘In some way you two are alike…You and the cheetah. You are both running…’ I was now totally lost. I didn’t try to smile because I knew it would come out as awkward. I knew my eyes were enough to demand an explanation so I didn’t waste my breath.

‘and do you know where such runs end?’ His intonation was now a falling one.

‘No, I don’t.’ My response was solemn befitting the gravity of the conversation.

‘What is this?’ He had placed his right index finger and middle finger on his lips as though he was smoking. By the time it hit me he had broken out in laughter. He knew it and so did I. It was the end of the road for me. For all of us.

***********

I hated being class captain. Not only did it take away valuable study time but it also gave me the impossible feat of babysitting my fellow classmates. Those boys and girls were a lost cause. I still recall my mum telling me that I shouted ‘Keep quiet!’ severally in my sleep. That is the point of madness they had driven me to. They just never seemed to shut tf up! I guess I must have done a lot of wrongs in my previous life to deserve such Karma. All in all, I tried to hide my hate. We were just kids yet I had thought of thousands of ways to get rid of them. They were literal headaches.

I kept my distance, both emotionally and psychologically. I didn’t play with them and neither did I learn with them unless a teacher forced us into groups. Soon the distance wasn’t enough so I had to think of something else. I tried to use my authority to suppress them but the teaching fraternity was too lenient. I had to come up with something fast before I drowned in the despair every nerd feels. Academically, they were no match for me. I did keep a distant circle of allies whose grades were promising but whose conduct was, to put it mildly, poor.

In my search for a way to torment them the way they did me, one of them approached me. Martin was his name. He let me in on a few secrets and asked me to join them. I had earlier on promised not to snitch them out to the administration. Here was the deal: Most of our exams had multiple choice questions consisting of choices A, B, C, D. In the spirit of Ubuntu, some classmates had agreed to help each other out with some of the difficult questions so that they can move forward together. These guys exercised their creative muscles and made a cheating system. I must say, that was really impressive. Had they done the same in their studies, however, there would be no need for the cheating.

The system would run as follows: They would ask around for whoever knew the answer to a particular question; with muted voices, of course, so that the teacher gets no wind of this. Sometimes they had to use hand gestures and relay the message along different far sitting individuals for it to get to the destination. Once you got the question number as the destination, you had to answer. The simplest uncommon answer was the ‘Idk’ one where one just shrug their arms and went about their exam business. If, however, one knew the answer, there were four responses corresponding to the four choices. For an A one would make an inverted A on the lips using the index and middle fingers the way one does when smoking, for B one touched the nose for the nostrils do make an inverted B, for C one pinched or slightly pulled their ear lobe, the pinna and for D one placed the index finger at the front part of the pinna to make a D.

I first of all was against the practice for it went against my principles but soon I got involved. I considered lying to them for I knew that they only included me to increase the accuracy of the answers in circulation. I ruled against this as I thought of the bigger picture: It would feel much better if they failed the national exam instead of these internal ones. This would be made more likely if I participated in their system and helped make these lazy chaps even more complacent. That was exactly what I did and what I kept doing until I had that conversation with teacher Samson.

‘You may go.’ The fact that he let me go just after showing me that he knew our secret was a threat on its own. I knew why he hadn’t punished me. He knew that punishment wouldn’t be enough to end the cartel and thus counted on me to put an end to this anomaly. I thought long and hard about how I would do this and finally came up with a strategy. Had I convinced some of them to stop then I would be branded a treacherous and selfish idiot. What I did was convince some of the moderately smart fellows to lie when asked so that the whole system would crumble upon itself. The strategy worked! I had managed to destroy the trust that held it together so it came crashing down. I knew that I could destroy anything those fools managed to create. Unknown to me, however, was that chuma changu kilikuwa motoni

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