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Abenea Ndago | A Great Teacher

Two Grade 6 boys gossiped about their mathematics teacher at a corner in the classroom.

‘I want to be him when I grow up,’ one face lit up. ‘A great teacher.’

‘Me also.’

‘But you, you only admire his bicycle.’

‘That is you. Me, I love hard work and the great teacher works hard.’

‘Even the head teacher praises him. The best mathematics teacher. He works harder than all the other teachers. Our school beats all the schools in the district because of him.’

‘He has never missed a lesson since government built this school. People say his heart is inside the school. A great teacher.’

During his week all the learners rose early with the cock and ran to school to pick litter and clean up classrooms, and he lived two villages away but, on his clean bicycle, he still beat all the learners to school however early they tried to arrive there.

His wife entered the compound one morning at break time. The great teacher carried her on the bicycle and rode back home to take their sick daughter to a hospital in the next town, another five villages away from theirs. But a short time before lunch time the two Grade 6 boys saw him perched on the bicycle again, strict and wiping sweat off his neck and face with a wet handkerchief. He had returned to school to work.

The history teacher was absent one afternoon the week before. The great teacher took his class and revised the algebra he had taught Grade 6 that morning. He always popped in at games time and taught them what an upcoming holiday would have made him not teach them. And he was not in a hurry about salary. He was always the last to ride to the town where he took his daughter to hospital, near the middle of the new month, and earn the salary and fill the kibuyu with paraffin and tie it onto the bicycle carrier and ride back to his village. Everyone said the money was small and the government sent it late from the capital.

One morning the head teacher announced the great teacher’s death at the school assembly. The two boys were in Grade 8 and preparing to do the last examination before they went to secondary school. A monster of shock stood over the assembly with a big spear. The head teacher said to observe the one minute of silence for the great teacher and the two boys and every learner wiped tears when they walked to class.

Prefects collected small coins from the learners only during the break times. The two boys heard that the school would give the whole collection to the great teacher’s widow and his small daughter on the burial day to say sorry for the unfortunate death.

One Friday morning a small van carried four teachers and two prefects out of the school compound. It was the burial day.

The next Monday no one remembered the burial. The assembly dispersed, learners entered their classrooms, the small bell rang, and lessons started in earnest.

‘Is that just the whole end of it?’ One of the two Grade 8 boys whispered to his friend after the first teacher left their classroom.

‘Of what.’

‘Of a great mathematics teacher.’

The other did not answer.


Image: Roman Melnychuk on Unsplash

Abenea Ndago
Abenea Ndago
Abenea Ndago is a Kenyan writer/scholar. He has published Voices (2017), Crossing the Border (2018), Lord Kitchener (2023), and several short stories.


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