Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Press Freedom

Press Freedom

‘Well Wezi,’ I said, looking at the young man lounging on the ruined sofa, ‘what are you doing now? Did you manage to get into Yunza?’

‘Hah!’ he spat, ‘Fat chance! I was expelled from school last year, so I couldn’t sit for my Form Five exams.’

Just then Aunty Lillian came in with a tray of tea and biscuits. ‘Wezi says he was expelled from school last year,’ said Sara. ‘What happened? It’s the first we’re hearing of this.’

‘You ask him,’ replied Lillian, as she spread out the tea things. ‘He’s the one who likes explaining how he disgraced the family. His poor father must be turning in his grave.’

I turned to Wezi, who was now busy putting five spoons of sugar in his tea. ‘Last time we were here you were top of the class, and editor of the school newspaper. I had great hopes that you’d become rich and famous and look after your poor old Uncle Kalaki in his old age…’

‘Don’t you worry about that Wezi,’ said Sara, ‘the way your uncle drinks, he won’t live much longer.’

‘You must have done something really gross!’ I said, quickly turning the conversation back to Wezi. ‘Expelled! Did you vomit on the headmaster? Impregnate his daughter? Kill his dog?’

‘Nothing like that,’ sighed Wezi. ‘Anyway, poor old Mr Wakuba was quite used to those sorts of misfortunes, and always bore them with great fortitude. But what really drove him mad was my first and only edition of the school newspaper, Chinyengo High.’

‘Strange name for a newspaper,’ I said, as I took a quarter bottle of brandy from my pocket to lace my tea. ‘Is there such a thing as high chinyengo? I thought chinyengo was always low.’

Chinyengo High is the name of the school,’ said Lillian irritably. ‘It’s a co-ed boarding school in rural Katete. Anyway, it was definitely Chinyengo Low by the time Wezi finished with it.’

‘But what exactly did you do?’ I persisted, as I turned to Wezi. ‘I’m itching for the delicious details. Did you publish titillating pin-ups of the Form V girls on the front page?’

‘Nothing like that,’ said Wezi. ‘I just published a couple of stories about what was really going on in the school.’

‘Homosexual sex in the dormitory?’ I suggested.

‘Really!’ said Sara. ‘Will you please give your pornographic imagination a rest, stop salivating into your tea, and give the poor boy a chance to tell his story!’

‘Thanks Aunty,’ said Wezi. ‘What happened was, I did a bit of investigative journalism and discovered some very strange things. For example the Biology teacher was taking some of the girls to his house, and showing them the exam paper in advance.’

‘I bet he showed them more than that,’ I said.

‘Shut up!’ snapped Sara.

‘And we found that the headmaster, Mr Wakuba, had misused the school furniture allocation to buy bling-bling furniture for his house, and that’s why the Form Threes had no desks.’

‘You should have respected your headmaster,’ said Aunty Lillian. ‘No wonder you got expelled.’

‘Wakuba was always walking round the school in his Yunza graduation gown,’ said Wezi. ‘But when we checked the Yunza records, we found that he had never even been a Yunza student, let alone a graduate.’

‘So how did he get the job?’ Sara wondered.

‘The Provincial Education Officer is his mulamu,’ explained Wezi.

‘And you published all this in the school newspaper?’ I asked.

‘I had to reveal the truth,’ said Wezi. ‘Everything we had been told about the school was deception and lies, and the headmaster was a complete fraud.’

‘All the money I spent on his education,’ said Lillian bitterly, ‘and he just went there to destroy the place. And now he’s destroyed himself.’

‘But after you were expelled?’ I asked, ‘did the Ministry take any action to clean up the school?’

‘Wakuba was the one who took action,’ laughed Wezi, ‘to make sure such a thing never happened again. He burnt all the copies of the offending publication and appointed a new editor. He also appointed a Regulation Committee of teachers to control the newspaper, and to make sure that all the articles praised the school, and that it was suitable for sending out to parents and to officials in the Ministry.’

‘Let that be a lesson to you,’ said Lillian bitterly. ‘Pupils need to be proud of their school, and parents need to believe in a good education system. But you, not understanding these things, set out to destroy the reputation of your own school. Without education there will be no development, only chaos.’

‘Aunty’s right about that,’ I said.

‘So is Wakuba still the headmaster?’ Sara asked.

‘No,’ replied Wezi. ‘He’s was promoted, after The Minister for Lies and Propabanda, Mr Rotten Shikashiwa, heard of his good work in restoring the reputation of the school. So now he’s the Chairperson of the newly established National Press Regulation Committee.’

‘It’s marvellous,’ I said, ‘how some people get ahead. And what about you, Wezi, what are you thinking of doing?’

‘I think I’ll emigrate to Canada. Get a job on the Toronto Star.’

‘Good idea,’ said Sara. ‘You’re very bright, honest and hardworking. There’s no future for you here.’

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