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School CP - June 2003

Corpun file 12125

Sunday Monitor, Kampala, 8 June 2003

Including the class teacher's name on the noise-makers list

By Peter Oluli

I was in primary three when our class teacher introduced the system of handing over a coin to any person caught speaking any language other than English.

The system was such that the first pupil caught, speaking in vernacular, would be handed a coin to keep until he or she handed it over to the next culprit that crossed his way.

And because the practice was rampant, the coin moved from pupil to pupil, sometimes forming a long chain threatening to cover the entire class.

One day a teacher walked up to our classroom and tempted a pupil to speak in vernacular. The pupil became the first person to hold the coin.

But although we had been warned that the ultimate consequence of ever holding the coin was several rounds of the cane, in the beginning it was just fun.

If a coin never came your way because luckily or unluckily for this matter the present holder was not within your reach, you went on the rampage speaking vernacular so that you would 'chance' to hold it.

Sometimes frequent lawbreakers had the coin, making a second or even third round at them.

So when the teacher asked for the coin in the evening, several offenders were exposed and punished accordingly.

So on day one of the coin system; the cane literally 'worked' on almost the entire class. That is when it dawned on the pupils that it wasn't a joke after all.

So the pupils started avoiding speaking 'vernacular' as it was called or just shut up.

In primary four, I happened to be in the noisiest stream one would ever think of -- in short, chirping weaverbirds.

And once a teacher dodged his lesson, the weaverbirds rent the air with such noise that could frighten a hyena away from meat.

One time the headmaster, having been irritated to the uttermost by the noise, got so irritated that he made an emergency intervention and gave each one six strokes of the cane. You should have been there to see the pupils wriggle in pain.

Shortly after the headmaster had retreated to his office, our Mathematics teacher stepped in and for the first time was met by dead silence in the classroom.

At first he did not know the magic behind the silence until the class captain told him that the 'main man' (headmaster) had just held a major operation in our classroom.

When he was done with his lesson and was walking out of the door, the noise boiled up. He turned back and the class instantly fell silent.

He stared at us menacingly before stepping out again.

We resumed the noise immediately, prompting the teacher to think we were playing games with him.

When he re-entered the class, he ordered me to jot down the names of all the noisemakers -- a complete departure from the coin system. I plucked a piece of paper from the middle of my exercise book and assumed my duty.

Before lunchtime, I had more than half the class on my list. I excluded my name of course; despite the fact that we had all chuckled as if in a competition for some rare prizes.

But when I went out for lunch, some notorious boy flipped through my books and uncovered my confidential list.

Whatever his inspiration, up to date, I still cannot tell.

This fellow got the paper and added the teacher's name on the list, which I had clearly labelled: 'Noise makers in class.'

No sooner had we gone back to class than the teacher also entered brandishing canes in his hand. He asked for the list and I promptly handed it over to him.

He read out the names, one-by-one, as the pupils walked to the front of the class.

The last name on the list was his. He did not call it out. I had not noticed the addition until the teacher asked me to explain the circumstances under which his name had got to be on the list of noisemakers. I trembled. I did not know how it got there. I told him I had not seen it.

"Lie down!" he roared before canning [sic] me numerous times. "Who wrote this?" he shouted.

"Somebody else should have done it, not me," I pleaded -- prompting him to launch a major offensive against the whole class.

He asked everybody to write on the blackboard so that he could detect the matching handwriting. But it did not help find the culprit.

"You will reveal the person who wrote it," he cursed and ordered us to lie down in a row. The first person in the line caned the rest of the class and went down at the extreme end after finishing. The second and the third did the same.

The man stood and watched as we caned ourselves crazy.

When the seventh person was about to take his turn, my immediate neighbour mumbled something like he suspected some fellow named Opio to have done it, because he saw him stand near my desk when we were out for lunch. I prompted him to put up his hand and say it. He obliged and when the culprit was quizzed, he admitted having done it.

The teacher turned beastly, unleashing hot canes on Opio's butt as the rest of the class watched in fright. The cruelty did it. It restored sanity in the madhouse.

2003 The Monitor Publications

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