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A young student had to face punishment because he had spoken against the corrupt principal. Stanslaus tells us about the deep-rooted corruption in schools in Tanzania. A Different Truths exclusive for the Special Feature on Africa. 

In 1992, I was in form five at Tosamaganga Secondary School and there was a crisis between students and the teachers who were in the training from Mkwawa Teaching College (now is Mkwawa University College of Education) at the time. The headmaster of Tosamaganga’s Secondary School used this opportunity to expel two students one was form six and another form five.

A form five student was familiar with one of the teachers who came to practice because they had come from one place. One day, while walking in the school compound the form five students met with these teachers. He greeted them and they were talking about different topics and sometimes jokes. One of the teachers did not like it and began to attack the form five student with fists and kicks. Then the form five reported to his brother and so that the news spread so quickly among all students and led a big deal that led the headmaster to interfere in that day. After a week, they were expelled from school without any explanation.

The headmaster used this opportunity to intimidate the students so that they did not have the courage to speak about the real situation that was bad at school. The food was not fit for human consultation. They were complaining. And he told them that school is not a place for luxury. The headmaster’s action was reported to the radio programme, known as Mikingamo. It was aired in Radio Tanzania Dar Es Salaam (RTD). The programme was receiving complaints against Tanzanians, who had been abusing power, were corrupt and were missing public property for their personal benefit.

The headmaster had accumulated resources from the money that the government had put for the use of students. He inflicted ill health on students by giving food that was neither fit for human consumption nor for animals.

When the school council day came, I asked a question to the Headmaster. What were the basic reasons for you to expel the two students? By giving an example there are big and medium-size fish and these big fish eat small fish and medium fish do not help the small fish. The amazing thing, he said, he did not have the answer to that question and that he would respond to it another day when he was prepared.

One week later on Friday, during the inspection of hygiene, a discipline master came to inspect our dormitory. When he entered our room he came directly to me and the first question he asked me was, “Are you Stanslaus Kyando?” I replied, “Yes.” Have you come from Songea Boys Secondary School? I affirmed. He then told me that after completion of the inspection, I must report at his office.

I went to the discipline master’s office. He was waiting for me. He then informed the headmaster that I was already in his office. The headmaster came and brought me to the teacher’s office. He asked the teachers, who were there if any teacher knew that I was guilty then he has to report it to him. One of the teachers said that he found me outside the school at a time when I had to be at school. But he had already punished me for being guilty.

From there, the headmaster master took me to his office. He gave me papers to write why I had asked him that question. And that I have to help him to explain the reasons why he had expelled the students so that he could give a response to the school council. I asked him a question, “Do you want me to write this information, now, in your office or to write it in the dormitory. He told, “Go to the dormitory and write it down. Bring it back at noon bring.” So I left for the dormitory. I slept until eleven o’clock in the morning. I got up and had a shower.

At twelve o’clock in the afternoon, I went straight to the headmaster’s office. He was waiting for me. He asked, “Have you done my work?” I thought very deeply but I could not get the right points, so I decided to bring back the papers that you gave me. I told him, “Guided with your wisdom, whatever you decide to do with me is your wish. I am ready.”

He replied, “I do not mean to take any action. I will give you enough time, even if it took a year, it is okay for me. What I want from you is to bring back written papers. Go to the class, now.” I went to the dormitory. I took my exercises books and went to the class. And life continued as usual.

It was Wednesday, 31st March 1992, during the lunch break all students came out of the classes. They were waiting for the bell to ring to go to the mess to get food. But, that day everything went wrong. Some of our colleagues went to the mess to know what was going on because even after an hour the bell had not rung. The situation was very bad. The children were suffering the pangs of hunger. The leaders contacted the second master to let him know that food was mixed with sand. But, he replied, “We cannot cook another batch of food because we have the same stock in our store. Go and give your fellow students the food.” The news spread quickly. No one went to the mess to eat that food. That afternoon we were hungry and had stayed empty stomach. The same materials were used to prepare dinner.

At six o’clock in the evening, the students went to see the second master at his home. He was not good at handling challenges. He lacked sweet spoken words too. Instead of solving the problems he set fire on the bush and violence erupted that night. The Field Force Unit was informed. They came. Many students had fled and slept in the mountains, surrounding the school. We decided to lie low until morning as we had prepared to go and see the Regional Commissioner at Iringa Headquarter. We were surrounded by soldiers and advised to follow the instructions in order to maintain peace and tranquillity. We really obeyed and receive the order and we told them our intention was to see the Regional Commission. They said that he had already received the information and that he was coming with his committee, including the Regional Health Officer, to examine the food. The first thing was to examine food.

The findings were out. The Regional Health Officer said, “THE FOOD IS NOT FIT HUMAN CONSUMPTION.” The leaders urged us to go back to our classes because they had heard our complaints. They would find a solution. Cheerfully, we returned to classes and the delicious food was cooked. The leaders began to go around the school compound and inspect the school infrastructures. Some of the buildings had been destroyed, causing great damage.

It was Tuesday, 6th April 1992, about eleven o’clock in the morning, the emergency bell rang. All the students assembled in the school hall. When we were inside the hall, we saw some soldiers came and surrounded the hall. The headmaster stood up and opened a session and introduced the leaders who came there including an Education Commissioner from the Ministry of Education and Culture and others.

The Education Commissioner was the one who was leading the session. He said a few words. And later on he began to mention some of the students’ names and asked them to step forward. Everyone who heard their names went forward. I was one of them. We were around forty students. The Education Commissioner handed over letters to us, addressed to our parents or guardians. He told us that he had begun to treat the ulcers. But, if the ulcers healed, the scars remained. Go to your dormitory and pack your luggage and take it to the police truck. We went to the dormitory with the rooms leaders. In fact, we took our stuff present in the rooms but we did not take anything which belonged to our fellow students. We took our luggage on the police truck, under heavy guard. We were treated as captives or robbers and we were escorted and last point, the Iringa Police Station. We were given our tickets. All of us were allowed to leave.

Basically, we did not know what had happened at the meeting, until we learned that the headmaster had been terminated from his post and was transferred to Mkwawa Teaching College. And more investigations were against him.

When I arrive home, I gave the letter to my guardians. They were very angry with me when they read letter and learned that I was suspended from school. They did not give me a chance to explain what had happened. I was chased like a dog.

 On Tuesday, 04th May 1992, I came to school with other students who were suspended to meet with the school board. From 9 o’clock in the morning, one by one we entered the office. I was the first to enter in the office with my guardian. They told me that I break the front glass of school truck and the door of school shop. I denied the allegations.

They told me that your fellow students had mentioned your name. I asked them to bring those students, who saw me as witnesses. But they refused. So it was mistake to ask them to prove that allegation. They expelled me from the school.

One woman, who was family friend of my cousin’s family, living near Tosamaganga Secondary School, went to school to find out why I was expelled. She met with one teacher who was in the school board. The teacher said to her that I had missed the right person to guide me, when I was suspended. The parents and guardians of students who were suspended came to school to know the reasons why their children had been suspended from school. We told them that their children were suspended for short time and they would be needed by the school board for further discussions. They wanted to know what our children should do when we returned to the school board. They do not need to speak many words but to apologize because there was a disastrous outcome whether they had committed any mistake or not. We suspended them because on Wednesday 31st March 1992 they were at school. We know that everyone participated. They would be called by the school board for discussion. But his guardian did not come. I am very sorry he missed the right person.

Further, I had made the mistake to ask them to prove the allegations instead of asking for forgiveness. And it was the last time for me being at school and the beginning of a long journey and difficult time of self-reliance. My dream for learning Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics (PCM) was over.

The new headmaster changed the quality of life at Tosamagang Secondary School and it became better, safer and an efficient part of the study.  Our colleagues told us that they are currently enjoying the good life of staying and studying there because justice and peace were respected by school leadership.

©Stanslaus Kyando 

Photos from the Internet

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