SOS Nkhata Bay Secondary School

This week we, Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66, MEGA-1 and leader of delegation, Al Hajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela and I are in Nkhata Bay.

Our colleague, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD) has been recalled to duty as a specialist arresting consultant. His mission is to comb the earth, cloudy skies, the deep sea, the shallow wells, the pit latrines, and graveyards to find JB and bring her in handcuffs to Malawi to face the music. We hear the warrant of arrest was issued in February this year for a crime that was committed four years ago. Everybody who matters, particularly the Chief Arresting Authority, claims they had information about her guilt and already found her guilty and know where she is.  Announcing a warrant of arrest that is six months old sounds child-like, but Nganga disagrees and we wish him well. Akadye money. We have just advised him to seek the assistance of the Malawi Young Pioneers, some of whom are now in government, on how to abduct a wanted person from anywhere in the world. Ask Vera Chirwa.

So far, so good. Here in Nkhata Bay, home to the Sisya, Singini, Nyaluwanga, Tonga, Tumbuka, Europeans, Americans, Asians, Indians, Chewa, Chinese,Yao, and Ngoni,  everything is set for  the launch of the Nkhata Bay – Tonga Heritage.

Yesterday we went to Chombe, where the real and only Chombi Tea was planted and manufactured and export to the entire world when Malawi was Malawi.   On our way back we passed by my former school, Nkhata Bay Secondary School, located on the western outskirts of the Vizara Rubber Plantation at Banga.  The school is still proudly called Nkhaboss, an acronym for Nkhata Bay Boys Secondary school. Some workers are still there.  The tangerine and banana orchard is still there. The basketball, football, and volley pitches are still there. The hostels are still there and sturdy enough to last the next one hundred years.

Thirty years is a long time. The Marianists who used to look after the school, give us beef, mattresses and pray for us, were gone. Gone, too, were the ceiling boards, window panes, and the demonstration gear in the geography, biology and physical science laboratories. Gone, too, was the mosquito gauze that protected us from mosquito bites. Gone, too, were most of the metal double deck beds.

Since its inception, Nkhaboss has produced some of the best lawyers, bankers, politicians, writers, journalists, cartographers, mathematicians,   teachers, pastors, muftis, reverends, and fathers.   But Nkhaboss is falling; Nkhaboss is crumbling; Nkhaboss is dying; Nkhaboss is falling apart.  An entire cultural institution, a national treasure, is collapsing.

As we went round, Jean-Philippe took photos of the current state of the school. Instead of asking the school administrators, he asked me why such a popular school had been left to dilapidate and collapse.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“Why don’t you and your fellow alumni come together, raise funds, and save your Alma meter?”

“There are people paid to manage education and repair schools in this country.”

“That sounds selfish,” Jean-Philippe said, as other delegation members nodded.

“Sorry. I already contribute through my tax every month. I will not contribute anything more until and unless someone explains why we build new schools when we can’t look after what we already have.”

When we were through with seeing the school, we drove down to Nkhata Bay town centre to buy some fuel because Chinthechi has no official fuel filling station. After buying the fuel we drove up and down the rolling hills to see my relatives at Unyemba.

“Uyu ndiyu Jini-filipu?”  One of my young cousins, Osman,  asked in Chitonga.

“Correct. This is Jean-Philippe.”

“He must be rich,” my cousin went on.

“Why?”

“Ndi mzungu.”

I ignored him and went on to introduce Jean-Philippe to my other relatives.

“What do you mean this is your father? I thought you said your father died.”

“He is my father’s young brother.”

“He is your uncle, then.”

“No.  An uncle is a brother to one’s mother.”

“And what do you call a sister to your father?”

“Ambuya.”

“And your grandparents?”

“Ambuya.”

“ I am confused, too,” said Native Authority Mandela. n

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