Thursday, June 3, 2010


I was in presence of a grand defeat today. 

Francisco John – a stellar student, well-behaved, class monitor, and most of all, friendly – was finishing up his exam and on his way out.  Madam Mambo – an interesting figure, rarely enters class to teach, flamboyant, and noticeably in love with enforcing discipline – was going to various classes to cut the hairs of students that were too long.  This is in fact a rather odd disciplinary rule, since all Tanzanians have woolly hair, meaning that they get natural afros, and that their hairs are rarely 1cm away from their scalp.  Just as the two met at the door, a tussle began.  Mambo, using her large body and equally loud voice, told him to sit so that she could cut his hair.  He, in response, tried to sweet talk his way, although his hands were in great motion to deter the attacking scissors of Mambo.  The tussle intensified, and it was as if a malicious knight and a noble peasant were in a clash that would eventually be the village’s legendary gossip.  But to no avail, Francisco succumbed to the mighty force of discipline and the giant asymmetry of teacher-student relation, and did as he was told.  As ordered, he knelt with one knee on the ground, but he also had his head bowed, his right hand holding on to a table, and his left covering his eyes.  It wasn’t so obvious at first but eventually it was clear that he was crying, but in such silence that he seemed more like a statue titled: the crying man.  The smell of his defeat spread throughout the class, and the students were in awe of this great battle that was eventually lost by their village man.  Mambo left the classroom, and Francisco remained a statue despite the condolences from his fellows who narrowly escaped Mambo only because Francisco was an unlucky sacrifice.

I let all this happen because the work of discipline does not belong to me.  I have neither the skills nor the will.  While I believe it is not my right to intervene, I wish that Mambo had just let him go and just teach all the damn classes she’s supposed to.

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