Sometimes we might have to pay the price for trying to enforce discipline, which the leadership role invariably demands, reports SIMON MWALE.
The incident described here is real but names have been fictionalised.Read on…
MATTEO was a hefty, soft spoken pupil. If you met him for the first time, you would be excused for thinking that he was someone very close to the pulpit or someone who ought to have been or should be a prelate.
But behind that meek and humble façade was a dreaded and dangerous bully whose reputation for beating up those who had wrongly or rightly crossed his path or annoyed him had spread far and wide in Chipata.
Matteo was a pupil at Katopola Primary School where I received my primary education.
One of the many rules of the school, a co-education boarding and day school, was that day pupils were not allowed on the premises of the school in the evening. If anyone one was found, they were reported to a captain or better still to the head boy for breaking the rule and subsequent punishment.
Sometimes the day pupils sneaked in and out of the premises in the evening to see their girlfriends without being reported. And sometimes, to escape notice, these boys would pre arrange with their girlfriends to come out of the dormitories between 18:00 and 19:00 hours and meet at appointed rendezvous on the precinct of the school in the near-by bushes.
At times they would ask their fellow boys who were boarders to go and call certain girls from the dormitories for them. Now, girls’ dormitories were strictly out of bounds in the evening even for the boarders. It was risky to visit and boys who did that, risked being punished if they were detected.
But they always found a way around the restrictions and it was rare for a boarder to be caught napping. I was very young then and, because of my upbringing inculcated in me by my parents to obey, even fear school rules, I always refused to be an errand boy for the mischievous day scholars.
One evening, in 1966, Matteo came to school in the evening to see his girlfriend. Of course, he tried to sneak in without notice but he was not so lucky. Someone spotted him and decided to report him straight to the school head boy Gomezyani.
Gomezyani was a stocky, heavily muscled man who, when told about Matteo’s unwelcome presence on school premises, immediately swung into action. He asked the informer where exactly the defiant Matteo was and he pointed to the direction the guy was, while leading the way.
A few of us who were nearby when the report was being made followed the informer and the head boy to the place where Matteo was hiding and found him with his girl. Upon sensing trouble, the girl extricated herself from her man and escaped, but Matteo remained cool, unmoved.
“What are you doing here Matteo at this time?” asked the head boy, his voice raised.
“Nothing,” was Matteo’s reply.
“You’re doing nothing? What about that girl who has run away from you.
What were you doing with her?”
“It’s none of your business,” Matteo retorted.
“It’s none of my business? Don’t you know the rules of the school? You are not allowed to be on the premises this time of day. Don’t you know that?” the head boy’s anger was rising.
“I know. But I’m already here and so what?” Matteo replied cheekily.
“Okay, will you please leave the premises now!” ordered the head boy gesturing and somehow controlling his building up angst.
But Matteo was not leaving or even considering leaving. He kept quiet as if the head boy was addressing a tree. By now a small crowd had gathered at the scene, eager to see what would happen.
“Matteo, I order you to leave now or I will force you to do so!”Gomezyani said incensed.
But Matteo was aloof. Some of the pupils decided to join in and
persuaded Matteo to leave reminding him that he risked severe punishment if he continued to be stubborn, but this did not move him either.
Finally, the head boy had had enough and he had to show the authority vested in him by authorities and threatened, “Matteo, I’m counting on to five and if you don’t move, you will see what I will do to you!”
“One, two, three, four, five”
“Do what you want,” Matteo dared the head boy after the count of five.
“Matteo, I will beat you now!” the head boy snapped as he advanced towards his arrogant foe.
“You can’t beat me…you…”
The head boy came out first and threw a punch, which Danny ducked and he countered with his own which landed. The fight was properly underway.
Gomezyani stepped back a little and jumped in the air before lunging at his adversary with a flying kick which caught Matteo on the side.
Matteo crouched; arms raised and launched his own offensive.
In no time it was a back and forth affair with the combatants trading bombs, kicks, shoves and all. Although it was dark, the little light from a near -by dormitory made it possible to target each other.Strangely, none of us onlookers tried to separate the two as the thud of vicious blows rang out.
As the fight progressed, we noticed that the head boy started spitting blood from the mouth, while his nemesis, appeared to be unhurt. The fight was so vicious that if it was a boxing match it would have been stopped in favour of Matteo.
And that’s what happened. Energy sapped, we noticed that the head boy started retreating. Matteo, for his part, kept cool and did not follow him to finish the job. Soon, the head boy started walking back to his dormitory.
We followed him and what we saw under the light was the sight of a sorry and soundly beaten man. His head was badly swollen, lips cut and blood was still oozing from the nose. Was being head boy worth this price? The head boy could have been beaten to death. Had he known, the best he could have done was to wait and report Matteo to the school authorities for trespassing instead of engaging in a brutal fight.
It took a whole week for the head boy to recover from the rout in which he could have lost his precious life. What happened to Matteo after this incident? You guessed it-he was expelled. There’s a price for leadership. The thing is, we should weigh all possible options before settling for the extreme.
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