I am the elephant in this room. There used to be two of us. He was the bigger one, but he’s no longer here. Gunn was his name, Mr. William Gunn. He was a proper English man but he got tired of being one of the elephants in this room. We disagreed on many things but we upheld mutual vows to agree on the most important things. Because … well, you know … when two elephants fight, it’s the ground that suffers, and we were careful not to make this ground suffer- at least, not then.
I teach English here. Here, is this sham of an institution they call Mekoyeya Senior High School. I have been teaching here for two years but it feels like twenty already. My colleagues are tired of me; the older teachers especially. But that’s okay because the feeling is mutual. I am ridiculed because I am a returnee and because I flaunt my borrowed English work ethic; they hate me because I embarrass them by simply being diligent at my job. They blame me for the poor performance of students in their courses; they complain that all the kids ever do is read English Literature. I have been summoned by the headmistress too many times already, but she can’t be bothered with pertinent school issues, most especially issues that attempt to present me as culprit.
‘Madam’, as we call her, smiles at me as I enter her office for today’s summons. I fancy she sometimes frets over the fact that I don’t receive the occupational-pampering I deserve. Between me and her however, we know she can’t afford me and doesn’t try to. As far as I’m concerned, she’s getting the better end of the deal with my continuous stay here. Her questions always bare the same level of irrelevance: “Are you feeling fine, Mr. Blankson?” “Do you miss London?” I briskly dispatch my answers in witty little one-liners that give her the giggles. This convinces her of my well-being, for a jovial man is easily assumed to be far from discomfort. Madam happily discharges me and I swagger placidly out of her office.
Right now, I sit in the staff room enduring my umpteenth meeting. Mr. Amponsah, the Geography teacher, as routine demands, is absent. His eternal excuse is that he’s always on impromptu cartographic expeditions to some remote part of Ghana. Mrs. Kplanyi is as usual filing away at her nails. I have always wondered which chapter of her Christian Religious Studies teaching guidebook permits this uncouthness. Mr. Sai has his nose dipped in today’s issue of The Patriot. I look to his lap and find a neatly folded issue of The Daily Query resting there. Hopefully, he’ll get no more than two periods to preach his bi-polar politics in Government class today. Mr. Oklu sits in his usual corner, employing his twisted calculus to historical records of winning lottery numbers in newsprint. The rest of my colleagues are strewn across the room. They are in a very casual mood and pay some measure of attention to proceedings. Ms. Yeboah, as usual, in her second-hand formalities, chairs the meeting. “Is there anything else?” she asks, in her sweet alto.
“Yes!” Mr. Acquah bellows. He clears his throat excessively before he proceeds. Oblivious to his constant abuse of R’s and L’s in English words, he fancies himself the most learned among us, and naturally plays the spokesman role.
“We want to know what measures have been exproited on our formar compraints to Madam.”
The little crowd stirs alive again at the sound of this. I observe them from my seat purposefully situated behind them.
“I beg your pardon. What formal complaints?” Ms. Yeboah asks bravely. She feigns ignorance, but she does not deter Acquah.
“We formarry asked you to inform Madam how the students have been indoctrialized and have conspilated with some high ortholity to grow post-harvest losses on the academic farmlands of our courses.”
Some voices murmur in admiration. Even Mr. Sai and Mr. Oklu take a few seconds off to revere Acquah’s eloquence with a smirk and a mumble of praise.
“Ohh that one?” Ms. Yeboah finally succumbs, “Ermm…the headmistress has promised to address the issue in due time. Ermm…It is high on her priority list. ”
She did not have to conjure this faux response but I reckon she fell under the weight of Acquah’s unrecognized treason against English expression. I smirk in disgust.
They start to murmur a bit louder now. Acquah is quick on his feet again; ever the timely spokesman.
“We are tired of being on pliority list or wharrever! We want response NOW!!”
The slightly incensed crowd of teachers now roar into applause and tiny whistles of approval. Acquah has yet succeeded in whipping them up into adolescent frenzy. I smile at this signal, and get up to leave the room. Nobody calls for me, not even Ms. Yeboah, who surely must have noticed the elephant getting out of the room. I sneak out and back to my single-room to check on my luggage a final time. I draw my cellphone from my pocket and dial Paa-T’s number.
Paa-T asks no questions on my departure trip. He simply whistles to the high-life tunes blaring from his new car radio. He really doesn’t know enough, to feel sympathy for the students I’m leaving behind the tinted glass at the back of his brand-new taxi. Paa-T doesn’t know which chapter of Treasure Island the Form One students were supposed to read this week. He doesn’t know that I left the last compilation of haiku poems from the Form Two class in my pigeon hole. Even I do not know whether any student in the Form Three class will ever be taught that Ola Rotimi’s ‘The Gods Are Not To Blame’ is an African rendition of ‘Oedipus Complex’. It all matters little to me now. I will trumpet some more elsewhere.