An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony
I am principal of a mission boarding school for wayward boys. Those who cannot continue in the formal system find themselves in my school.
Applicants sit a mandatory entry test on basic literacy and numeracy. Then the academic committee and I do the selection based on scores.
In school, my students are taught normal academic subjects. But unlike their peers in the formal education system, they get to learn a vocational trade. Currently my school offers courses in carpentry, metal fabrication and motor mechanics.
It’s a small set up with around 200 students and 14 full time teachers plus me and my deputy.
My deputy, Missus Boone, is a strong-willed, no nonsense woman. She has made it her mission to make sure all the boys who come into this school go out morally upright, loving work, skilled and intelligent. Most importantly, they must be respectful and courteous to females.
The school routine involves study and lesson time, practical workshops, clubs, work such as agriculture and mess duty and devotion and prayer.
It’s a holistic approach to education to get these boys on the right path to become leaders and responsible men in society.
The school sailed smoothly in the first half of the year with just minor problems here and there that my trusted deputy and I handled.
There was a case of fighting at the back of the carpentry workshop that the deputy sorted out, disciplining the concerned students. Both signed their first warning form, there’s only two, a third offence means termination.
Teachers raised a concern that the school should employ a full time counsellor or chaplain. This I noted for discussion at the next school board meeting.
The teachers’ representative told me some teachers were complaining about students not putting enough effort into their tests and assignments. I also noted that. I will talk to the students during my career and guidance sessions with them.
Then today when deputy principal brought two very frightened students into my office saying the night study duty teacher caught them hunting geckoes at the back of the classroom near the fluorescent light.
“Sir, I must also inform you that during the weekend on my routine walk around the classrooms….” the deputy paused and looked at the two frightened young men. “I came across two dead geckoes. I suspect these two culprits are responsible.”
I turned to the two boys. “OK, I want some answers concerning, what again, Missus Boone?”
“Gecko hunting, sir.”
I looked at the bowed heads of the suspected gecko hunters. “Gentlemen, do you know what is interesting about geckoes?”
No response. Heads bowed. I can sense Missus Boone is irritated.
“Can you tell me something about geckoes that we humans cannot understand? A talent that God gave only to them?”
There’s one mystery about geckoes that intrigues me. I wonder how they come to exist in a newly built house. Where do they come from?
Whether you build in the bush, on the coast, in a city, on the mountain, in an isolated or inhabited palace or shack; after completing your house, you’ll see geckoes darting around. It’s a mystery.
I wondered if these two kids have an explanation.
I looked at them.
No response. Heads bowed. Missus Boone cleared her throat.
“Ah, if you may excuse my interruption, sir,’ Missus Boone said, “I would like to bring to your attention reports I received from teachers before bringing these two fools.”
“OK, go ahead, Missus Boone, I’m listening.” I leaned back on my chair with both hands on the arm rest.
“The teachers informed me that last night the gecko hunters with their crude catapults took shots at the geckoes as the geckoes were preying on insects attracted to the fluorescent light.”
“I was also informed by the cooks that they found dead geckoes in the haus kuk area. They informed me that this was the work of the gecko hunters.”
“Sir, I believe that gecko hunting in the school has got out of hand.”
“OK,” I looked at the two students. “We all heard what Missus Boone had to say. Thank you Missus Boone for your report. You two are in a very tight position. You have been caught red handed. I believe your catapults have been confiscated.” I turned to Missus Boone to confirm this assumption.
“So do you two admit you are part of a group that has been causing havoc in the school by hunting geckoes?” I awaited their response.
There was none. Heads down. Bodies shaking slightly. Sweat forming.
“Hey! I am waiting for your response! Yes or no!” I raised my voice.
For the first time both heads now raised. Bodies still shaking. Sweat glistening on brows. Voices cracked and dry.
“OK, so you have admitted to this charge. I will put everything back to Missus Boone who will decide the best disciplinary measures to take.” I looked at Missus Boone.
She nodded again.
“Unless the deputy principal has something to say I will ask you to wait for her outside. OK, you are dismissed.
“And, Missus Boone, called a general school assembly tomorrow after lessons. I want us to talk to the students about this unproductive pastime.
“Tomorrow, gecko hunting will be made illegal in this school. We are going to ban gecko hunting for good,” I finished.
A work of fiction not based on real people or events although gecko hunting actually happened when I was in high school