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I speak of three!

Sun, 28 Aug 2016 Source: Kobina Ansah

Let me share with you a story that happened in a senior high school. In this school, the teachers were up to task. The prefects were, too. The students had utter respect for authority. The headmaster, thus, had ample time to concentrate on his core duties because of the fear of authourity instilled in the entire student populace.

One day… three students threatened the lives of the prefects. Well… it wasn’t the first of its kind. It had happened before. Some prefects had actually been killed before following speculations that they had not carried out their duties fairly. Subsequently, others had made similar threatening comments about them.

This time, however, they weren’t ready to spare the rod. They had seen and read what had happened before and wanted to set a grave example!

They summoned the three. They were known to spew gibberish. After all, they were related to the headmaster. It was literally their school, they thought. They could say anything and go scot free.

They feigned regret. It wasn’t enough to assuage the prefects. They gave their verdict. The three were to stay out of class for four weeks weeding with blunt machetes! The three gaped. Four what!? Blunt machetes!? This was unthinkable to them!

Their classmates heard about the grave punishment. They began to cite examples of others who had made similar threats that had been glossed over. Others took an opportunity to take a swipe at the prefects. They called them names. They started agitations.

They began a petition signing insisting that no one could be gagged. They stressed on the fact that everyone had the freedom to say whatever they wanted to.

Little did they know that one’s freedom ended where another’s did begin. Little did they know that one was promised freedom of speech… but not freedom after speech. They did not know that a threat on the lives of their prefects was such an unpardonable offence to commit.

Well… the agitations rippled on to other classes. They began signing the petition. Parents of the three came in to press the headmaster to waive the punishment. Try as much as the headmaster could, the pressure to succumb kept mounting. Some parents had even threatened to have him removed from office!

He thought. And thought. And thought. To give in or not to? Was the punishment too harsh? Was the punishment exemplary enough to curb useless talk? Well… he knew any decision he took was going to either go against or in his favour. Fact is, not taking a decision at all was a decision in itself.

There was his quest to stay in power in one hand and… respect for the prefects in the other. He had to sacrifice one. Freeing the three literally meant sacrificing the latter. Not freeing them literally meant sacrificing the former. Well… maybe… he didn’t know sacrificing the latter may cost him more. Uncomfortable truth is… he was because the prefects were.

After a week of serving their punishment, the headmaster called the shots. He called for the three to be relieved of their punishment and apologised on their behalf! Their friends rejoiced. They hailed them as heroes who had resisted oppression. Others even compared them to the Mandelas and Martin Luther Kings.

On the other hand, the prefects felt insulted. The headmaster’s apology wasn’t enough. There was a better way he could deal with the issue without staining their power, they thought. And… that better way was to allow the three to serve their punishment deservedly.

Well… it was the prerogative of the headmaster. He reserved the rights to nullify the powers of whoever. Others could say all they wanted to. It was the least of his worries.

Guess what. A few months later, some teachers were threatened by another crop of students. The prefects watched on… unconcerned. If their lives didn’t matter, others’ didn’t matter either.

When the headmaster dared to dismiss the culprits, they referred to the earlier case of the three who only weeded for a week. When the headmaster decided to confer with the prefects as to what could be done to restore calm as the teachers had threatened to quit teaching if nothing was done to these unscrupulous students, they (the prefects) didn’t care much. After all, just like he could waive their power, he could run the school on his own.

As if that was enough, another crop of students threatened his wife. This time the threat was closer to him than he ever thought. “Where on Earth are the prefects to put these students in check!?” he screamed.

Well… they were learning. They wanted to just pass their exams and leave. They didn’t want to interfere in the powers

Columnist: Kobina Ansah