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Lost Paradise

By Chika Onuoha (Nigeria)


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Chika Onuoha, 2005

Nduka was devastated by the whole thing. That evening he was sitting on a low wooden stool under a tree shade in front of his house. He looked quite agitated, his face contracting into small creases. Keku was inside the house. He too was depressed. But his own case could not be compared with that of Nduka, his father upon whose shoulders the burden of the entire land of Amarako was now resting. To the people Central School, Amarako, was now a defiled place. The children had been warned by their parents to keep away from the school premises, as though the place was now afflicted with a highly lethal plague. These parents would not allow their children to play with fire. This was really a difficulty period for everyone. Could it be that the earlier prophecy would no longer be fulfilled? Was education about to elude Keku and all the children of Amarakoland? Keku had asked himself several different questions on this disturbing issue with no answers coming forth. Frustration and despair were now beginning to eclipse his future - that great and serene future which was already unfolding before him as he clung to education. While pondering about the whole meaning of this entire unsettling affair, Nduka’s son remained silent, yet no words of comfort came. He could no longer visualize Teacher Wakamba standing before the class pointing a short stick at the blackboard to make a point. Nor could he any longer see the torchlight of hope beaming in the direction of the poor people of Amarako. Was it not the same Teacher Wakamba who said the darkness that surrounded the hills would not last forever? Was he not the same man who had proved to be the melting point between the people’s wretched past and the new dawn of happiness and prosperity? He had said he would rise and fall with the land. But now, things had fallen apart. And perhaps, the real darkness would soon envelope the whole land. Keku tried to think about many things at the same. His head ached. He threw himself on the bed and began to weep silently.

His father called him. Keku answered from inside the house. His voice was gloomy. Nduka was fully aware that the news had equally dealt a devastating blow to his son. Keku came out. His face was dull and wet. Nduka deliberately refused to ask him what was wrong. ‘Where have you been?’ he rather asked him.
‘Inside the room,’ Keku said slowly bending his head towards the ground.

Nduka remained silent for a while, as though he was afraid of telling Keku anything. ‘Well, you will not go to that school again. Life is more important than education.’ Somehow, Keku was not surprised to hear that from his father. It was what other parents had told their children. But as he stood there gazing steadily at the earth that stretched out before his feet, the reality of the moment descended heavily on him. Hot tears flows freely down his tiny cheeks. He pulled his shirt and wiped his face. ‘Why are you crying?’ Nduka asked him. More tears flowed down freely. ‘You’ll be foolish to cry. Don’t you know anything? Your school is no longer safe. I don’t want to be blamed at last.’ Having said that, Nduka looked away and kept dumb for sometime. He tapped his right foot twice on the ground and then fingered his head gingerly. He then looked at Keku and told him, ‘You can go.’

Nduka was troubled. He looked down and began to think about many things. First, he had thought about a new school for his son. The school at Ulasi, the neighboring village, did not have enough teachers. This was a well-known situation as many parents from that area had besieged Amarako at the beginning of the year to register their children in Primary One. He remembered Bishop Shanahan School. But some reasons had made him cancel the idea almost immediately it sprang up in his mind.

The school was far. Children who went there, went by taxi every morning. Nduka did not fancy that idea. And the exorbitant fees charged there had made it a school for children from only rich homes. But this was contrary to the vision of the European missionaries who founded the school so many years ago. When Nduka’s thoughts finally settled on Teacher Wakamba, he heaved a frenzied sigh and swayed his head persistently in the air. His feelings towards Teacher Wakamba now was a mixture of disappointment and pity. As the village head, everyone knew how hard he had worked in ensuring that Teacher Wakamba was brought to Central School, Amarako a couple of years ago. Teacher Wakamba had come to the school when all hope of getting a replacement for Mr. Uzuanya, the former headmaster who went on retirement, was lost. It was Keku’s father, in his capacity as the village head of Amarako that initiated and signed the letter that was sent to the State Primary Education Management Board calling on the government to come to the rescue of Amarako people by sending them a new headmaster. He once also led a delegation of some very influential Amarako men to the city to press further their demand. And on the day Nduka broke the news about the coming of a new headmaster to their school, the land of Amarako was lit with an unprecedented celebration as their long period of thirst had been finally quenched. But today, those happy days were over, not even a single trace remained on people’s minds. And Nduka had found himself at the center of the people’s predicament. He had become a victim of his own goodwill or rather, responsibility. When he walked round the village, all he saw was anger on the faces of the people. This gnawed at his peace of mind.


Keku was very anxious. After food that night he asked his father, ‘Will I stop school, father?’

‘No, my son. You will go to school.’

‘Which school, father?’

‘Bishop Shanahan School,’ Nduka said without thinking. He did not want to appear irresponsible before his son. ‘Oh, father. Thank you, father!’ Keku said, jumping up in excitement. Nduka turned and looked at him as though he was contemplating withdrawing his words. Then he said slowly, ‘I hope you will do well there.’

‘I will, father.’

Keku ran to the Kitchen to break the news to his mother. She was still in the kitchen arranging things. Inside her, she had never supported the idea of sending her son to a new school, particularly Bishop Shanahan School where she heard cases of witchcraft activities had been reported in recent times. She believed the school was not safe as well. But a woman was expected to obey her husband’s orders blindly, especially in matters like this. Keku announced to his mother, ‘Father said I will be going to the Bishop Shanahan School.’

‘Is that so?’ his mother rather asked, slowly without looking up. And her countenance did not change. But that did not bother Keku. He ran out clapping his hands over his head.

When he went to bed that night, happiness could not let him sleep. Tomorrow, he would move from one hut to another to announce to his friends that he would be going to the Bishop Shanahan School. Maybe, some of the children would be taken there too, he thought. He wondered where those whose parents would no be able to get them into Bishop Shanahan School would go. Well, that was left for them. In a way, it saddened him to think that perhaps they might not join him. Anyway, all he was now thinking about was concerning himself. He thought about the new boys and girls he would meet at this new school. They would be children from different places and wealthy backgrounds. He had heard much about the school. People said they had very strict teachers. He wondered if there would be someone like Teacher Wakamba there.


It was the beginning of a new academic year. Under the scrutinizing eyes of the teachers, the children had to move around the school compound picking up dead leaves and pieces of tree branches that littered the whole place that morning. Keku’s face was shining with excitement as he and other children walked towards the big hole made behind the school hall where they dropped all the rubbish they had picked up. ‘Keku, you are so happy this morning. I know why,’ a boy teased him.


‘Because you will be in a new class today.’

‘And you too. Aren’t you happy?’

‘I will be in Primary Four A,’ the boy hinted at Keku, almost in a whisper.

‘I will be in Primary Four B,’ Keku told the boy.

The two classes were only separated by big, hardboard which was as high as the walls of the classroom. Soon the bell rang and the children ran into their classes. A few boys and girls from Ulasi had also joined Keku’s class. They were equally children with hopes and visions. Education was the only determining factor for whatever future one desired. One day in class, Keku had found himself talking with one of the boys from the neighboring village. ‘Many of your people are joining our school’ Keku observed. ‘Yes. It’s because we don’t have enough teachers there. And our school halls are falling,’ the boy said helplessly.

‘I hope they will fix things there soon,’ Keku said looking at the boy sympathetically.

‘I pray so.’

‘Would you like to be a teacher?’ Keku asked the boy without knowing what prompted him to ask the question. The boy looked at him and said, ‘No, I would like to be a policeman.’

‘But people say policemen are corrupt. Is that true?’ Keku observed. He wanted to be sure.

‘That is not true. Well, I don’t know. What about you; would you like to be a teacher?’ the boy asked Keku.

‘Yes, so that I will be popular, like Teacher Wakamba,’ Keku answered proudly.


Keku had gone through the first and second terms of the academic session . In about two years, he would be concluding his primary education. Nothing gladdened his heart like the realization that he was gradually acquiring learning. Teacher Wakamba had told the children time without number that education was the only key to a great future. A boy ran into the class and alerted everyone, ‘Teacher Wakamba is coming!’ The children scrambled to their seats and silence immediately settled in the class. Teacher Wakamba was the new headmaster. And he taught Primary Four B, Keku’s class, the English Language. He had come from the city. That he could abandon the pleasure and luxury of township life and come to live in Amarako, an interior and poverty-stricken village, was seen as a miracle by everybody. The truth was that there was actually nothing in Amarako village that would have attracted him. Except for the green vegetation that adorned the irregular landscape and, of course, the beautiful rolling hills that surrounded the entire land, and seemed to separate the village from the rest of the world, there was no other good thing that could be associated with the village. And maybe, it was the hills that hid the squalor and poverty that ravaged the people of Amarako from the attention of the government. But Teacher Wakamba had come to revive the land. He had arrived like one sent by God to do the work of restoration in the land. He was determined to arm the younger generation with education, the kind that would make them relevant in the emerging society. The first thing he did when he arrived at Amarako was to mobilize the villagers to clear all the bushy paths that led to the school. Then he began to move from one house to another to encourage parents to let their children come to school. All he preached was, ‘Give your children education. Education will bring light to your land.’ He also went to the market-place to preach about the virtues of education. During one of his visits to the popular Afo Amarako market, he met a fat old woman who sold garri and vegetables in one of the old shops. ‘Good evening, ma,’ he greeted her. ‘Guudiv, my son?’ the old woman responded, as she opened her mouth to reveal a set of old brown teeth that must have been damaged by utaba. ‘I am teacher Wakamba, the new headmaster of Central School,’ he introduced himself to the woman.

‘Oh, my son. How are you , my son? Do you want to buy garri?’

‘No, ma. I have a request, ma; I want you to send your children to school tomorrow.’

‘My children?’

‘Yes, ma.’

‘Aah, I don’t have children of school age any longer. I have four boys. They have all grown up. They are now men with their own children,’ the woman explained with a sense of achievement.

‘Oh, I see, ma.’

The teacher then looked across the table behind the woman and sighted a little girl of about eight sitting almost behind the old woman and playing with one of her buttons. ‘But whose child is that, ma?’ Teacher Wakamba asked.

‘This one?’ she asked touching the little girl’s head.

‘Yes, ma.’

‘She is my grand-daughter.’

‘Does she go to school, ma?’

‘No, she is a girl, a woman.’

‘Aah, ma, education is meant for everyone, male and female.’

‘You mean she can start school?’

‘Yes, ma. It’s her right to be educated like her male counterparts. Education will make her a better mother in the future,’ Mr. Wakamba explained with a painful disappointment. ‘She will be there tomorrow,’ the woman assured him. In turn, the teacher was happy. He left the woman and went towards the meat shop.


Mr. Wakamba had worked extremely hard to change the way the people reasoned. He could see that the people had been terribly contaminated with so many things; ignorance, superstition and so on. But he was willing to bring hope to the weak. Within the first two weeks he arrived at Amarako, he had initiated a community library project, which was completed in three months. It was, in fact, his doggedness that earned him the name Teacher Wakamba, which meant the all-knowing and hardworking teacher. The effect of his efforts had become manifest when, within the first two terms he took over the school, the population of students there doubled. At school, he taught the children to be committed to their books. He hated laziness on the part of the children as well as on the part of the teachers. Tall and solidly built on the ground, his stature often intimidated the other male teachers. All the teachers, male and female feared and respected him, except one - Mr. Ogu. He taught Primary Four A. He was also the chairman of Amarako Native Teachers Association (ANTA), an umbrella organization that pioneered the interests of all teachers who come from Amarako. But Mr. Ogu and Teacher Wakamba had been close friends from the beginning. It was the former who helped the latter to find a house when he arrived at Amarako. In fact, nobody in Amarako could claim to know Teacher Wakamba as mush as Mr. Ogu did, but these days, there was no love lost between the two.

Nobody could tell exactly what the bone of contention between them was. Only that Mr. Ogu had once criticized his colleague before other teachers, saying that he was exerting undue influence on the staff in the pretext of getting them to work hard. Keku could still remember vividly one day when Mr. Ogu came to complain to his father about some of Wakamba’s activities. As the village head, certain matters were usually tabled before Nduka for appropriate action. That day, Mr. Ogu had told Nduka that it was improper for Teacher Wakamba to go to the market square every evening and join the old folk in drinking palm wine. He said that did not put him in good light being the headmaster of their school. Mr. Ogu had also lamented that it had become his tradition to stay late in his office with some young women who came to enquire about the affairs of their children in school. ‘I have heard all that you have said. I will look into your complaints,’ Nduka had told Mr. Ogu that day and he left him.

The village headman was one of the people who believed that Mr. Ogu had a personal grudge against his professional colleague and, therefore, would never take his complaints seriously. By the way, Teacher Wakamba was doing marvelously well as the headmaster of the school, Nduka thought. And some people said Mr. Ogu having been recently promoted to Head Teacher class II, was secretly working hard to see that Teacher Wakamba was transferred from the school so that he would become the headmaster of the school.

Sadly on this day, Teacher Wakamba was not going to teach the children that morning. When he entered the class, the children greeted him in chorus, ‘Good morning, sir.’

‘Good morning, students. How are you?’

‘We are well, thank you. God bless you, sir.’

‘And you too.’ The children had learnt to greet that way over the years. But those in Primary One had not mastered it well. Even at 1 p.m., they still greeted, ‘Good morning, sir’.

Teacher Wakamba had come to tell the class about a visit that would be made by a team of health workers to the school in two week’s time. He had been to the other classes that morning also. He had tried to explain certain things that had to do with the visit to the class, but some of the children were not paying attention; over here, a girl was looking outside through the window; over there, a boy pinched Keku playfully and before he could identify who did that to him, Teacher Wakamba was already on his way out of the class, having said all he wanted to say.


Keku was surprised his father already knew about the visit of the health workers. That evening at home, Nduka had given Keku more information about the health workers; ‘They are coming from the ministry of health. They are moving from school to school to immunize children against the river blindness disease. They will also meet with the villagers at the village square to educate the people on how to avoid the dreaded disease called HIV-AIDS. You know the disuse has no known cure.’ Keku’s heart jolted at the mention of that disease. Keku had heard much about the disease. There in Amarako, people always likened the disease to a death sentence. It was the same disease that made others think Africa a cursed race. But Keku wanted to be clear about it. He had asked his father, ‘Is it that the bad disease is now in our village?’

‘You mean HIV- AIDS?’

‘Yes, father.’

‘God forbid. Well, they say it is now everywhere. And you know you would hardly know who has been infected by merely looking at people.’ The boy shuddered. He was very frightened. Just then an elderly man walked into the courtyard. He looked frail, almost like he was resting his full weight on a long dry stick he was clutching firmly with his two hands. Keku knew the man. He was the man whose son impregnated a young girl and ran away from home recently, leaving much trouble behind for the old man. The man had often come to Keku’s father to help him find his son. He might have come to see Nduka for the same reason that evening, Keku thought; he quickly disappeared. It was not proper for a child to be around when elders were discussing.


Keku was happy the examinations had ended well. He had come first in the class. If he maintained the good results, he would qualify to go to the Government College on a scholarship. Every child in Amarako had come to place implicit faith in education, for it was the light that would fight darkness to a standstill. Central School, Amarako had remained a place of formation and nurturing; a paradise of a sort that guaranteed a future of glory and power. Yes, the children had become incurably optimistic through the tutelage of Teacher Wakamba. Keku could now see the green hill far away. Maybe, it was actually his generation that had been ordained by God to lead the people of Amarako into the Promised Land. Now that they were on holiday, one thing that was foremost in the minds of the children was to get back to school, the place that offered them hope, faith and, in fact, everything that mattered to life.

Sometimes, Keku felt lonely. He had wished he had a brother or sister with whom he could play at home. He counted the days. The holiday had not gone half way. He’d sometimes sigh and scratch his head. He wished days would run faster. Then one day he remembered something. The rift between Teacher Wakamba and Mr. Ogu had continued to aggravate. And more villagers had come to know about it. Keku could not understand why Mr. Ogu had refused to bring himself under the authority of the headmaster. What actually did Mr. Ogu want? Was he being recalcitrant just because Teacher Wakamba was an mbiarabia, he had asked himself severally. Till now, it was difficult for him to associate the teacher with any wrongdoing. Mr. Ogu’s claim that his colleague usually went to the market square to drink palm wine with the old folk was what Keku was yet to hear from someone else. As far as he was concerned, Mr. Ogu was simply jealous of the other’s exploits in Amarako. And it was now being rumored that it was Teacher Wakamba who attracted the health workers that visited the village few weeks ago. That very visit by the health workers had proved to be of tremendous help to the people. The people were now beginning to be cautious about their lifestyles as the health workers had warned people to abstain from sexual promiscuity if they desired to avoid being infected with the dreaded HIV-AIDS disease. If the rumor was true, then it meant that the teacher’s kindness had no equal, Keku had thought.


The holiday would soon be over. It had been a long one. It was usually like that whenever a full academic session ended.The evening was cool and breezy, a sign that harmattan would soon set in. Keku had just returned home from running an errand for his mother when someone, a young man walked into the courtyard. Keku did not see him until he came closer. It was Mr. Ogu. Keku’s heart jolted. If he had seen him at a distance, he would have disappeared. Mr. Ogu’s face was gloomy and he had his hands inside his pockets. ‘Good evening, sir.’ Keku greeted him, almost standing to attention. ‘Good evening, Keku. Is your father in the house?’ the visitor enquired, his face looking even more troubled. ‘Yes, sir,’ the boy replied. He went inside the house to call his father. Soon, he appeared again. ‘He’s coming, sir.’ Keku informed him. ‘Alright.’

Almost immediately, Nduka came out and the two exchanged greetings. ‘Outside is cold. Let’s get inside the house,’ the host suggested. Mr. Ogu followed him inside the house without a word.

‘I hope all is well?’ Nduka asked slowly as they sat down.

‘Well, all is well and also all is not well,’ Mr. Ogu said.

‘What a riddle?’ Nduka said adjusting himself in the chair.

‘Let’s leave the kola nut for another day, my brother,’ Nduka pleaded the usual way a man would put it when there was no kola nut in the house. ‘No problem, Maazi Nduka.’

‘So what is well and what is not well?’ Nduka asked adjusting the wrapper on his waist with his left hand.

Mr. Ogu cleared his throat and began his story. ‘Maazi Nduka, I have my reason for refusing to give up. I have always fought a just course….’ The host kept on nodding his head as though he was in total agreement with his visitor. But he was actually thinking hard, trying to imagine where Mr. Ogu was heading to. ‘You see, Teacher Wakamba is an evil man.’ Nduka jerked up his head and looked at Mr. Ogu. He looked calm and serious. He adjusted himself and listened more carefully. ‘Teacher Wakamba pretends a lot. And it’s a pity he has successfully lured many of our people into believing that he is a good man. It’s a pity, Maazi Nduka,’ the visitor said this painfully. ‘What is the mater, Mr. Ogu? You are speaking in parables. Let me know what the problem is,’ Nduka interrupted. He had become impatient.

Mr. Ogu cleared his throat again. ‘Well, I thank God for the health workers who came the other day to educate our people on the dreaded HIV-AIDS disease. From all they said and from what we have already heard about the disease, it is really a bad disease. It’s like a fire that cannot be quenched when it starts burning. To me, we must do anything to make sure such an evil disease does not come near our people.’ Nduka nodded in agreement. ‘It’s really a bad disease. People must do everything to avoid being infected. It is deadly indeed. It has no cure.’ Nduka spoke out, in support of his visitor.

‘Yes, it is deadly indeed, Maazi Nduka. Well, it’s unfortunate that, maybe, nobody in Amarako knows that Teacher Wakamba has the disease.’

‘What?’ Nduka’s eyes dilated in shock.

‘Yes, he has HIV-AIDS. I know he has been hiding it from people.’

‘Do you mean what you are saying, Mr. Ogu?’ Nduka asked in a low tone as though he did not want to be overheard by some other party.

‘Yes, Maazi Nduka. I would not have told you if it were not true.’

‘How did you know? This is terrible.’ Nduka’s voice was now dry. He had been shaken to the marrow. ‘You see, Maazi Nduka, Teacher Wakamba pretends a lot. He would never let you know the truth about him. But I was privileged to know certain things about him when we were very close. You know we were quite close at the beginning. He personally told me he has the disease. Well, I had thought he would behave himself wisely but he now seems to be making frantic efforts to spread the disease around.’

‘Atrocity! God forbid!’ Nduka almost shouted.

‘Maazi Nduka, that’s why I came. I decided to let you know this now before things get out of hand. I told you sometime ago that he was keeping some young women late in his office, who knows how many of them he has infected with the disease? You remember, the health workers advised the people to go for medical texts to ascertain their HIV status. Maybe, that was an indirect way of telling the people that many of them have contracted the disease. Who is spreading it?’ Mr. Ogu paused and swayed his head as though he was in a painful mood. Nduka was dumbfounded. He sat fixed to the chair, looking at his visitor absent-mindedly. Mr. Ogu stood up to go.

‘I am going, Maazi Nduka. I hope you leaders and elders of the land will not sit down at home and watch the she-goat give birth in tether. Teacher Wakamba is a threat to all of us. I believe the earlier he is shown the way back to where he came from, the better for us. I am going.’ Having said that, Mr. Ogu began to go. ‘You are a real son of the soil, Mr. Ogu,’ Nduka said lifting himself up from the seat with much effort. Then he walked falteringly towards the door. ‘You have done well, my brother. We will search for the black goat while it is still day time. I promise you that. Go well, my brother,’ he said as Mr. Ogu walked away.

Nduka went back to his chair and sat down thinking of what to do. Nothing came to his mind. And he could not imagine Mr. Ogu cooking up the story. That would be too dangerous to be intended to be a mere hoax. He winced with cold fear as he tried to imagine the risk ahead. He called Keku.


‘Where have you been?’

‘Behind the house.’

‘Ehee, when did you see Teacher Wakamba last?’

Keku thought for a while. ‘Three days ago. I saw him talking with someone, Nweke, Chikelu’s father, on my way to the river.’

‘Is he sick?’ Nduka found himself asking his son.

‘No, I don’t know, father,’ the boy answered.

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, father,’ Keku said nodding his head. He was a little confused. Nduka looked down for a moment. He asked his son again, ‘You said you saw him talking with someone?’

‘Yes, father.’

‘Did he see you too?’

‘Yes, father?’

‘And he shook hands with you?’

‘No, father. I greeted him and passed,’ Keku said wondering what could have prompted all the questions. But instinctively he knew the questions must be connected with Mr. Ogu’s visit that evening. Nduka looked at Keku and told him, ‘From now on, you have to be careful with Teacher Wakamba. Do you hear me?’

‘Yes, father.’

‘You can go.’

Keku left very confused. He could not understand these new feelings his father was now nursing towards Teacher Wakamba. Then he felt a slight anger towards Mr. Ogu. He was a bad man, he said to himself. Meanwhile, that same evening, Mr. Ogu also visited some few other influential men in Amarako with the matter. Shock had gripped every one of them that heard it. And Mr. Ogu had pressed his point further. He had insisted that the entire Amarako people would be at the risk of contracting the incurable disease unless Teacher Wakamba was sent packing immediately. Fortunately, one of the men he had visited had vowed to use every means within his reach to get the teacher in question transferred from the school immediately. By morning the following day, some villagers were already beginning to talk about Teacher Wakamba in low voices. And the gossip spread like wild fire. Keku heard it from his mother. She said it was no longer a secret. ‘But is it true?’ Keku asked his mother. ‘Yes, they said some villagers have even gone to meet him over the matter and surprisingly, he accepted that he had the disease.’ Keku shuddered in wonder. He had asked his mother again, ‘So, mother, what will happen?’
‘I don’t know. People are afraid of having anything to do with him again. I think the villagers want him to leave the land.’ Keku felt bad. That would be the end of a dream.

That evening Keku went to the market. He wanted to hear what was being said about Teacher Wakamba. All talks around the land usually originated from there. He walked idly towards the meat shop. Nothing was happening there. He took his left to cross the major road that ran through the market place. A heated argument was going on at the carpenter’s shop. Keku moved closer and listened for a while as a young man challenged the carpenter.

‘Teacher Wakamba will not go. There’s no reason for that. Those who want him to leave the land are wasting their time. It is the government that brought him here and it is only the same government that has power to send him packing,’ the man told the carpenter. He seemed to be well informed about the whole thing.

‘But we want him to go. The land belongs to us. He will infect us with that evil disease if he is allowed to remain here,’ the carpenter said stretching out his rule. ‘Now, are you sure he is the only one around who has the disease? See, many people have it. Let everyone go for a HIV test and let’s see who and who will still have the boldness to say that Teacher Wakamba must go.’

‘That’s a lair. Are you a prophet of doom? See, if Wakamba is not transferred from our school I will not let my children go there when school resumes next week,’ the carpenter insisted.

‘I tell you, Teacher Wakamba will not leave the school just because of his HIV status. You know the government can’t do that. The government, you should know, is against any form of discrimination against those living with the disease, so how do you expect Wakamba to be transferred on that basis. And I can see you don’t know anything. Who told you your children are at risk of contracting the disease by merely going there?’ the young man asked and began to laugh satirically at the carpenter. Keku was sad. He left the place and began to walk home again. What troubled him now was not whether Teacher Wakamba would go or not, but the realization that Central School would no longer remain the same again. He rubbed something wet on his face and continued walking home.

Utaba—A local snuff that can be inhaled or rubbed on the teeth.
Mbiarabia—In the Igbo language in Nigeria, this word means ‘newcomer’.

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