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Teachers go on ‘tea strike’ over new plastic cups By Mwalimu Andrew

Before we closed schools last term, we had glasses and melamine cups that we used in the staffroom. As you know, although we have never been able to sustain a stable lunch programme, tea has always been available.

In the absence of lunch, some take a lot of tea to run us for the rest of the day.

The only problem we had with the cups was that they came in different colours, shapes and sizes. This is because whenever they broke, the school would replace them; but it would seem like whoever was sent to buy found it wise never to buy cups of the same colour, shape or size.

As such, whenever tea was brought to the staffroom, teachers would fight over the big cups. The small cups were rarely touched and on many occasions, some teachers would insist that the larger cups be washed for re-use.

Since she loved tea, Sella had made the timetable in such a way that she was always in the staffroom when tea was brought.

She would then select the best cups and take tea before everyone else came. Deliberately or by accident, Nzomo too had managed to reserve a large cup for herself.

After every use, Nzomo would leave some purple marks on the cup – and since the washing was never done well, the purple marks slowly remained on the cup, and soon, no one was interested in tasting whatever it was that Nzomo transmitted from her lips to the cup!

One day late last term, Sella’s class delayed and when she arrived, she found that Mrs Atika had used her preferred cup. Only three small, cracked melamine cups remained.

“Who has taken my cup?” she asked. “I can’t take tea in these tiny broken things.”

“And who do you want to take tea in those broken apparatus?” wondered Oscar, who rarely speaks.

“That was not the question!” said Sella. “I want to know who took my cup and why.”

“I didn’t know there was a cup for anyone here,” said Mrs Atika. “I have the cup and I have been in this school long enough to know that no cup has anyone’s name on it.”


“But I am the one who has mostly been using it,” said Sella

“That does not make it yours,” Mrs Atika said.

Before long, the argument generated from the cups to other things after Sella told Mrs Atika that she will die a teacher.

“You need to be ambitious,” she told Mrs Atika.

This soon turned into a shouting match that only ended when Kuya, who was with Class Eight, came to the staffroom to announce that the students could not concentrate.

In the staffroom meeting the next week, Bensouda said that she was disappointed that teachers were fighting over small things like cups. She, however, noted that she did not like the fact that the school had cups of all shapes and colours; and promised to address the issue.

And that is what we found when we opened school last week. The lovers of tea were pleasantly surprised when the tea lady, after bringing tea, went to the kitchen and came back with a set of new red cups on a new tray. The cups had some initials written on them. Erick and I were quite happy and we quickly took them to take tea.

Oscar looked at them but did not take tea. A chain smoker, Oscar rarely takes tea. At that time, only the three of us were in the staffroom.

Madam Ruth and Mrs Atika arrived from class.

“Chai!” shouted Ruth as she stepped into the staffroom. “I had really missed this tea during holidays.”

“You are right,” added Mrs Atika. “There is something in the school tea that makes it so good.”

“And what are these that someone has bought for us in this school?” wondered Madam Ruth, when she saw the new cups.

“Why?” wondered Erick. “I like the new cups.”

“You are a bachelor you know nothing about cups,” said Madam Ruth. “These are cheap cups used in chokora hotels.”

“They are the same cups used to take porridge by nursery pupils,” added Mrs Atika. “I can’t take tea in such cups.” She then sent one pupil to call the tea lady.

“Please bring us the cups that we had last term,” Mrs Atika ordered her.

“They are not there, we bought these new ones,” she said. Everyone asked her who bought them.

“The headmaster,” she said. “She took away the old ones.”

“This is a joke, I can’t use these cheap things, they make tea taste bad and I will be sick,” said Mrs Atika. Since her home was not far, she sent one student to get her a cup from her home which she used. Reluctantly, Sella and Madam Ruth used the plastic cups.

The next day, besides Mrs Atika who had her own cup, most female teachers did not take tea. Eric and I didn’t mind the new cups and we took several cups of tea.

On Thursday, Bensouda and Kuya were around. During the staff meeting that morning, the HM said that she regretted to hear that some teachers were complaining about the new cups she had bought.

“This is a school and not a five-star hotel,” she said. “I expect my teachers to fight over better things and not complain about cups.”

Two melamine cups

“Cups are cups,” said Kuya. “Let us learn to make use of what we have.”

“I actually like the new cups,” said Saphire. “Things have changed guys and even at Hitler’s we are served in plastic tins and we have never died.”“You are right Saphire, even soda and water is sold in plastic bottles.” said Bensouda. No one responded.

That day, the tea girl served tea with the red plastic cups and Mrs Atika’s personal cup. She then went back to the kitchen and came back with two new melamine cups which she placed on the main table.

“Please don’t use these,” she said, “One is for the headmaster and the other for Mr Kuya.”

“What?” wondered Nzomo, “I thought we were told that cups are cups?” Nzomo went ahead and used one of the melamine cups. No one touched Bensouda’s cup.

“Who used my cup?” wondered Kuya when he came to the staffroom. He did not need to ask, for Nzomo had left clear purple marks of her lipstick on the cup.

“Bwana Deputy cups are cups,” said Madam Ruth, who had not taken tea.

“That’s true but we should respect protocol and authority,” said Kuya. “You just can’t use a cup designated for someone else and expect no one to ask questions,” he said, visibly upset. “It is like going to sit in the HM’s office and saying an office is an office.”

Later that day, Kuya called Nzomo into the HM’s office when they gave her a long talk. We agreed as a staffroom not to take tea going forward. Come Friday, we told the tea lady to take the tea and the two melamine cups to the HM’s and Deputy offices.

That evening, we received an SMS from the HM: “I here you did not take tea because of cups. If you don’t drink tea on Monday, we will be happy to stop serviving tea and use the money for something else more important. Nice weekend”

My prayer is that sanity prevails and that we end this self-imposed tea strike soon.  I do not mind the plastic cups. A cup is a cup! SOURCE: NATION.CO.KE


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