Friday, August 27, 2010


King George High School at Broken hill was one of the best schools in Northern Rhodesia during the colonial rule. Even though its name was changed to Kabwe Secondary School soon after Independence, the headmaster Mr. R. M. Brown did not spare any efforts in maintaining the high standards of academic performance and discipline for which the school had a reputation.

Broken hill was the provincial capital of the central province. Its name was changed to Kabwe soon after Independence. Before the formation of Zambia and the establishment of Lusaka as its capital, Broken hill was the head quarters of the Northern Rhodesian Army. Even after Independence, it continued to remain as the army H.Q. During the early days of Independence, there were still many "whites" occupying key positions in the army, railways and government ministries. The government's policy was to have zambianization done in a slow and steady manner.

Mr. R. M. Brown was from Britain. He was a good teacher and a strict disciplinarian. After serving for some time as the deputy head of Mufulira high school on the Copper-belt, Mr. Brown was transferred to Kabwe Secondary School as the headmaster.

There were many "whites" among the students. Some of them were quite arrogant and tried to "boss" over the African and Indian students. Even from the very beginning Mr. Brown made it very clear that he would not tolerate any racialism among the students or the teachers of his school. Soon it became evident that if anyone thought he would have any special privilege because of his racial superiority or social status, he was grossly mistaken.

One day during the morning assembly Mr. Brown noticed a few senior students with "Beatle-style" long hair among the population of nearly a thousand students. Mr. Brown did not want his pupils to look like "hippies" and he made it very clear during his announcements that day. He gave them three days' time to get their hair cut short in an acceptable manner so that they too would have a decent sort of look like the rest of the pupils.

Mr. Brown kept his word. After three days he made another inspection of the students during the morning assembly and found that all the long-haired students except one had complied with his orders. After the assembly, he summoned that one to his office and asked the reason. The student replied that he had spoken to his father and he allowed him to have long hair and as such he did not see any reason why he should cut it short. Mr. Brown told him that he would still have to comply with the rules and regulations of the school as long as he wanted to be a student of that school and he would not be allowed to attend lessons until he complied with his instructions.

Mr. Brown had a good view of the front court-yard of the school, from his office. Precisely at 9 AM the next morning he noticed a massive motor car bearing the flag and emblem of the Zambian army pulling up in front of his office and a man in the army uniform getting out of the car while another army man stood aside reverently, holding the car door open. After a few minutes, he heard a brisk tap on his door and bid the visitor to enter. A huge white man in full military uniform strode in. He introduced himself as brigadier John Smith of the Zambian army and sat down heavily on a chair even before being invited by Mr. Brown to sit down. Mr. Brown politely asked him what he could do for him. The brigadier told him in an authoritative manner that he should allow his son whom Mr. Brown had sent away the previous day on a silly charge of having long hair, to go back to the lessons. Mr. Brown, very politely told the brigadier that he could not change the school rules for any particular pupil, even if his father was a brigadier or even general of the army. Now that the father of the pupil had come to the school and talked in an offensive manner, the pupil would have to make an apology in public, at the school assembly when he returned to the school after getting his hair cut. Mr. Brown indicated that the interview was over and the brigadier left in a great fury, promising to have a word with the President so that Mr. Brown would not be sitting in that chair for very long.

Nothing happened for a few days. Then, about a week later, Henry Smith, the son of brigadier John Smith, returned to the school with his hair cut short in an acceptable manner and presented himself to Mr. Brown just before the morning assembly. The headmaster allowed him to say a few words of apology after which he congratulated him for setting an example to the rest of the school by complying with the school rule even though he was a bit reluctant about it at first.

After the above incident, Henry Smith became the most law-abiding student of Kabwe Secondary School and completed his high school education in due course with flying colors before returning to England for higher studies.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Mrs. Njovu (pronounced as 'Injovu') was a member of parliament. Even though she was not considered as a very popular person, she became M.P. through her activities among the UNIP (United National Independence Party) Women. UNIP was the ruling party and President Kaunda liked hard-working people.

Mrs. Njovu used to make some caustic remarks from time to time against the foreigners who worked in that country even though she knew fully well that her country depended very much on them and could not survive without their assistance.

During the colonial days the entire civil service of Northern Rhodesia was under the control of the British, but soon after Independence, top officials were replaced by competent Zambians. As a number of new secondary schools were opened under the T.D.P. (Transitional Development Plan) in many parts of the country, there was a great demand for secondary school teachers. Even though the Zambia government had a preference for British and Irish teachers, soon it became evident that the demand was so great that they had to look elsewhere as well. India could have supplied easily the required number of teachers, but the Zambia government did not want all and sundry. They put up advertisements inviting applications from those who had some experience in teaching in other African countries. They offered better terms and conditions than in most other African countries and as a result there was a great "exodus" of teachers, mainly of Indian, Pakistani and Sreelankan origin from east, west and north African countries to Zambia. Many of the newly recruited teachers were sent to the remotest parts of the country so that even the new schools in the "bush area" could function properly.

Of all the leaders, Mrs. Njovu was the one who apparently had some grudge against the Indians and she used to express her feelings from time to time, but nobody paid any attention to her utterances. However, things came to a head on one occasion when a scathing remark made by her appeared as a front-page headline in the prominent national newspaper, the "Times of Zambia".

It was a Monday. As soon as I reached the school along with my wife, where both of us used to work, I had a feeling that something was wrong. As we stepped into the staff room, we found our colleagues, especially the Indian teachers, standing in a group in the middle of the room and engaged in animated conversation. There were more than twenty Indian teachers among a total of nearly sixty, the rest comprising mainly of Zambian and some European personnel. It was one Mr. Varghese from Kerala who called me by name and asked whether I had seen that day's newspaper. I hadn't. He thrust a copy in my face and asked me to look at the main headline on the front page. It appeared in big bold letters as follows:


The entire text of the M.P's speech was given below along with the picture of a smiling Njovu in her full Zambian gear. Her speech purported to say that fake B.Sc, M.Sc and Ph.D degree certificates were available in India and could be bought from the streets of Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta by anyone who wanted them at a very cheap price. She had even quoted the cost of each in Indian rupees and the equivalent Zambian kwacha.

Just then the bell was rung for the morning assembly. The pupils started taking up their position in the quadrangle. Our school, one of the biggest on the Copper-belt, had more than fifteen hundred pupils. The Indian teachers were considered in great esteem by them. As they were lining up for the assembly, we still continued with our discussion. We were debating what action we should take as none of us was prepared to face the students that morning. We knew that most of our students would have seen the morning newspaper by this time.

The headmaster Mr. R.M. Brown who also was an expatriate, poked his head into the staff room, on his way to address the school assembly. He said casually, "ladies and gentlemen, it is assembly time" and without waiting for any response, proceeded to the podium. It was unusual for the headmaster to remind us of the assembly. Probably he might have got wind of our hesitation to face the students that morning. We looked at each other and followed him silently to the veranda where we took our stand as usual.

The morning assembly always started with a prayer. This was the common practice in all Zambian schools, whether run by government or mission. Contrary to the usual practice, Mr. Brown spread out that day's newspaper so that everyone could see the front page and spoke: "I am quite certain that most of you might have seen today's Times of Zambia newspaper. It contains a serious allegation by a person no less than a member of parliament, against the Indian teachers who are doing an excellent job in this country. Every pupil in this school or elsewhere who has ever been taught by Indian teachers should know how incorrect this allegation is. As a headmaster in this country for the last fifteen years, I can say with all sincerity that the Indian teachers with whom I have come into contact during my career are the best teachers I have ever known. I therefore condemn this article in today's Times of Zambia whole-heartedly and advise all my listeners to do the same."

Everyone was stunned. There was absolute silence for many seconds and then Mr. Brown said "let us pray" and continued with the morning assembly.

There was no further hesitation on the part of the Indian teachers to go to their classes and face the students. Mr. R.M. Brown had spoken for us as no one had spoken ever before knowing fully well that he was not only risking his career but also would be liable to imprisonment and deportation. However, no such things happened.

Well done, Mr. Brown, Sir, we admire your courage and the way you stood for us. It is a privilege to have worked under you.