The boys all obediently stood up as the teacher swept into the room. ‘Sit down!’ boomed Mr Kafundisha, as the boys all obediently sat down again. The ferocious eyes of the teacher swept around the class, looking for the slightest sign of weakness.
‘Chanda!’ shouted the teacher, his bony finger pointing at a thin little boy shivering on the front row, ‘What is the name of this school?’
‘Big Brother’s College,’ mumbled the unfortunate Chanda.
‘Stand up! Stand up when you speak to a teacher! And address me as Sir! Now, Chanda, try again! What is the name of this school?’
Chanda pulled himself up to his full height of 90 centimetres, tried to straighten his spine, stared steadfastly at the ceiling and shouted ‘Big Brother’s College Sir!’
‘No need to shout!’ shouted the teacher, ‘I’m not deaf! That’s the correct answer, Chanda. Well done, you’ve come to the right school this morning. Congratulations. You can sit down now.’
‘Thank you Sir,’ whined Chanda.
‘Yes Sir!’ shouted Mulenga as he stood up and saluted.
‘Mulenga, whose smiling face do we see in the picture hanging above the blackboard?’
‘That, Sir, is His Excellency Big Brother, Head of State, Head of Government, Commander in Chief and Chief Justice.’
‘Almost correct, Mulenga, you may sit down. Hands up those who know what Mulenga missed out. Yes, Mwamba.’
‘Sir, please Sir, he forgot to say that His Excellency Big Brother is the Author of the Constitution.’
‘Quite right Mwamba. But tell me Mwamba, what is a Constitution?’
‘A Constitution, Sir, is the digestive system of an animal. That is why we say that an elephant has a strong constitution.’
‘Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir!’
‘Yes, Chomba, what’s the right answer?’
‘Sir, a Constitution is a declaration written by Big Brother which set out the rules and procedures by which he prefers to govern the country.’
‘Well done Chomba, not many people fully understand the importance of your answer. But tell me Chomba, why is Big Brother looking down on us from above the blackboard?’
‘Sir, he is looking down on us because he is watching our every move. He is looking for any sign of disobedience, disloyalty or treachery. He looks right into our souls and sees the smallest sign of rebellion, disaffection or stray thought. Just as Big Brother loves each and every one of us, so every one of us must love Big Brother.’
‘Quite right Chomba, that is why Big Brother is watching us. Which reminds me, we should have begun this class with our usual morning prayer. So let us now all bow our heads and recite our Prayer to Big Brother:
Big Brother, who art in State House
Hallowed be thy name;
dictatorship has come
thy will be done
in Monze as it is in Petauke.
Give us this day our daily dread
and forgive us who shiver
as we pity those who shiver more than us.
We look up to you in trepidation
as you watch our every move
to ensure that our obedience
protects your power and glory
For ever and ever.
‘And now’ announced Mr Kafundisha, ‘the good news today is that His Excellency Big Brother has decided, in his infinite wisdom, to make a marvelous new gift to this class.’ So saying he opened the cupboard behind him and took out a pile of new exercise books and instructed the class monitor to distribute them.
‘Now that each of you has a new book, who can tell me whose picture you find on the front cover?’
‘Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir, Sir!’
‘Yes, Musonda, I see you have woken up at last. Since everybody in the class knows the answer, I suppose even you also know.’
‘Oh yes Sir. It is the smiling face of Big Brother.’
‘Correct. And tell me, Musonda, why do you think that His Excellency has been so generous as to give you each a free book?’
‘Because our parents are too poor to buy books, Sir.’
‘What a foolish answer, Musonda. Big Brother has ensured that there are no poor people in this country. The answer is that Big Brother’s face is on your books so he can now watch you all the time! Not just in this classroom, but even in the corridor, in the playground and in the dormitory. A single word or thought of rebellion and you will be instantly expelled from this school. Is that understood?’
‘And one last thing. On the front cover there is a space for you to fill in Name of the Owner of This Book. Musonda, whose name are you going to write there?’
‘I shall write Moses Musonda, Sir.’
‘No, Musonda. The owner of the book is Big Brother. He owns the book. He owns you, he own this school and he owns this country.’ So saying, Kafundisha walked over to Musonda and stood over him. ‘Now you write the name Big Brother!’
Slowly and deliberately Musonda picked up his pen and wrote Moses Musonda. Kafundisha drew back his hand and slashed Musonda across the face with his cane. Immediately a slice of scarlet blood leapt from the wound.
Everybody in the room was horrified.
Except for Big Brother. He just kept smiling.