“Did you just say yaaaah?”

Back in the very early 90’s I happened to spend a school year at Phwezi Secondary School in Rumphi. It is not really a place I miss, come to think of it. Water was a constant problem that forced us to wake up very early each morning if we wanted even a cup of water to brush our teeth with. Most weekends we just used to bath in the nearby river, that’s until a student drowned then we were banned! The boarding facilities and food was not up to scratch either considering I had just come from Blantyre Secondary School, a government school with better structures and a better diet. Then there were the few thieving students who would nick your slippers each time you climbed up your bunk bed.

Neither did I like some of my class mates who kept referring to me and two other new guys as government spies. At the time Phwezi was owned and run by Chipimpha Mughogho, Dennis Simphawaka Nkwazi and other Aford pressure group members. As such current students were always suspicious that new students could be government plants trying to feed the MCP with information on the owners. As you can see plenty of reasons to kind of dislike my school.

One thing I did however like was my English class. Mr Shumba was an excellent teacher. He was very good with literature and better still with grammar. But if you happened to respond to any of his questions with a ‘yeah’ you were in deep trouble. “Did you just say yaaaah? Come here!” he would shout. The punishment meted out was normally a huge smack. After meting out this rather cruel punishment a couple of times, he took the time to explain his action one day. He emphasized the importance of using the word ‘yes’ and not ‘yeah’. As time went by, responding with a ‘yes’ became the norm especially in his presence.

This afternoon I was talking a customer service agent at Airtel to inquire why my internet has been down for two days. He responded with ‘yeah’ a bit too many times in our short conversation. Each time he used the word I visualised Mr Shuba rattling someone’s left cheek with full sound effects. He for sure didn’t pass through Mr Shumba’s class!