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Monday, December 7, 2009

Capturing the school mess from experience

Title: The School
Author: Victor Byabamazima
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza

It is probably Uganda’s most hilarious satirical comedy! Victor Byabamazima’s experience as former headmaster of Kigezi High School and his grasp of psychology, which he studied at university, comes to the fore in this short drama.

He cogently but amusingly captures the school mess; from the 60-year-old money-hungry headmaster who for the entire term feeds his students on pork from his own pig farm, to the voyeur in the school bursar and his peeping into female teachers bedrooms, not forgetting the quarter master’s broken English.

Teachers spend their days playing darts in the staffroom and the headmaster does nothing because he is preoccupied with making money (that ironically never accumulates) and admiring himself in an ill-fitting scouts’ uniform that he never puts off.

Through the witty exchanges between Mr Mathematics and Mr English, the play bitingly attacks the superficiality of our education system – sex for marks, corruption, the incompetence of leaders, tribalism, our seeming obsession with foreign things, immorality, hypocrisy of politicians and self-aggrandisement among other social ills bedeviling modern society.

The hypersensitive Mr Mathematics, who actually covets the headmaster’s job, is on the verge of giving up on his dream of leading an opulent lifestyle when he’s advised by Mr English to “throw away chalk, train your face to wear a smiling mask; get your tongue pregnant with fibs and then climb the political platform…”

Listed in the Heinemann Drama series alongside Francis Imbuga’s Betrayal in the City, John Ruganda’s Black Mamba, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The Black Hermit and Nicolai Nigol’s The Government Inspector among other acclaimed titles, The School is the kind of play that could make very evocative but interesting viewing on stage, or if turned into a feature film.

--Sunday Monitor, September 13, 2009