It is indeed true that teachers do not just teach—they prepare students for the road ahead mission.  Most of them are not appreciated even as candidates who pass with flying colours are raised shoulder high in the eyes of the camera.

Appreciating their effort reminds them that their impact goes beyond the classroom. This is what we realised when Mr Mangala bade us goodbye. After twelve years of teaching Mathematics at our High School, it was time to let him go.

Mr Mangala was a legend. I heard about him on my first day as a Form One, while I was unpacking my bags as the Form Four girl, Gladys, with who we shared a cubicle spread my bed.

“He makes you laugh in class and teaches mathematics like music. He actually does not refer to any textbook. Stories have it that he was part of the conference that drafted all mathematics textbooks used from Form One to Form Four.

“Trust me, Amara. I wish he teaches you,” Gladys told me. I was curious, so were we, all Form Ones, four years ago.

But now, I felt like my world was crushing. Everyone was, from teachers to cooks, to students. Mr Mangala had received his transfer letter from the Ministry. In as much as he was heading to be a deputy principal in another school, in a far county, for us this was like the end of a day.

A sombre mood engulfed us when we, his class, learnt about it, nearly four months to sitting the KCSE exam in March 2022.

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Mr Mangala had been our class teacher since Form One, walking with us year after year.

Sitting on a desk in the front corner, he looked at us through his spectacles and I bet, trust me, I saw a tear in his eyes.

“December 23 will be my last day here as we close to break for the Christmas holiday,” Mr Mangala stated. “I never thought I will leave before you. I met some of you since day one. Some left some joined us midway and it has been a great journey,” he added.

It was a great journey indeed. I wandered off for some minutes, looking outside the window from my backbench seat and recalled all the great times Mr Mangala had given us.

From being the drama patron to journalism club member and guidance and counselling team. Making us win trophies year in year out. Mr Mangala was but a jack of all trades. He was always accompanying the football and basketball to competitions. Everyone loved seeing him around.

During trips, he’d always stop by his favourite bank to withdraw some money and surprise us despite the school taking care of everything.

Every parent would always want him involved in the career and life of their children. My parents adored him and always packed fried chicken for him whenever I went home. Mr Mangala’s family, leaving in the teachers quarters were his true copy.

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His children were humble and God-loving and fearing. His wife would always bake us biscuits every last day of a term.

How do we repay such a personality? I rallied my classmates during games time and convinced them to spare some of their pocket money to surprise Mr Mangala. I spoke to our English teacher, Mrs Grace and she agreed to it.

She also rallied teachers to support our plan and a few days later, we were ready to catch him off guard at the staffroom.

“Is the checklist complete,” Mrs Grace asked as we congregated in the hall before heading to the staffroom to execute our plan.

“I can’t see the envelope,” Shila, our prefect added.

“Oh the cash,” Mrs Grace lamented. We sent her to withdraw the cash and she was lost in the whole plan to celebrate her colleague.

“Banks are at the shopping centre and it’s nearly closing time for Co-op bank,” she lamented. “What do we do?. I need to rush to the bank,” a worried Mrs Grace added, throwing us into a frenzy

Everyone paused, we looked like some confused nursery kids. Some classmates at the back broke into laughter, before a new teacher who was posted recently intervened.

“Grace, you do not have to rush to the bank. Since you have a Co-op account, you can just visit the nearest Co-op Jirani agent and withdraw the cash. The agents are open seven days a week till late night, so you can transact with them any day, any time,” the teacher stated

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None of us had actually thought of it.

A few minutes later, we were at the staffroom, celebrating Mr Mangala. The gifts, some of us bought him books for his library. We also framed one of his favourite photos – a portrait- pictured while he was receiving a trophy at the drama festivals.

We got the photo courtesy of his wife. The gift that made him nearly break down was a signed autobook. The whole class had scribbled wishes for him.

“As a teacher, I always want to see all of you succeed and I am honoured to be your mentor. Thank you for an early Christmas gift” he appreciated.

“I will also surprise you all before you head for Christmas,” he added.

“It will not be a surprise, you have already told us about it…” Mrs Grace cut him short as we all broke into laughter.

“Anyways, we nearly blew this surprise,” Mrs Grace weighed in, adding that she was worried about getting to town yet aCo-op Kea Jirani was just outside the school gate.

“You should have seen Madam Grace running towards the gate,” Shila the class prefect chipped in as we further broke down into laughter.

Mr Mangala will be dearly missed. I hope those he teaches next realise his worth.

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