Ch 1: True Stories of a Ugandan Schoolgirl
Chapter 1: “Mr. Muhiire’s Shame” – Awaiting your thoughts! Yes, you!
We never sleep on the night we come back to school. The two week holidays we spend with our families are the only opportunities we have to enjoy freedom, so every girl returns to St. Julian of Norwich Secondary School with stories of family, neighbors, laughter, and adventure. Some boast of fantastical quests to find boyfriends who will buy them clothes and mobile phones. Others had cooked and cleaned without ceasing but tell similar tales anyway. There is nothing interesting about cooking and cleaning.
After a few hours of sixty girls competing to share the best stories, Nalubwama Phiona raised her voice unashamedly. “Let me tell you people,” she began. “When I first went home for holidays, I told my mom I’d be spending every afternoon reading books at Vivian’s house. She believed me because she met Vivian during the last visitation day, so she allowed me to go. But of course I didn’t go to Vivian’s place. I instead wanted to find Mr. Muhiire’s home.”
We all giggled. Every day last term, our mathematics teacher Mr. Muhiire would come into Luwum dormitory at 4 AM, yelling at us to organize ourselves for the day. We didn’t have to start studying until 5 AM, so we knew he was just hoping to see the naked bodies of girls 30 years younger than himself. We never confronted him about this, though. It could mean a heavy punishment of cleaning the latrines for a month, or perhaps a deduction in our mathematics marks. He disguised his motives with loud commands. “Wake up, lazy people! Is this how you treat your parents who pay for your school fees? Get out of bed!”
Though our laughter at the thought of Mr. Muhiire continued, Phiona did not stop telling her story. “I went to the shops and asked where he stayed. Everybody told me they assumed he lived on the hill because they knew teachers stayed there, but I didn’t want other teachers to know I was stalking him. So one evening I left when it was becoming dark. I climbed the hill and asked the motorbike drivers where he was. They pointed to his house, which had a high fence, so I couldn’t climb it. But I really wanted to see how Mr. Muhiire stayed with his wife and children, so I found the nearest tree and began to climb.”
Every girl in the Luwum dormitory was now sitting up straight, listening intently. “I had chosen a tree at the corner of the compound because I knew the guard was stationed near the gate, and if he perceived me as a thief, he could shoot me. When I got high enough I saw that the guard had fallen asleep. I could see the glowing ashes of the charcoal stove, but I couldn’t hear what Mr. Muhiire was saying to his daughter who was cooking. I decided to slowly move outward from the center of the tree. As I was moving, the branch started to split.”
Gasps echoed around the room. Would the guard wake up and shoot at her? Would she be able to crawl back down the tree?
“Can you believe the tree snapped and I fell down into Mr. Muhiire’s compound?” Phiona lifted her blouse, revealing two wounds on the left side of her stomach.
“I looked up in fear, only to see that the guard was still seated against a wall with his eyes closed, holding his gun loosely. But then I heard Mr. Muhiire’s wife whisper something about a thief, and she was rushing her children inside. Within a second, Mr. Muhiire stepped around the house to find me down in the grass.
He started jeering at me. He said things like, ‘Nalubwama! What are you doing in my compound?’ At first I had nothing to say. Then I got an idea. I told him that I tried knocking the gate but the guard was asleep, and that I wanted him to come speak with my mom about my performance last term. Mr. Muhiire was looking at me the same way he looks at me when he comes in here and finds me without clothes. He told me quietly, ‘If you are concerned with your marks, the only way to improve them is standing right in front of you.’ I was too shocked to respond, so I kept quiet. When he saw I had nothing to say, he asked, ‘Do you want me to tell the school you have trespassed in my home?’ I saw I had no option, and my parents would seriously beat me if they knew I had trespassed. I began playing his game. I told him, ‘If you sleep with me, I want a first class this term.’”
“Liar!” rebuked Asiimwe Harriet.
“I’m not lying! The guy entered me by force!”
“I don’t know whether you are showing off or what,” I told Phiona. “But this man has to stop taking advantage of us girls.”
“You’re right, Esther,” someone said. “But what can we do?”
“We should expose him to the deputy headmaster!” shouted another girl.
“No, you know they won’t believe us, and I will lose my first class marks if we do that,” said Phiona.
“Look,” I whispered. “It is coming to four o’clock now. We can wait for him. We will all stand naked on our beds and model ourselves. We can shame him through seducing him with our bodies. Then he will have to stop coming here so early. That man can’t handle such shame.”
“Listen to this one!” Harriet exclaimed to the sixty girls living in Luwum. “That is Achan Esther, and she will soon be campaigning for the next prefect position. She shall lead our struggle against those perverts.”
Everybody laughed at this while hastily removing skirts and dresses to welcome Mr. Muhiire to his routine morning lust session. Those whose parents had given them bras draped the undergarments loosely across their limbs in the most suggestive ways possible. Mr. Muhiire was going to get the show of his life.
A few girls who had not yet developed breasts quietly crawled into their bed sheets, embarrassed. I didn’t want to bother them. We had to remain focused on our cause.
To boost the morale of my fellow Luwum residents, I instructed those lacking confidence to stand like models, recalling the many pages of the beauty magazine I had found along the roadside during holidays.
When we were finished arranging ourselves in an extraordinary panorama of female adolescence, we eagerly awaited Mr. Muhiire’s humiliated expression. Not one girl moved a leg.
“I’m getting tired of waiting for this guy,” complained Chelangat Beatrice, who stood with one leg high in the air, stretched far from the rest of her body.
“Maybe that’s because they cut your woman stuff if you are a Sabiny,” someone taunted. Nakira, St. Julian’s only Karamojong student, laughed under her breath at this joke.
“The Sabiny know how to enjoy their men,” Chelangat retorted.
“Keep quiet and focus on our agenda here,” I scolded.
“Mr. Muhiire is coming!” shouted Harriet, peaking through the window. Those who had already begun to rest resumed their provocative positions.
As always, Mr. Muhiire tapped his hand on the door for only a second before swinging it wide open. He was used to seeing a few girls already awake dart for cover behind their beds. This time, however, he cast a wide-eyed gaze upon the dozens of youthful bodies draped along the congested rows of bunks, beckoning him at his first glance, but horrifying him at his second thought. He now knew that we knew. He stood still and without words, but we could read his thoughts: “these girls are ready to fight.”
“Come here, Mr. Muhiire,” one girl teased.
“I want a first class for this position,” Harriet mocked. Many others joined in with their clever ridicules, fueling the flame that was Mr. Muhiire’s shame.
In continuing silence, Mr. Muhiire shook himself out of bewilderment and slammed the door to Luwum behind him without saying a word. Our scene of desirable teenage flesh disbursed. Every girl in the dormitory, including those who had hidden beneath their bed sheets, crowded the window near Harriet’s bed.
“Look at him running!” shouted Nyamaizi Sheila.
Phiona cackled, saying, “If I had known his legs shook like that when he moves, I wouldn’t have done sex with him. I could have just beaten him and fled.”