(Continued from Daughters of Jezebel I)
Liz hangs up and shakes her head. This guy Philip is a strange one. Nothing seems to rattle him. If she were the one who had been left out of the graduation list, the world would be trembling with her anxiety. She would already have made several calls to the school by now, even though it is past hours; just in case. She would be pacing up and down chewing her nails. She just can’t sit still when things are going wrong in her life. The butterflies in her stomach would not let her. But she knows that Philip is different. Right now he is most likely watching a movie.
Yet he has many problems. Liz knows that he desperately needs this job at least to help his mother and two sisters. For about a year now, Philip’s mother has been in and out of hospital. She was bitten by a spider, and although she was rushed to hospital and treated, her leg started rotting almost as soon as she was discharged. Most of Philip’s income from the Sacco went to her treatment, which left him deep in debt.
When Liz learned his story three months ago, she offset all his debts, totaling to two hundred thousand shillings. Before that, she could tell he was not doing well because of how shabbily he was dressed, but she had no idea how serious the situation was. Philip is usually a calm, stoic guy with a kind smile for everyone. Liz only got to know about his situation one day when his sister called him while they were together, shortly after class. His sister told him that their mother had collapsed and had been rushed to hospital, but she could not get admitted because they had no money. For a fleeting moment, Philip became vulnerable and borrowed Liz money. He admitted, without being asked, that he did not know when he would repay.
“I am desperate Liz,” he told her. “I don’t want my mother do die, but I am up to my neck with debts.”
Liz earns a good salary at Gakoromone Traders, and over the years she has accumulated savings of close to a million. She has been toying with the idea of using the money to buy a piece of land. She used part of that money to pay the money that the hospital was demanding so that Philip’s mother could get admitted, and then she took Philip out for dinner. Over the meal, they calculated all the debts that Philip had accumulated and she settled all of them. She also sent his sister some ten thousand shillings to buy food at home. Barely four days later, Muruja mentioned that he needed a COO, and the first person that came to Liz’s mind is Philip.
Philip has not disappointed her. Over the last two months, he has proven himself as an asset to the company. Muruja has told Liz several times that she made a good choice, and that Philip is intelligent, hardworking and a very fast learner. Under the circumstances, a reasonable employer would not dismiss him simply because some technical error cost him his spot on the graduation list. But Liz also knows that few man are reasonable when he is under pressure from a mistress, especially if that mistress is as wicked as Nancy.
Liz was right. Philip is on his bed watching a movie on his laptop. Earlier, he had seen the message on the MBA WhatsApp group with the link to the graduation list. He had scrolled just to confirm that indeed he had clinched the distinction. To his surprise, he was not even on the list. He checked again. Sure, he was not in it. He had felt panic rise within him, but he suppressed it as he often does whenever he is faced by a crisis. There must be a mistake somewhere, he told himself. By the time Liz called, he had already calmed himself down.
Philip has faced so many problems since he was a kid that he has perfected the art of remaining calm in the face of adversity. It is not that he doesn’t get worried; he does. But he has since learned that being all panicky usually doesn’t help. His father died when he was ten years old, and the flowers on his grave had not yet even withered when his uncles kicked them out of the house and subdivided their father’s land amongst themselves. Their mother tried to go back to her parents’ house but her own brothers chased her away, claiming that he, Philip, would take a share of the land that rightfully belonged to them.
What followed were years of hardship and struggle. Their mother rented a one room mabati house at the local market and did odd job here and there to put food on the table. Many were the nights they slept hungry, and many times their house was double padlocked by the landlord because their mother had not paid rent. Philip and his sisters were often kicked out of school because they could not afford school fees. All in all they managed to get through to form four. Philip scored a straight A and his sisters managed B -s in their respective years. Philip’s sisters fell short of the government sponsorship to the university, and their mother could not afford to take them to middle level colleges, leave alone private university. The hope was that Philip would land a good job and help them.
Philip had been lucky. He had emerged as the top student in their district, and was taken up by Equity Bank. The Equity Bank scholarships were just beginning then, and they used to take the top two KSCE students, a boy and a girl, in every district. The two would work in the local Equity Bank branch before joining university. It is through this sponsorship that Philip went through his university education.
Philip dropped his bid to become an engineer and applied for a Bachelor of Commerce degree. When he graduated, Equity Bank offered him a chance to go and work for them. But he had another offer that had a starting salary triple what Equity was offering. He opted to go there. Unfortunately, that company collapsed barely a year later. When Philip went back to Equity, he was informed that his spot had been given to someone else. He stayed jobless for almost a year before he got the underpaid spot at the Sacco.
When morning comes, Philip calls Liz and tells her that he will be late because he wants to go to the university first. He takes a matatu that drops him right at the university gate, and then he walks to the dean’s office. He finds the dean’s secretary typing something on her computer.
“Good morning madam,” Philip greets her.
“Good morning,” Tabitha replies without looking up. She already knows who he is and what he wants.
Philip hesitates for a second. He is not sure whether to tell her his problems immediately or wait until she finishes what she is doing.
“What do you want?” she asks rudely, without looking up.
“I would like to speak to the dean.”
“What is it about?”
“I am a Master’s student here. I have completed my coursework and I successfully defended my thesis. But I am not on the graduation list.”
“Have you cleared fees?”
“Yes I have.”
“Do you have missing marks or did you fail any of your coursework units?”
“No, I passed all the units in my coursework. I actually picked the provisional transcript last week.”
“The dean is busy. I will book you an appointment so that you can talk to him on second of next month.”
“But that will be barely three days to the graduation. The graduation list will already have been approved by the University Senate.”
“That is really not my problem. The dean’s diary is full until then.”
“Can you give me his cellphone number?”
“No. I am not authorized to do that.”
“Please you have to help me…”
“That is enough sir,” Tabitha snaps, finally looking up from her game of Solitaire. “Come back on second. And stop pestering me because I have lots of work to do.”
Just then, a young lady, perhaps in her late twenties, appears from the side door to the left of the small reception. She stands behind the secretary and looks at the screen.
“Tabitha you really love this Solitaire game, don’t you?” she asks the dean’s secretary.
“If the Dean is not in, can I speak to the associate dean?” Philip asks.
“The associate dean is out of the country,” the younger woman tells him sympathetically. Tabitha, who appears to be in her mid to late thirties, is still playing her game of cards on the computer.
“What about the faculty administrator?”
“He is in his office. Just go down the corridor. His office is the fourth on the right. You will see his name of the door.”
Tabitha looks up and shoots her younger colleague a dirty look. The younger woman shrugs her shoulders and leaves though the main door. Tabitha takes her phone, drafts a quick text message and sends it before refocusing on the game on her computer.
Philip follows the corridor until he gets to the door marked “Alligator Kimani. Senior Administrator, Faculty of Business.” The door is open, so Philip knocks as he peeps in. Mr. Kimani is in, together with a young lady.
“Wait outside,” Kimani says in response to Philip’s knock. So Philip leans on one of the walls on the corridors and starts scrolling on his phone. He can hear the administrator and the secretary talking and laughing. They are gossiping a person, who appears to be known to both of them, and who apparently made a fool of himself at some party. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. Philip goes back to the door after half an hour.
“Sir, if you can help me, I would really appreciate. I need to go back to work.”
“So you think what I am doing is not important?”
“No sir but…”
“I said you wait so wait.”
The girl in his office rolls her eyes.
30 minutes. 40 minutes. 45 minutes. One hour. Finally Philip can hear them preparing to leave so gets off the wall he was leaving on and stands upright.
“Oh, you are still here? Come at two. I am going to a meeting.”
Philip is irritated, but he controls his voice.
“But sir, I have been here for almost an hour. And I need to go back to work.”
“If you want to be helped, come back at 2 PM,” he says and walks away, with the girl following.
Philip walks back to the Dean’s reception and sits down to work.
“You cannot sit here,” Tabitha snaps. “If you have time to kill go find an empty lecture hall and sit there.”
Philip follows the instructions. He finds a small lecture room and sits there and starts working on his laptop. At one pm he goes to the student cafeteria and takes lunch, and then goes back to the administrator’s office. Kimani returns at three in the afternoon, alone.
“So what is your problem?”
“I am a Master’s student. I have completed my course work and my thesis but I am not on the graduation list…”
“What is your admission number?”
The man types on his computer.
“It says here that you failed one unit,” he says and turns his laptop so that Philip can see. It is true. The computer is showing that he has an F in one unit. Philip pulls out his provisional transcript and shows it to the administrator. He had a distinction in that same unit.
“That is interesting,” the man says. “This one only the dean can help you. Talk to Tabitha nicely.”
For the first time, Philip realises that he might not graduate, and might lose his job in the process. He feels like screaming.
Image by Victor UzihBen from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/crying-african-man-crying-man-4670799/
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