Continued from The Rosalid Factor III
Margaret sits in her office and smiles. She is the principal of Galdan Achievers Girls High School, a school she and her husband established five years ago, and which she has built into a centre of excellence. Last year the first cohort sat for their KCSE examination and they did exceptionally well, and really there cannot be better marketing than that. This year she was overwhelmed by applications to the school.
She started small, with a class of 15 students. Sam is the one who gave her the land on which she constructed the first facilities. She actually started constructing ten years ago, while she was still teaching under TSC. For five years, and with the support of Sam and her parents, she built four classrooms, three laboratories, a library, a dormitory, an administration block, ablution blocks and other basic facilities. When they completed construction five years ago, she resigned from her TSC job to become a full time businesswoman. She advertised the school and received twenty-five applications, but she admitted only twelve of them. The other thirteen failed in their interviews. They could have paid the fees she was charging, but she was not convinced that they could be turned into top students either because of their academic ability or because of their attitude.
From the word go she had decided that Galdan would be an elite school. That means she would provide the best facilities money could offer, and she would charge premium. She knew from the start that since not many parents could afford her fees, and since the school was new, she would struggle to attract students. But that did not bother her, because she was convinced that the school would pick once her vision became clearer. She knew that the school would be judged by its results, but she also knew that top students would never go to an untested school. So she settled for children in the middle of the pack, who she was convinced she could give a push to the top. Her only selling point at the beginning was her school’s facilities, which were admittedly good for a small school.
She had also made up her mind that she would give a chance to bright students from poor backgrounds a chance to study at the school free of charge. In that first cohort, she admitted three students, who she sponsored from her own pockets. Unsurprisingly, these three students topped the class in last year’s KCSE, and all the three of them got scholarships to study in universities abroad. Now, about a quarter of her students are sponsorship students. The schools offers them free tuition, but Margaret has been working hard to get them sponsorships from politicians and corporates, to offset their boarding and other needs.
For the first cohort of fifteen students, Margaret hired all the staff needed for a functional school. She was determined that she would not compromise on quality at any stage. She had enough teachers to cover all the subjects. Most of the teachers are young graduates who had not yet secured TSC employment. Some had gained some experience while teaching in other private schools or in public schools under BOM terms, but Margaret enticed them with higher salaries. Those teachers included her own parents, who had just retired and had offered to step in and assist their daughter’s vision without pay. Margaret’s parents sat both on the board of the school and also went to the classrooms to teach, and Margaret insisted on paying them just as she was paying other staff members. Their presence in the staffroom helped to provide the much needed experience to the otherwise very young and inexperienced staff team, and their presence on the board helped to bolster their daughter’s administrative credentials. Both of them had retired as principals of relatively large schools and their return to the staffroom was both a classic act of both humility and loyalty to their daughter.
Another addition to the boardroom was Mrs. Anna Kimani. Margaret approached her former boss, now retired, and asked her to join the board of her new school. The lady, who was Margaret’s best lady at the wedding, agreed. The choice was a wise one. When Mrs. Kimani took the reins at Olive Girls High School Kerugoya, it was a tiny, underperforming public school in the outskirts of the town. In the course of the twenty years she was in charge, she turned around the fortunes of the school and converted it into a regional giant with modern facilities. If there was an administrator who knew how to use meagre resources to do big things, it was Mrs. Kimani. She also has connections almost everywhere, from the education sector to the financial sector (she is the current chairlady of Margaret’s Sacco) and she was the key that Margaret used to unlock doors that would otherwise have remained closed. Margaret made her the chairperson of the board, even though she had no shares in the school, and the other shareholders and directors agreed. She has an office adjacent to Margaret’s. Till today Margaret doesn’t know the true nature of Anna’s relationship to Sam.
For the school to run as Margaret had envisioned, she needed a huge capital outlay. Her parents and her husband helped by investing financially in the project, and for that she gave them twenty percent shareholding in the company each, and she was left with forty percent. Her parents and Sam hand helped with the acquisition of the land and the initial construction. All the four of them are directors of the school, with Anna Kimani as the fifth director. But she also needed more money, especially for recurrent expenditure. That is where Anna came in. She negotiated with the other directors of the Sacco, and they agreed to help the school, provided the school opened accounts with them. Margaret gladly did that, and informed her staff that they would be paid through the Sacco. That automatically made them members of the Sacco.
When the first twelve students paid their fees, Margaret deposited the money there. It wasn’t enough to cover the staff salaries, but the Sacco gave her an overdraft. Later on, again with the help of Anna, she got into a similar arrangement with her bank, and so now she splits the school’s income between the Sacco and the bank. The Sacco sorts her staff salaries and advertising costs and the bank settles her other suppliers. Anna has over the last five years helped Margaret become a better manager. She doesn’t get in the way, and she doesn’t take any credit for the moves she makes, letting Margaret take it all. She knows that it is important for the younger woman to grow in confidence as an administrator, and getting praise is one way of doing that. She herself took the reins at Olives as a very inexperienced teacher, having been a deputy principal at the school for only three years before that. The then principal had retired, and she took over. The retiring principal had told her it would be easy, because everyone’s expectations of the school were low. But Anna wanted to prove a point, and she did. Years later, she gladly shared the experience she gained over the years with Margaret.
Part of the reason Anna goes out of her way to help Margaret is guilt over her relationship with Sam. Ever since Sam brought Margaret to Olive Girls, Anna has developed genuine affection for the younger woman. But it is almost as though she had gotten addicted to the woman’s husband, who is the same age as her first born. When she took Sam to her staff house that day after the wedding they attended together in Murang’a, it had been on a whim. Her children were in school and her husband was on an overseas work trip. It is true that she was sexually starved in her marriage for years, but she had remained faithful over the years, even though she knew that her husband had been unfaithful many times over. That day her intention had been to take Sam home, have him make love to her, then the following day she would give him cash and send him on his way. But the experience was so good that she wanted more of the same. That is why she got entangled, and entanglement that has gone on for over two decades.
Anna hopes that her efforts at the school are enough to pay off her betrayal of Margaret. Anna had even refused to take a salary at the school, but Margaret insisted and she reluctantly agreed.
Margaret’s investment at the school was a huge gamble, but it has paid off. The school has not yet broken even-the shareholders are not getting profits yet-but at least she is able to settle the bills when they fall due. She has been paying off her overdrafts with the bank and the Sacco on time, meaning they have continued to avail the overdraft if and when she needs it. Actually, part of the reason she has not been declaring any profits is because she has been constantly developing the facilities of the school. She has even expanded the school by buying the land adjacent to it. She has built modern sports facilities beyond the obligatory football, volleyball handball, and basketball courts that every school offers. Galdan sports facilities include tennis courts, badminton courts, swimming pools, hockey and cricket pitches. The next ambition is introduce horse riding, but she doesn’t have the finances for that right now.
Academically, the school has a wide variety of subjects, beyond the mandatory courses that are required by the 8-4-4 curriculum. The school teaches various foreign languages including the Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Arabic and Spanish. The school also offers various short courses such as basic coding, knitting & crocheting, baking, photography, cosmetology, hair therapy, mechanics, carpentry, plumbing and electrical engineering. The school has partnered with a TVET college to issue certificates for these courses. Every student is required to take two languages in the course of their stay at the school, at least one sport as well as one course per year. More than anything else, Margaret has discovered that the courses are the primary reason the school has become so popular. Most parents says they prefer their kids to be all rounded with some life skills on top of their academics.
Margaret is always looking for ways to improve the standards of her school, and this morning she has been in a discussion with representatives of an Australian university, trying to get a partnership that will see her students get scholarships there. Once she is done with the meeting, she rises and is just about to go to another meeting with her teachers when Rosalid calls. Margaret has come to like Rosalid, who seems to be more a more effective secretary than her own. Her own secretary, Rosa, is a good enough. But she lacks in initiative. She has to be reminded of every little task. Rosalid, on the other hand, is the one who reminds Sam of everything on his schedule. She sends him an email every morning with his schedule, which he reviews over breakfast. It is not lost on Margaret that ever since Sam started working at the hospital, he remembers all the birthdays, her and the children’s; he remembers their anniversary and he buys her random flowers and chocolates.
Margaret knows that is change is attributable to Rosalid. She is the one who inserts these things to his schedule. Margaret has come to view the girl as a younger sister and has even invited her to her house on multiple occasions. She picks the call with a smile on her face.
“Hi Margaret? Do you have a minute?”
“I think I do. I am heading to a minute but if we can talk briefly.”
“I wanted to confirm whether you would be okay if I invited a woman called Jane. She is Sam’s friend from college, and I think they are still close.”
“Sure, of course. Just invite anybody you think is important to him,” Margaret replies, as she stands to leave. She has no idea that she is just a pawn in Rosalid’s game of chess.
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