Kalaki’s Korner: Pabwato Chaos

Kalaki Pa Bwato choasBy Roy Clark

I was busy exploring the mysteries of a brandy bottle when whistling through the door came my grandson Khondwa, wearing narrow jeans and a wide smirk. ‘Hullo,’ I said, ‘have you come to see your Grandpa?’
‘Not really,’ he said, ‘I’ve come to get some lunch.’ And so, without any further ado, he disappeared in the direction of the kitchen. Five minutes later he came back with an assortment of cornflakes, biscuits, cake and strawberry jam, and some dark and evil looking drink.
‘I thought you were supposed to be away in boarding school,’ I said. ‘Didn’t your father send you to Pabwato Secondary?’
‘School’s finished,’ he said. ‘I’m on holiday.’
‘Funny name for a school, Pabwato,’ I said.
‘That’s your problem, Grandpa,’ he said, as he wiped some strawberry jam from his nose, ‘you think everything’s funny.’
‘But the school is in Mpika,’ I persisted. ‘Funny place for a boat.’
He took a long swig of the filthy black liquid. ‘It’s the symbol of the school. Symbol of what we stand for.’
‘Oh, I get it,’ I said. ‘All paddle together. Take orders from the captain. All team mates, cooperating for collective progress, moving in the right direction, getting ahead. Getting ready for the long race ahead of you. Marvellous thing, education.’
‘It was a long time since you were at school, Grandpa,’ Khondwa laughed. ‘It’s not like that anymore.’
‘No computers in my day,’ I admitted. ‘But we still got our qualifications. School and university. Then get a good job. All work for the common good. Improve the world. All paddle together. I’m sure you’ll do well, Khondwa my boy!’
‘It’s not like that anymore,’ Khondwa repeated. ‘A university degree is a sure route to unemployment. At Pabwato we prepare for the real world!’
‘Oh very good!’ I said. ‘Vocational training. Not everybody can get to university. Bit of agriculture and carpentry! Honest sweat! Very good for you! Make a man of you!’
‘Poor old Grandpa,’ sighed Khondwa. ‘You’re really living in the past. How old are you now?’
I took a swig of the brandy. ‘OK,’ I said, ‘What do you do at this damned Pabwato?’
‘We’re trained for power struggle,’ replied Khondwa. ‘The school is founded on the educational method of Perpetual Fiasco. The school is divided into two camps, and we fight for possession of the Pabwato.’
‘There really is a boat?’
‘Oh yes. A huge wooden canoe with a hundred paddles. The whole curriculum is concerned with who can get control of the Pabwato! That’s what life is about, Grandpa! Power! It’s us or them! Control or be controlled!’
‘Don’t you study maths, science, history, that sort of thing?’ I wondered.
‘Nobody knows anything about things like that in Pabwato. The only subject is Politics – the pursuit of Power.’
‘And how is power obtained?’
‘Not by economics or maths,’ laughed Khondwa. ‘Power is obtained and maintained by force!’
‘But where is the Headmaster in all this?’
‘He’s the Captain of the Pabwato. He always acts as the Referee and gives rewards to the crew that has captured the boat!’
‘But you’re on dry land. What are the paddles for?’
‘For hitting people round the side of the head. The crew wields the Paddle Force, and the attacking pirates use the Punching Fist, and the entire battle is called the Pabwato Fiasco. This is what it’s like in the PF! It’s PF versus PF!’
‘Has the school always been run this way?’
‘Oh yes, ever since it was founded by the Headmaster, Mr Chimbwi Noplan.’
‘Are there any teachers?’
‘He doesn’t need any, he knows it all.’
‘Is there a Board of Governors?’
‘All appointed by the Headmaster.’
‘So which students make up the crew and which play the pirates?
‘It depends on which side wins.’
‘But who decides who joins which side?’
‘One side is led by the officers of the school cadets, and this is known as the Great Big Military. The other side is led by the school prefects, and they are known as the Ministry of Justice.’
‘And what do they mean by Military?’
‘They mean Might is Right!’
‘And what do they mean by Justice?’
‘They mean Revenge!’
‘And does the system work?’
‘It all worked very well until a couple of months ago.’
‘What happened then?’
‘Our dear Headmaster, Captain Chimbwi Noplan, suddenly disappeared. After that, the Pabwato Fiasco game had no Referee.’
‘Where did he go?’
‘Nobody knows. Some people say the Barotse Royal Establishment were after him for stealing their Nalikwanda. Others say he just got bored with the endless chaos of Pabwato Fiasco, and went away on a world tour.’
‘So what happened then?’
‘The Great Big Military weren’t content with just capturing the Pabwato, they wanted the entire school, and to take over control from the missing Chimbwi. So then the Ministry of Justice took revenge and burnt Pabwato to ashes.’
‘You mean the boat?’
‘The entire school!’
‘I was wondering,’ I said, ‘why you’re school term had ended so soon . What are you going to do now?’
‘I was thinking of joining the Youth Wing of the Movement for Murdering Democracy,’ he said.
‘Yes,’ I said, as I patted him on the shoulder. ‘Now you’ve had a good grounding in politics, I’m sure you’re well qualified to play your part in destroying the entire country