Count your Money!

My early field responsibility was the maintenance and oversight of the Kijima area primary schools. I believe there were 32 of them and, since I had some building construction training and experience, I seemed to “fill the need” for that. I also was responsible for handling the collected school fees and paying out the salaries to all the teachers once a month, I either traveled to a pre-established paying point or used our house at the mission station; the teachers met me there to receive their salaries and to give me the fees collected which I then deposited to the Education Department account.

Often, the teachers at a particular school would send in one of their fellow teachers who would then collect the salaries for all. I always insisted that those salaries be counted by the receiving teacher then placed into a strong enveloped and sealed. Often the collecting teacher didn’t want to count those “other” salaries; they said, “We trust you”, but I insisted anyway.

There was one teacher, a school headmaster, who was the most outspoken in trying to avoid this counting business. The school he represented was ‘way out beyond two “mbuga”s (seasonal cotton-soil swamps); since it was an Upper Primary School there were a number of teachers there. Sometimes, during heavy rains, I drove (slogged!) out to the edge of the second swamp and paid the teachers from the tailgate of the Land Rover!!!

The next month, the same headmaster came to pick up the salaries. His first words to me were, “You were right to make me count our money”! What happened was that in returning across the swamp, some of his own salary which was separate from those of the other teachers, must have dropped out of his pocket. He said, “If you hadn’t make me count it before I left, I would have thought you had shorted me”.

Situation solved; process vindicated! But the teacher had to adjust his spending for that month!