There cannot, surely be teachers more sadistic than the ones who taught us. They were the most violent, irrational, uncompromising, puritanical, unpredictable entities in the history of the Kenyan classroom. The fact that beating in schools has now been outlawed is and still is a shock to many in my generation. Watacope aje hao violent teachers, si they are still the same ones au? I can’t imagine some of them now, faced with naughty kids (watoto ni watoto, yenyewe they shouldn’t have been so harsh). To this day I still have that respect for teachers and figures of authority which is not necessarily due to them.
And teachers in those days walikuwa na weird mannerisms. I remember one teacher used to have one hand stuck inside her bra (for real!!) She would be holding chalk with one hand na ile ingine would be inside her bra. She would be marking exercise books with one hand na with the other she is exploring the contents of her bra as if kulikuwa na precious stones hapo ndani.
Another teacher used to be, like, standing and shaking her hips at the same time like she was undergoing an electric shock. We’d be at assembly and she would be standing there shaking her hips. Mwingine alikuwa na permanent scowl. Another one used to wear eye shadow. Okey I know that eye shadow isn’t a big deal now (most women wear it some time or other), but in the ‘80’s there was the mentality that “women with eye-shadow ni malaya tu.” Those street women who used to parade in tao after dark would all be wearing eye-shadow, so with that teachay wearing the stuff it was like mambo gani haya? Na mwingine alidribble saliva constantly. She had a tissue glued to her hand to wipe it, and it wouldn’t have been so euurggh if she hadn’t been a bitch. Yes a bitch, totally, hao hawakuwa na any heart whatsoever. They were like characters from Dicken’s Oliver Twist – totally merciless.
Eh lakini some pupils stood up for themselves. I remember one guy who was quite tall for his age (“kichwa ngumu” without apologies). A new teachay came in, she was youngish, I guess in her twenties, and she told the guy ‘ebu you inama so I can cane you with this pipe.’ The boy was like wapi? He grabbed the cane from her and shook it at her, and she was like “woiye usinichape, please, usinichape.’ Maze we wanted to fall over, it was so hilarious.
Another teachay came as a placement from uni and he shrubbed constantly; we took advantage of his niceness and we giggled everytime he shrubbed: “The inflastructa..” (giggle) “..of animos” (giggle) “..and prants..” (giggle) Aah we took it too far, and he told our class teacher, who was mkali like pili pili and we were whooped sijui how many strokes of the cane like convincts in Kamiti. Mwingine alikuja also as a placement from uni and he had ideas about how far he could take his power. We could obviously see that he wasn’t much older than a kijana, so we decided we were not going to treat him the way we treated other teachays. By that time we were in std. 7, so you can imagine we had maringo ati now we were seniors in primo. That teachay made the mistake of using a cane with roughness in it (kumbuka there were smooth canes and there were canes with thorns). Heh-heh, he chapad my deskie and her hand had a couple of cut marks. After lessons, we all crowded round her and cooked up a drama (exaggerating “maze he just beat you with thorns”) and we took the case to headie, saying ati that teachay beat her with a thorny stick and now she was bleeding kidogo and maybe even she might contract Tetanus (wee! Usicheze na 8-4-4 medical knowledge!). The teachay didn’t last long after that.
By that time schools were changing, and if it was before no one would have flinched. In the ‘80’s-proper, pupils had marks on their arms, bleeding on their legs, blisters on their hands, lakini no one – not even paros – made any noise. Teachays used to come with all manner of sticks, canes, pipes, I’m surprised they didn’t go the whole hog and bring those whips from Kunta Kinte. Kwanza there were some pipes filled with cement – you can imagine a te-a going to Jua Kali and saying “mwagia cement ndani ya hiyo pipe, mi ni mwalimu” or going to Karura Forest and telling a nearby chokora: “nichukulie ile stick iko na thorns.”
One time in junior primo we were alone in class without a teacher. We knew that if any “noise” whatsoever was made we would be caned (remember the command which sent shivers down our spines: “who was talking? Prefect, write down the names of the noisemakers”). Usually, it would be a random teacher passing by and if she/he (usually they were she’s) heard any noise, she/he would come in and demand a list of noisemakers. If you were enemies with the prefo that was it, you would be on the list regardless. So that day we decided to sing, so that if a teacher came she/he would find us committed to the war against noisemaking. We sang that Lesotho (or South African?) pop song Zaminamina e e waka waka e e zaminamina zankalewa, wana wa a a; Zambo e e zambo e e zaminamina zankalewa, wana wa a a” I still have no idea what that song is about (anyone know who sang it?) A stray teachay was passing by and she asked “who told you to sing?!” we were promptly whipped.