High School pt.I
The phrase “high school” in ulaya triggers images of cheerleaders, boys called ‘Shep’ (say what?), and teenies eating endless burgers, fries and shakes (‘meet me in Wimpy, babe’). Lakini kama uko Kenyan the words ‘high school’ zinatrigger mamemories, smiles, winces, nightmares. Kweli you know what kind of chuo Oliver Twist attended.
Yenyewe the day our KCPE results were announced … heh heh heh, I remember it crisply and clearly. To say that nilikuwa anxious is an understatement sana, na yani they would hang everyone’s results on a noticeboard, kama bus timetables at KenCom. By that time (before mitihani) we’d all chosen our desired shules – unless of course for those who’d be fast-tracked by way of kitu kidogo, au wale ambao akina private chuos like Muso, Kanda, Saints, were their destination (I hear walijienjoy sana). Hakuna ku-hate.
As for us we chose sijui one national and four provincials. Woe unto you if you lived outside Nai, many of the provincials outside were kidogo woboho/rough.
Baada ya KCPE results wakina headi na deputy headi of high schools would go to chagua their desired students; the higher up the chuo on KCSE results league tables, the more choice of students they had. By the time akina Kaloleni High and Ndumberi Secondary fikad to chagua, all the swots had been kamatwad.
Maze when I heard I’d gotten into my first choice provincial (a certain prison barracks), aaah watu wote walinicongratulate sana, yani it was like such a big deal. Ignorant and unaware of what awaited, niliwaste those holidays kabisa, ati I couldn’t wait to anza chuo. I hang out at Metho (swima), went to 20thC cinema kidogo, lakini I didn’t make full use of those holls. Heh heh, big mistake.
Haya basi, opening day. Already mumenunuliwa all the things on the list – akina bloomers and legwarmers. Hah hah, mambo gani hayo? Hata “brazierre” were on the list. Na pia we had blueband, jam, tomato sauce, Marie biscuits, fruit. Baass. Shule ianze. The prefos greeted us like we were long lost relatives, kumbe it was all an act for the paros. Woiye.
When supper time came that’s when us borm-ones started angaliaing each other ati ‘what have we gotten ourselves into?’ Namwambia that first supper ilikuwa marrow – na sio kama ya home, ati with mkaangiko and onions or roiko. That marrow was boiled beans and maize and potatoes. Kwisha maneno. Hardly a borm-one ate more than a couple of spoonfuls. They should have had a standby dentist, ‘cause those mahindi were ngumu like stones. We were shangaaing ati form twos, threes, fours, were kaukaring their plates, hata they went for seconds. Maze a year on we also kaukad our plates and went for seconds.
We’d already wekad our luggage in the dorms. The dorms were actually colourful, for some reason. And they were on 5 floors – or was it 4? Carrying a bucket of water up the stairs was no furaha. I shangaa ati no one torokad through the windows, even though you could ona the outside world for like a mile around.
Once the gates were closed, michezo kwisha – “now that we’re alone” – like those sinister characters in movies who turn into Freddie Krueger once everyone else leaves. Hata the watchies and their mbwas had a conspiratorial gleam in their eyes.
Form, 2-4s were like ati we had pice, but we just nyamazad. After supper, we acquainted ourselves with fellow borm-ones, hata some quoros were formed there and then. Yani we were so excited. That evening, we were called for a meeting by the prefos – the “cops” (sameheni, it’s giving police a bad name). Ahh they were wabaya. Whoever said ati ‘power corrupts absolutely’ juaad that mambo. Jameni the head-prefo stood there like “err we have no rule book, so we can’t tell you what the rules are. But ignorance is no defence. If you are caught breaking a rule, you will be punished.” We were like yeah-yeah whatever, tutahandle any rules. Leta hiyo. Ha!
Get caught on the lawn – get booked. Get caught not running when the bell rings – get booked. Get kamatwad not having done ‘duty’ vizuri – get booked. Come Sato you’d spend the afte like some Kamiti convict, slashing the nyasi or suguaing the pavements ‘cause of all your bookings.
Daily schedule ilikuwa as follows: kengele at 5.30 a.m (imagine that - some of us we hadn’t really onad nchi ya Kenya at that hour before; yani by sunrise, kitu 6.30, we were awake like owls). Weh-seh, if you had outstanding homework, you endad class at 5.30-6.00 to maliza it. By sijui 6.20 if you were patwad in the dorms, unless you had ‘duty’ there, you were booked haraka sana. ‘Duty’ was unpaid labour, everyone had 2-3 ‘duties’ a day – from cleaning the vyoos, maintaining the dorms, sweeping class, laying out breakfast … bla bla the whole shabang. Kwani hakuna child labour laws in Kenya? Ministry of Manpower Development ilikuwa wapi itutetee??
Breakfast was perpetually tea and bread, or porridge. When I say ‘tea’ and ‘porridge’, natumia those words loosely. Anyone would have thought kuna shortage ya tea leaves au maize flour, the way they rationed them. Eurrggh, I couldn’t stand tea for many years. I’m so glad they didn’t serve coffee, ‘cause bad tea is one thing, but bad coffee is going too far. As for maize porridge, the thought of hiyo inani-make queasy. Pia Bournvita siwezi kuistand.
People would miminya blueband and jam on the bofuro slices – they were like an inch thick, and you juad mpaka lunch hakuna any other food. We used to wish our chuo was like those other boarding schools that kubalishad grub, lakini the Austrian nuns who ran it semad ati bringing grub would promote inequality. If that was so, kwanini those nuns ate like Henry VIII? We used to be tormented by the harufu of their three-course meals, aah it was just torture having nothing but dissolved cabbage and ug in your stomach na hao nuns wanajienjoy without wasi wasi.
Although the food was mbaya, we form-ones had many more things to get used to. Little did we know that we’d spend everyday after the mwanzo of a term counting off the days left till midi or end-of-term. Little did we jua that those 4 years would crawl by like a mkokoteni stuck in traffic in Nyama-Kima. Little did we imagine that a chuo, a high school, could have so many politics (some of us dreamt of a revolt, Che-Guevara style, lakini wapi?), campaigns (wannabe-prefos sucking up to teachays), malice (a.k.a. ‘manje’), stress (hata wengi walipata ulcers), ahh just ngojea I unleash in High School part II.