When I read Jackson Biko’s article named From the Equator last week, it awakened spirits and resuscitated memories I had long forgotten, apart from perhaps what I penned recently on my FB page andrewismme.wordpress Facebook Page in regard to how allergic we were to water for these four, eventful years. What Biko evoked made me find it fair, to share with my readers instead of just summarising it in three sentences in form of a comment.
Makes sense? Yes….!
Ready! Here’s a much summarised story of my High School life;
On 6th February 2004, on a sweltering Friday formed part of a nostalgic week that Matatus were on strike coinciding with a time that Form Ones were reporting to their new schools. In the wake of confusion, mum instructed one of my uncles to give me a ride to school (about 27 kilometers away) in his bicycle. Eleven years down the line, I can hardly recall what the rationale was, of I being ridden by my uncle all the way as we left mum with my voluminous Blue box figuring out how she would make it to Nyahururu town. She made it. At about 1pm, we met her having bought the mattress, a red bucket and the rest of the NECESSARY shopping.
What followed soon after successfully being admitted and handed over to a Form Three lad to escort and orient this green and naive boy, was quite dramatic. As we made our way to my new dwelling place, I braved words hurled at me, screams and all manner of intimidation you could ever imagine. It was baptismal with fire. Incidentally, a dude whose face I couldn’t manage to paint in my mind in that melee, requested to assist carry my bucket. To my surprise, he disappeared in the thin air. That was the end of my poor, red bucket and I. Short, cold and painful relationship. It was kidnapped even before I used it to wash a handkerchief leave alone the uniform. Despite the fact that it had a very gigantic and visible admission number, it vanished like Czar the Coast musician, never to be seen again.
I quickly got accustomed to the maddening harassment and playing hide and seek with extremely rogue Form One bullies. This made me endear reading the Bible daily, reading and rereading verses that warned and rebuked the unrighteous (read Form One bullies) and the unmerciful. The more I prayed about my safety, the more harassments I endured. I remember one day, after we reported from April holidays my mattress went missing. That was the second and the last mattress mum was to buy me in a span of 4 months. Soon after the night preps, I met my helpless blankets stashed at a corner of the bed sobbing and whining in darkness. Luckily, a friend of mine who was in Form Three helped me get two conjoined pieces of mattresses that didn’t resemble each other. Conjoined!! Never mind, that was high school for me. Mum never heard of this to date.
We made it to Form Two amid renewed excitement that we had been left off the hook by the bullies. At least the new Form one admission dates were round the corner. To our shock, we came to realise Form Twos were the most loathed lot of students since they had no authority to stop a Form One not even to command him to wash a plate. Speaking of plates, I never understood, as a school culture, how majority disliked cleaning their plates leaving that to poor Form Ones who would wash to over 50 plates at a go. For a Form One, making it to the evening preps without being abducted by a no-nonsense Form Four to do a task which ranged from cleaning his shirts or being sent to another dormitory which came with its fair share of more harassments, one would consider himself lucky to get to class safely.
Gradually, life became bearable and even enjoyable. We got acquainted to the culture unawares. We invested time to a wide range of interests from Sports Clubs which I was one disillusioned fellow, to Drama Clubs. I was a huge fanatic of Debate Club whereby I served as the Vice President after I was rigged out from the Presidency post. I was also an active member of Drama club which took me to Provincial competitions in Temple-road Nyeri and Thika High. Science subjects didn’t like me as much, but I remember our school steadily making it to the Nationals for all the four years. The likes of John Ngoru an avid reader of this blog and an erstwhile classmate, a relatively quiet guy but scarcely sharp and bright bagged an avalanche of medals from Science Congress to Mathematics contests.
Soon enough, anxiously waiting for letters from our so called catches from Music and Drama Festivals in 2nd term and Sports events at the end of 1st term became a grueling experience. Letters were normally read out every Friday and Saturday parades and waiting for your name to be mentioned was like waiting to hear your name announced as the SportPesa jackpot winner. Interestingly, we were also cool enough to earn space not once or twice in the much popular Insyder magazine then. I remember saving my meager pocket money to buy a copy. I so much got fond of them that I kept dozens of copies back at home for visitors who popped by during school holidays.
The idea of not taking supper from the dining hall became so much fun. We would gather as a bunch of 7 – 10 boys and move with speed, holding our plates with one hand and hiding our faces with the other, making it a bit difficult for the teacher-on-duty to make out the faces. We were experts in making long strides (me included) in the air, not stumbling, maintaining the speed and the balance of the plate while not having clear sight of what’s ahead. It was thrilling to cut corners with the teacher. The sound of dozens of running legs and mischievous laughters after outwitting a teacher was an endearing hobby. Weirdly, food tasted better when taken besides stuffy beds, smelly socks and in no to so clean plates haha. We didn’t even notice. Better still, Thursdays were days to be longed for, for the mere reason one would get a piece of meat. This meant some students would camp at the Dining Hall counter from early as 4:30pm. Since I had this petite physique, it was a tall order for me to endure the stampede, all for the love of meat.
Strikes were common in this school. The deadliest happened when we in Form One when the Form Three had a feud with the rest of the school bringing everything to a standstill. They paralysed the school at night by interfering with the power system. The school was thrown to total darkness amid stoning of window panes. They pulled an El-Ade attack by plucking off a metal water tank and using it as a shield as they advanced towards the perceived enemies essentially stopping the flying stones. I was caught in the melee and had a stone landing just few millimeters above my right eye which left a tiny scar to date. For some few minutes I braced for the worst, convinced my eye had been gouged out. I found myself bleeding profusely, lying on a wet ground and surviving a stampede from a crowd that was running helter-skelter.
Still on strikes, there is one time we were chased out of school at night by teargas and gunshots for causing mayhem. How some of us managed to climb the three meter school fence in half a second made me appreciate adrenaline is real. We had to run for about 15 kilometers, bringing down residents’ fences and wreaking havoc on crops as we looked for escape in the dead of a night. We soured the plains, some breaking their legs from caving in to unforeseen holes while we lost track of others. For about one and half hours, cops were hot on our heels in pursuit of these untamed boys. We camped at the hills of Mt. Thodio where the low temperatures of the night tormented every part of us. We slept in the middle of nowhere like herded livestock for one long night, cracking jokes and pondering on what fate had for us. Talk of Mt. Thodio experience.
While some were naughty enough to wake up at 3am to milk the school cows for the love of milk or to savour the idea of dismantling newly replaced power sockets or to leave tap water running; High School heavily impacted on whom I am today. And as Eleanor Roosevelt would put it – The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.