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LIFE BY LOUIS: The high school pep-talk

Monday December 9 2019

When I received the letter to report to form one in a high school aptly nicknamed 'Manyani' , after an infamous freedom fighters detention camp, no one in the entire village had heard of that school. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH

When I received the letter to report to form one in a high school aptly nicknamed 'Manyani', after an infamous freedom fighters detention camp, no one in the entire village had heard of that school. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

LOUIS MUIRURI
By LOUIS MUIRURI
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I have a friend living and working for gain in Nairobi whose son attained more than enough marks in the recently announced KCPE examinations.

Due to the pressure to attain the 400 marks that is considered crème de la crème of primary school education, any kid that does not attain that mark quietly announces that they passed the examination by attaining enough marks to join a high school.

The ones who crack the 400 marks limit are carried around the estate on the shoulders of their parents and teachers, and our social media timelines cannot get enough of their conquest stories.

PRESTIGIOUS SCHOOL

The boy has been admitted to join Lokitaung Secondary School in Turkana County and whose nearest shopping centre is Tripoli, Libya.

I have been trying to encourage my friend that the school is quite good and the boy will turn out just fine.

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At some point he was busy trying his luck with a principal of one of the nearby national schools. He insisted that he once helped him with his maths homework back in primary school where they studied together, and the principal now needed to return the favour by admitting his son into the prestigious school.

He had also drafted a memorandum to one major national school that admits boys from humble backgrounds. Although my friend lives in a gated community that boasts of a heated swimming pool and sauna, he had lied in the memorandum that he is a poor parent who survives on less than a dollar a day.

His luck seems to have ran out, and after several sessions of counselling, I have finally convinced him to allow the boy to join the school. Part of the counselling sessions included my personal testimony that should form part of a motivational speakers opening remarks.

MAJOR FAMINE

When I received the letter to report to form one in a high school aptly nicknamed 'Manyani' after an infamous freedom fighters detention camp, no one in the entire village had heard of that school.

It lived up to its promise. We showered in a communal bathrooms with no doors and during peak shower time the place resembled a well attended nudist conference.

During dinner, big weevils jumped out of our plates carrying all the maize and leaving us to starve on half cooked beans and maize soup. As a result the weevils grew big like giant genetically modified rats. On the other hand we grew thin and we could have passed for survivors of a major famine.  

At lunch, we fished for pieces of cabbage from the cabbage soup and ate them with ugali. Ugali was made with flour from a nearby posho mill that did not have the decency to remove the lazy weevils before feeding the maize into the mill hopper.

Luckily for us, the cabbage pieces were the size of an A4 paper and we used them to fold the ugali into palatable balls before swallowing them with songs of praise. 

Tea in the morning was see-through and it badly required a petticoat. It seemed to have been made by a bored cook who boiled the water and threw in milk from a fifty metres range. Luckily the tea had a lot of sugar to prevent us from gagging. 

Bedbugs slept with us at night, sucking the top layer of our blood and touching our young bodies indecently as we slumbered.

HARDSHIPS

Despite all these hardships, reading the books that brought us to the school was serious business. We avoided all the other places except the classrooms and the library.

As a result we memorized the Archimedes principle and when the exams came around we showed them dust.

Out of the school emerged average students who went on to become successful hardware shop owners and landlords. This cluster also gave the country the most vocal politicians and bloggers.  

The same schools produced above average lawyers that we go to see when we want to buy plots in Joska and hide the properties from our immediate families. The lawyers are very apt at helping us to register the plots using some dummy company names domiciled in some tax haven in Cayman Islands.  

The same school churned out sharp doctors that you visit when your child has accidentally swallowed an insect. The doctor complicates the issue while consulting heavily from thick medical journals. He recommends an endoscopy, all the while peering from above his gold rimmed glasses. 

He finally interprets the lab reports and tells you that your son requires to undergo a major gastrointestinal surgery. He gives you a quote, and after consulting with your entire clan and opening countless WhatsApp fund raising groups, you conclude that you must sell something in order to afford the treatment plan.

You go home and look for things you have in pairs and you can do without one. It is a hard decision, you announce to yourself. The only possible culprits are one of your kidneys.

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