I really need help from parents who have experience with their children saying education is not a pair of pants, meaning they can do without it.
In my illustrious parenting career spanning the last few decades, nothing has prepared me for the risk that Brian would wake up one day and refuse to go to school.
Recently he woke up and, instead of emerging from his room wearing his beautiful school uniform, he was still in his home clothes. I could not understand why he would refuse to wear his uniform on any day. He has no idea how privileged he is to wear the kind of uniform he is wearing today.
In his baby class, he is already wearing a pair of trousers, leather shoes and a nice machine woven sweater with the school logo. He has no idea that I only wore a pair of trousers as my school uniform in Form Three, and I would give anything to go back to school today if I was promised a decent pair of leather shoes. Leather shoes in my days were reserved for Sundays and important national holidays.
I therefore had to convene an urgent crisis meeting when Brian demonstrated loudly that he was not ready for school.
The disaster management training I received from Karugo Senior School to deal with that kind of menace is no longer applicable.
We had enough genuine reasons to miss school.
Often, it would be the fear of the double maths lesson that fell on Monday morning immediately after the parade. The class was taken by our then headmaster, and it was the only subject that he taught.
On Fridays, he would pass around the classes where he taught, handing over maths homework for us to finish over the weekend, and hand them in first thing on Monday.
As fate would have it, we would all forget about the homework as soon as he walked out of the school compound on Friday afternoon. We would proceed to squander the weekend hunting hares, mud skating, swimming in dirty ponds and all other kind of crimes. The last thing on our minds would be the homework.
Come Monday morning, as you gathered the books from where you threw them on Friday afternoon, the untouched homework would be there staring at you.
Quick decisions had to be made. There was the option of staying in late and completing the homework at the risk of arriving late to school. However, this risk was too high as Monday was parade day and arrival time was always fifteen minutes ahead to allow for singing of the National Anthem and reciting the Loyalty Pledge.
The only option left was to feign illness and skip school.
But our parents were also qualified medical doctors and registered pharmacists. My mother was a specialist consultant, especially if you complained of unsubstantiated stomach pains that was the most common excuse for us to miss school.
She would warm some water to fill a half-litre cup and add about three full teaspoons of salt. The resulting mixture tasted like a chemical weapon of mass destruction. You were faced with the option of calling off your sudden ‘disease’ and avoiding the homemade medicine, or taking it. Half the time I would opt to say that I was already feeling better instead of facing the lethal salt concoction.
But Wa Hellen would not be through with you if she suspected that you were feigning illness to miss school.
She would proceed to flush you out of the house and chase you all the way to school as she gently licked your back with one of her slippers. Upon arrival at school, the class teacher would pull two chairs, and lend Wa Hellen a spare stick.
She would order you to lie on the dusty floor and invite her to have an early morning whipping snack of your tiny cold frozen behind.
This was not enough to trim the ‘small horns’ as our teachers called our emerging indiscipline cases. You would be taken to the headmaster who kept a fine ‘muhakia’ stick in his office specifically to further ‘trim’ our ‘horns’.
For those who don’t know tree names, muhakia is a form of ‘tree’ made of wrought iron, and is regularly used to construct standard gauge railways. He would meticulously place six strokes across your middle thighs, leaving prominent red welts and effectively bringing to an abrupt end your theatrics of refusing to go to school.