The culture we are experiencing in the country where people are paid handsomely for supplying air, fictitious blankets and overpriced towels to public institutions did not just start yesterday.
When I was in school I could already foretell those pupils who would become senior procurement managers in the large public institutions.
Back in Karugo Group of Schools where I learned to count using maize seeds, and all subjects including English were taught in my mother tongue, the procurement officers were already honing their careers.
RAID OUR LUNCHES
One of their key areas of apprenticeship for the future chief procurement directors was other pupils’ lunch boxes.
Because Wa Hellen had attended a rudimentary baking school, you were likely to find tasty pastries and pancakes in my lunch box. As a result, my lunch box was always a prime target for boys and girls who were doing their practicals ahead of their lucrative procurement careers.
I still believe that the suspects could sniff the contents of my lunch box from a mile away. On days when I had ugali or such other bland meals, my lunch box was never touched.
Come that day when the box boasted of delicacies from Wa Hellen’s home bakery, the box was heavily targeted.
No amount of monitoring or surveillance helped in catching the suspects. The misappropriation of my cakes was only noticed during the lunch break when I went to pick my lunch box from the common storage behind the classroom. The tin would feel unnaturally lighter, and upon opening it, I would be hit with the shocker. The suspects did not have the decency to leave me even one piece.
In such cases I would become the whistle-blower regarding this discovery of my empty lunch box. The discovery would be accompanied by loud crying as I remonstrated to all and sundry about the hunger pangs that I would experience for the rest of the day.
Sometimes, some benevolent pupils would donate some of their lunch box contents to rescue me from inevitable ‘starvation’, but this was hardly enough to placate me for the loss.
One time the vice had become too much and the entire school population was on the verge of declaring a hunger disaster as a result of these food thieves. They had grown bold and were even suspected of emptying all the lunch boxes into a bigger container and carting it away from school, probably to create a strategic food reserve in their homes.
HUNT FOR THIEVES
As a result, our headmaster (nowadays they are called principals and they even attend week-long conferences in the Coast to draft their respective schools’ strategic plans) organised for a major manhunt for the suspects.
It was known that the vice normally occurred during school parade. As the pupils gathered at the parade ground to sing the National Anthem and recite the National Pledge, the suspects were left behind in the classrooms enjoying our food.
On the day the headmaster decided to lay siege on the suspects, he called an adhoc roll call during parade. Coincidentally, all the key suspects were missing from the parade. The parade was promptly called off before the CRE teacher could lead us in a song and Bible verse recitation. We were all mobilised to locate the suspects and flush them out from wherever they were hiding.
We took this up gleefully; it was also an opportunity to miss the dreaded double maths lesson. The suspects must have gotten wind of our hunt and they jumped over the school fence with the rest of us in hot pursuit.
The big boys spearheaded the hunt for the suspects and the rest of us followed suit. Some villagers joined in the hunt, armed to the teeth although they did not know what we were hunting.
The suspects were not just standing there waiting to be caught and converted into pulp as we intended to, and they provided a good chase sport. They eventually outsmarted us as they seemed to have mastered the bushes better than the rest of us.
They never came back to school, and one of these days when the relevant institutions are grilling key suspects involved in mega scandals in the country, I expect to see in the dock the two suspects who tormented me by stealing my food.
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