I wonder how many versions of me (personality, body structure) there’d be if God had answered every single prayer of mine. Human inadequacy. Seemed to hit me pretty bad at 11 years old.
I had just joined a private school from a carefree public education institution, characterized by: carrying water to school for toilet cleaning duties at 7am in the morning before raising the flag on assembly (I was a girl guide), carrying firewood for the mid day fill, porridge :-), a full class of bare feet scholars who desired an education & perhaps more. We didn’t plaster our class walls with cow dung & mud like our neighboring school, thanks Heaven. We were locked outside the gate by 7.30am, left to count the strokes of cane (based on the teacher on duty) that would have us wake up earlier the next morning. We never had to question who we were, it never crossed my mind that I was of a different tribe and ‘Rapunzel’, the light-skinned short-haired girl from Shikusa-somewhere in western Kenya, was equally different. We lived and loved, we played ‘kati’ (ball game), swam in the river and roamed in the villages during lunch hour in search of chevda (a locally prepared snack, not the Indian version in stores), we fought each other and never let it go until we picked another fight with someone else, we sat on corner desks we had scrubbed the previous term on closing day. We bought flavored iced water from ‘borrowed’, mostly given allowances to make peace with our foes and entice new friends. If someone died, who was from school, known by the school, affiliated to it through public service or his/her relative had at one point chaired a ceremony in school we all attended the wake. We called it body viewing. Whether we knew him/her personally or not we had to give a proper send off. We carried with us water and firewood which were essential for all the cooking taking place. We cried our hearts out just because everyone did. We wailed. We wouldn’t have class that day and it wasn’t a big deal, it was actually our joy to miss class. It was a beautiful life, it was care free.
A week prior to leaving, I said goodbye and no one believed me. It was the beginning of a new term, I had probably already paid fees. My mum told me much later, she woke up one morning and decided I was changing schools. She had been horrified by the red marks on my right leg from a plastic whip. I still have the scars now. It wasn’t a big deal to me.
Monday morning, I am awake by 4.45 am, continuing with my class 6 in a private school and a bus would be getting me every morning. Cool. It’s dark and freezing who cares. Am still in my old uniform with black shoes and white socks. Am led into class for morning prep and shortly the bell rings. Everyone is running to the assembly I follow suit. Straight lines of blue tunics over white shirts and am the only one standing out. Guys singing an unknown song and am saying my survival prayers. Everyone is speaking in English and I have to remind myself it’s not some sort of English test. We get to class and it’s time for maths. I suddenly realize all along I had been taught from a different book. Everyone gets it though, most people do. There are actually classes for French and computer. I remember my first French class, I copied everything from my class mate who wasn’t quite amused by it. The teacher still gave me 100% I guess he understood where I was coming from. In geography class we had to stand up when the teacher entered class. You earned your sit by answering a question. I mostly stared out the window fighting tears, missing my old friends, my old life, counting minutes to end of class and wondering how I was going to get through the remaining 3 years. The maths teacher had us caned for marks we missed to score 100%. Strokes of the cane on my palm, with a ruler, please! What’s that? The day I scored 52% I had to receive 48 strokes, I felt she was teasing me. The class was amused and counted each stroke for the teacher who gave up mid-way, I wasn’t reacting. There was no physical pain at all. I was mostly humiliated and my insecurity bar was slowly rising. By the next year I was taking out on every individual who ignored or ridiculed me, mostly the latter. I developed weird characters like hiding people’s shoes and eating from their suitcases while they were in class. I wrote anonymous letters to particular class mates and I watched them read and cry. As they read I had mine too and would go to them offering comfort, letting them know they were not alone. This creepy person was targeting us because we were special. I got boys into trouble, signing off their names on notes to other girls. I cheated on a paper one time & came in second because I copied everything. I said I had previously done the paper over the holidays. No one bought it.
I had my highs too. Solving a number puzzle in a math class after hours of everyone getting it wrong & having my composition read out in class to display a good ending to a beautiful piece of art. In sports I excelled in short runs and represented my house.
Still, I wanted to be smart like everyone else, I wanted to fit in. It’s crazy I carried this with me in all the possible wrong ways. By my final year in primary I was done with the queer behavior but I had such an inferiority complex it shuttered most of my childhood & adulthood. A year later, I was to begin a different path I was partly unaware of, which set a foundation of who I am & strive to be. A path of love and friendship, of similar struggles and boy crush. I loved my 4 years of high school and will try to illustrate it with the least excitement, enough not to fill a hundred pages. On the next blog.
Am I glad I joined the private school (then)? Certainly.
Do I regret the foundation of my education? No. Would I opt it any different? Yes.
I chose to thank God for the path my life took, the uncertainties of my future then, the endurance of a maturing girl and a second chance at good education. I love how I started off in the ‘bush’ with limited supervision, it made me the adventurous person I am today.
In 2 months am taking Nathan to baby class. In a private school. I will personally teach him French from my six years of learning and partially practicing it. E & I will teach him swimming from the international sports center near our home. Am praying that we get to identify his strengths earlier and build on them. Most importantly am teaching him about God, who is beyond everything that will ever cross his mind. His sovereignty is indescribable.
I know a number of people including my amazing sister who went through the public school system and excelled. If not for the wedding this past August, she’d be completing her coursework in MBA this December. We all just need a different kind of foundation ‘motivation’. There are those who equally didn’t perform better despite the grounding in private schools.
There are public primary schools with a good education system and are doing very well, producing outstanding professionals in different fields of politics, medicine, IT, law etc.
Public high schools in Kenya are the best, an irony if you ask me. Everyone, both from private and public primary schools strive to get into the leading ones.
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