Week Of Prayer Saved me: High School Chronicles. Long Read


Senior Villager
Despite having secured a form one slot in one of the best schools in the region, I enrolled in one I disliked because I didn't have much of a choice. The sole determining factor was finances. The high school I attended is a Christian institution and at the time there's a church-based NGO that offered partial scholarships for needy students to study there. By the time I enrolled for form one, half term was already approaching and I had quite some catching up to do. I remember my first day in class the English teacher sent me out to do some assignment he'd left the day before. Never mind that I tried explaining that it was my first day at school. In a few days, the NGO guys came and they basically asked for students with either one or both parents deceased and they'd have a one-on-one convo with them to evaluate who deserved sponsorship.

By the time we opened for the second term, funds from the NGO were not disbursed yet. The news that the NGO had gone broke and was discontinuing the sponsorship program was conveyed to us at a Monday morning assembly. We were asked to reach out to our guardians/parents and relay the information that the administration required fees to be paid. This term wasn't smooth. I was occasionally sent home for fees and I sneaked back without. Survival was tough. We had a meal card without which you'd miss some meals. Most of the days I went without breakfast - soya na mkate quarter (SDA school) - but break time my bro always made sure I had something to eat.

Besides the fees, I didn't have a hard time in form one. My elder brother was in form four here and there were a number of guys from my home area so no one dared harass me. The best thing that ever happened is my bro helping me set up a business. He knew a guy who lived nearby who could deliver kangumu pale kwa fence after evening preps. I gave the canteen compe kali. Break time, games time and after evening preps my merchandise was in high demand. I bought a six pack @ 25/- and sold a piece at 6 bob, that's 36 /- a pack. And that stuff was hotcake - literally. I usually ordered 8-10 packs and before the arrival of the next shipment usiku, they were out of stock. I became a kangumu tycoon.

Towards the end of the second term, the school had come up with something they called work programme. Willing students would remain in school over the holidays and work at the farm. The money earned would go to school fees. You would receive 500/- cash for personal effects. Holiday came and about 10 students had applied for work program including my brother and me. We were given a bag of maize flour, rice, beans, and sugar. The farm had several cows, hens, hectares of Napier grass and a garden of kales. We worked under the supervision of the farm manager. 02:00 in the morning was time to start milking. By the time the farm manager arrived, we had taxed maziwa yetu ya kugandisha. Anatupimia ya kupika chai and the rest is delivered to hotels in town. Collecting eggs, kuwekea kuku feeds na maji followed. Kukata Napier grass is what I avoided as much as I could. That became my routine; when school is in session I nukisha kitunguu na ngumu and during holidays I'm a farm worker.

As opening day was approaching, the Dean of Students (The school is part of a complex with a college - TTC & TTI, secondary and primary schools all under one administration and shared amenities) asked the farm manager to let me work for him and the hours I spent working for him would be counted as part of the work programme. I was to help him fill student details - name, class, course/school - on meal cards. I only left the place where he signed and indicated the validity period of the card. Validity depended on how much fees a student had paid. If cleared it's valid till end of the term. If not, when the validity period lapses the cards are collected as you go to serve your breakfast and that day you're sent home for fees. I kept some meal cards. When schools opened, I approached guys who had not cleared fees and sold them meal cards (faked signature and valid till end of term). Of course, I had one for myself too. The Dean of Students always assigned me this task and I never lacked a meal card despite being the single largest debtor in the institution.

Sneaking to go clubbing became a habit now that I was making some money. One night we've left the club with my boys and we bumped into @pamba & crew. Walituchapisha raundi mwenda in the cold of the night only to let us free in the wee hours of the morning after pocketing some 200/-. The cops had a habit of storming the club and rounding revelers together in a corner checking for underage kids. Failure to produce an ID card meant you were a guest of the state. One time we've been roughed up and packed like potatoes in a police land rover. At the cell we were given two choices: call your parent to pick you up or part with 1000/-. I bought my freedom and Linear Coach stage, buses that plied the Nairobi - Kisii route was my first stop. They had a notice board where they also displayed ID cards left/lost by travelers. Nikazikagua and settled on one belonging to a young guy that happened to share a first name with me. I never had trouble with the police at the club again.

Now in Form 3. It's the second term and the ASK show was going on. The music from the showground was so loud it could interrupt learning so we would usually got a "show break". This time we didn't break. Learning went on but on Friday we allowed to go to the showground. We had some fun. Senator Keg ndio ilikuwa the trendy drink of choice for the masses this time. Jug after another we downed the drink, puffing clouds of smoke up the ceiling in a backstreet pub with my boys. We couldn't go back by 5 pm as was required. We waited until it was around 10:30 pm. We walked to school engulfed in darkness secure in our belief that this was the safest time to sneak in unnoticed.

As we made our way into the dormitory compound, there was a stampede; so many guys were outside the dorms and some two teachers had come by so guys were scampering for their beds. I dashed to join the crowd. I made it to my dorm and jumped into bed. Hardly had I covered myself when a teacher entered our dorm. One by one he tapped on guys' beds and randomly uncovered some. I head his footsteps near my bed as I pretended to be deep in sleep. What I dreaded happened: he uncovered my legs exposing my feet that were still clad in Hanson boots. "Ekiarambe, wewe unalala na viatu?" He asked as he dragged out of bed. My walking was wobbly and it was indubitable that I was inebriated. The other teacher joined him. My nabbing saved my boys as the teachers cared naught about the inspection anymore. They interrogated me and locked me up in the cell - a tiny room with large metal grill windows without glasses. The cell had a wooden bench that became my bed that night. In no time I was asleep. The mosquitoes feasting on me with their bites feeling like a barrage of tiny needles on my skin woke me up. I had sobered up now. I swatted at the mosquitoes as I sat there quivering in the cold.

Niliona usiku mrefu but hatimaye kukakucha. It's Sabbath morning. Both the Headteacher and his deputy arrived. Other students had already taken their breakfast and were now going to church. They led me to the Headteacher's office. It was usually never opened on Saturdays but here this wasn't any other Saturday. They sent one prefect to check if there was any breakfast remaining. He came back with a mug of soya drink and half a loaf of bread which I gobbled down with their eyes fixed on me. There was hardly any conferring between them. I was handed a two-week suspension and on return, I was to be accompanied by a guardian. I passed by the dorm, stashed my valuables in a backpack and left the school compound.

Going home was out of the question. On my way to town, I changed from school uniform to civilian. I had some 2500/- from my kangumu trade. I just wandered through the streets futzing around pondering my next move. By evening I had decided to go to an Uncle's place. He worked in the college here and I was absolutely certain by now he had been given the news. I knew it was a Herculean task facing him but I needed someone to take me back after the suspension. The teachers here knew my background too well and I couldn't bamboozle them by hiring some random 'guardian'. I arrived at his place as darkness was setting in. He was so infuriated at my sight. He hurled a chain of insults at me and sent me away. I expected it anyway.

Nilirudi pale kwa keg and drunk myself silly. The brain of the drunken stupor that I was at this instance underwent a kind of meiosis consequently resulting in some four distinct freethinking personae and instantaneously an intense brainstorming session kicked off. After much deliberations, I settled on the idea of looking for a rental house. In the morning I started the house search. I was well conversant with the neighbourhoods here so I knew where to look. By around midday, I had already settled kwa keja fulani hapo with plastered mud walls and the floor was cemented. By the standards then and my situation this was decent housing. It set me back a cool 600 bob. Nikabuy matress, blanketi, a 20 liter jerican, karai and of course a tri-circle padlock. As long as I had a roof over my head food nikujipanga tu. After these purchases, my cash was going down real fast and I had to devise a mode of survival.

Monday was market day Daraja Mbili market. Nikaraukia hapo nikakagua mali bale za t-sho zikifinguliwa. Bought five of them @ 50 bob each. Majioni Nikafika pale kwa fence time ya games and showcased my stuff kwa wasee. Guys bought them and this became my new hustle. Monday & Thursday were the market days. Sometimes luck struck and I landed some of the labels on high demand - ECKO unltd, Phatfarm, Sean Jean, etc and these fetched a premium amount. I added sneakers to my product line. Two weeks lapsed nikarudi shule alone. I didn't relinquish tenancy ya keja just in case I was sent back.

At school, my Uncle was summoned but he declined to represent me as a guardian. Niliingia tao kwa Simu ya Jamii nikatoa phonebook yangu where I had written phone numbers za relatives na kadhalika. I called quite a number of them but kuskia pombe and most of them are staunch SDAs wakaondokea hiyo kesi. I was now in a quandary. End term exams were starting in a few days. I went back to my crib to figure out what next. I continued with my hustle and expanded my target customers pale mtaani pia. I occasionally made calls to some relatives to see if any had changed their mind. I went to try my lack on the day before exams began but I was sent away. Hivyo ndio mtihani ilinipita.

During The August holiday, my big bro who was in Nairobi then told me life wasn't easy there either. He'd been doing some menial jobs in the city and he needed our parents' death certificates to try his luck with some education loan to join college. They died years earlier but no one ever bothered to process the certificates. He came and he was operating from my place during his stay. The process was tedious and took some time considering the time that had elapsed since the deaths occurred and we had no documentation. He sometimes accompanied me to the market na tukapata place ya kutandika mitumba zetu na biz ikashika.

Before schools opened he had obtained the documents but he stayed a little longer ndio anipeleke shule kama guardian. He was a student here and he wasn't in good books with the administration either. When we arrived at school the case did not even kick off. They called him an imposter and sent us off. We stayed for a week and my bro went to school alone. He met one teacher and explained the situation na kubembelezana hapo. That teacher agreed to be an intercessor kati yangu na Deputy Headteacher who was in charge of discipline. He came home with some good news at last.

The next day, a Tuesday I went to school. In this school, they usually set one week aside every term which was called Week of Spiritual Emphasis/Week of Prayer. It was scheduled in that week na @Maombi hodari ilikuwa imeanza. You'd rather miss exams but not the week of prayer. It was taken too seriously. Walinihesabia viboko kadhaa, wakanituma bible na songbook tukaandamana nao kwenda church.

I tried to be a good student but somehow trouble found me. I was suspended one more time in form 4. You could say I was a recalcitrant brat but these experiences turned out to be vital in preparing me for life after school. You can never be too cautious in life. If your life in school was smooth all through chances are your life is dull. Not that I do things just for the thrill of it (niliacha nikiwa @under23) but you've got to take some risks.


Village Elder
Brilliant hekaya, had to consult my dictionary a bit. You are an exceptionally bright guy despite the challenges you always rose to the occasion with an ingenious solution. You have a brighter future ahead! Pewa like!