There are only two schools in Kenya; Kanga High School and another one which I will mention at the end of this article.
I am aware some writers have penned pieces in praise of their alma maters. Though beautifully scripted, those articles are nothing but half-truths. The writers’ words repainted their former school’s rusty roofs. Their lazy teachers were renamed ‘The never-sleeping-Bees’ and their bomb-sounding lunch time bells they lied to us are electronic. I will not say these of Kanga. We were not taught how to lie or exaggerate.
I know all secondary schools in Kenya start their days at five in the morning. I am also aware all schools have rude students, bright students, dictatorial prefects and one teacher who is every body’s darling. Because of this, I will not spend my time on the obvious. Instead, I will write about the sweet memories and unique things the world should know, and perhaps copy. Why should you waste twenty minutes of your time reading a class four composition on ‘Our School’?
When I received a calling letter granting me a chance to study at Kanga, I was only partially happy. Why? Having missed a chance to appear in the newspaper by a mark when KCPE results were announced in December 2005, I thought I was destined to Maseno School. I loved Maseno. I was dying to join it. May be I should explain why. The reasons are twofold.
First, Maseno is known for basketball. Because of my height and the fact that my friends loved to call me LeBrone James, I thought my supposed talent would flourish there. Second, Maseno is that school whose uniform would boost your confidence when you are standing in front of little primary school girls. This was my teen mind.
But the gods of education took me to Kanga. It is here where I met life, love, law, literature and the Lord.
When I joined Kanga I thought life would be fun. I hoped for sweeter than mom’s dishes and teachers friendlier than dad. I was mistaken. In prison, life is brutish.
There is something prefects used to call ‘slapping ceremony’. The ritual was an informal procedure where form ones were inducted into the system. They would be gathered in the dining hall two weeks into admission and treated not warmly but callously by iron-fisted prefects. Huge hands visited our young and boneless cheeks. Belts were dropped on our backs. And on special bad boys’ cases, jabs took over. The prefects would pick anybody they felt deserved a beating. Leaning on the chair, pocketing when called, walking when sent and clicking made you a candidate for the authority’s wrath.
Irked, we would inquire, a month later, what such abuse of human rights was meant to achieve. Experts explained:
“You guys just came from primary schools the other day. As class 8s, you were on top of your schools. You were rude and arrogant. Disobedient. Defiant. Am I lying? You did it. I did it during my time. But at Kanga, unlike your primary schools, prefects have powers to command and punish. The slapping ceremony was to inform you that this is a secondary school. You had to be brought down to a student’s level. We are sorry but that is how you learn to respect authorities.”
The ritual was abolished when the administration learnt of the excesses of the prefects. While it was chiefly meant to introduce form ones to the established order, the stupid prefects reduced it to a scene where hungry police officer are booking a notorious suspect.
Anyway, it made us fear and respect the prefects. John Austin, a scholar of jurisprudence, writes this on command theory of law:
Law is a species of command backed by threats of sanction. It is an intimation or expression of a wish to do or forbear from doing something, backed up by the power to do harm to the actor in case he disobeys. The person to whom the command is given is under a duty to obey it, failure to which punishment will be imposed on him.
At Kanga there was a special way in which top performers were rewarded. They called it academic supper. Under this arrangement, top 50 students would have a special meal at Ulanda Girls. On the table of men was beef, chicken, chapatti and rice, sumptuously cooked. On the day we had the meal, one of the students sneaked into the boot of the school bus and drove with us. When we alighted, we formed a round thick parade around the boot so he could come out, unnoticed. The Chinese wall was so thick our plan succeeded. Unfortunately for him, his shirt was dusty and his sprouting beards were turning brown. But there was a way out. It was late in the evening and his untidiness was concealed by the cooperating sun. And if anything, there were no sponsors then and it was the man’s mouth and not his cleanliness that did the talking. Today, I am informed the top 50 boys enjoy a trip to Kampala.
Just one more thing about Ulanda Girls. I think I will not do your time justice if I fail to mention what we did during outings and innings. Chwadi was the slang we coined for the events. It’s not news that boys borrowed prefects’ shirts. I mean, for a reason not known to me, girls love power. It is also not strange that boys wore perfumes to appease the gods of seduction. I will say no more on this. As promised, I will stick to things unique.
There was a character we loved to call Latsi. Everyday, evening preps ended at 9.45pm followed by a 15 minute prayer session. Latsi always ensured we had a good time on our way to bed. At 9.30pm, on a day we had an inning, he would walk to the front of the class and read to us the love letters he received, of course from Ulanda Girls. He engaged our sensual ears:
“Had God created something more beautiful than you, He could have kept it to Himself”
“I am the SI Unit of beauty”
“Aheri ka ndiga maonge break”
Away from writing pads and back to the papers that matter, let me talk about our teachers. Since they tax time and space, I will not mention all of them.
Mrs. Alice Okwacho (I still remember her full name) was a walking chemistry book. She taught with dedication. The concepts sunk. The chemicals didn’t itch. The formulae were easy to remember. The chemical equations were so properly explained we thought it was a crime to miss her classes. And the test tubes? When we broke them, she said in a soft voice of a nun speaking to an altar boy: “I’ve noted your name. You will pay for it”
Mr. Franco (as he was famously called) is one man who comes to my mind whenever I want to write something. He was an accomplished English teacher and a sworn lover of literature. One day, he found my piece titled ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ pinned on the journalism club notice board. You see, I did not start writing yesterday, and I won’t stop tomorrow.
From the title of the article, you can guess the contents. I don’t want to dwell on it for it nearly led to my suspension. But I will give you a hint. If you were in a boys’ school, you will agree with me that some characters admired young female teachers who were on teaching practice. It used to happen at Kanga. And what did yours truly – the child of God – do? He thought it evil and used his writing talent to rebuke it. Did he go to heaven? No. He earned ten strokes on his adolescent buttocks for publishing what Mr. Franco called ‘toxic materials’. Being the good boy he is, he learnt a lesson. He learnt to write responsibly. That however well-meaning a writer may be, he must have his readers in mind. The scriptural concept that you love your neighbor as you love yourself becomes a law governing writing that ‘do not hurt your neighbor’. And the neighbor here is one who is influenced by my writings such that I must have them in contemplation when I direct my mind on what theme to write about and what words to knit into a sentence.
Mr. Amos Ogola was our class teacher. We had some other name for him but since I’m passed the stage of nick-naming, I will not reproduce it here. He taught us biology in a professional but sociable manner that left us emotionally attached to him. He made me fall in love with medicine but not until they started calling me Jim Orengo and it got deep into my head.
Now to Mr. Oyugi, the Math’s guru.
I know you loved your Math’s teacher. You called him the world’s greatest. He knew how to play with the chalks. He was the master of calculations. He found x’s age, y’s length and z’s speed. A wall’s length blackboard was not enough for him. But he was poor in one thing – probability. See how you lose Sportpesa bets daily.
Mr. Obure was in charge of sports. Soccer was (and I believe still is) in his blood. His hands have produced a couple of players who ply their trade in the Kenya Premier League. Tusker Fc’s Brian Osumba (his nickname was Toto) was named KPL’s best midfielder in the 2013 season. Eddy Adem is Chemelil Sugar FC’s captain while Robert Ouma currently earns his livelihood at Kakamega Homeboyz. I know of Onunda who plays for Mean Machine, the University of Nairobi’s rugby team…But Ndege Sirkal is just a famous born-again propagandist.
I had less than ten months with the school principal Mr. Michael Ogweno. He joined the school in 2009, months to our exit. Just like the form ones, he too was initiated into the system.
Ogweno’s early days in the institution were rough. The school was not ready for him. Why? The stakeholders argued he was transferred to Kanga from a minnow, Usenge secondary school. The concern was that he came from a school scoring a mean score of pi (3.142) while Kanga was aiming at a mean of 10. While there was no problem with Kaunda’s (the former head) outgoing, it was thought Kanga did not deserve Ogweno. That someone from Alliance would be better. Funny. Today, they adore Ogweno.
But what was good about Kaunda, Ogweno’s predecessor? We called him Zab. He was a giant of a man. His voice was thunderous. His body was Bigshow’s. His arms were thicker than a model’s waist.
Kaunda was both a principal and a prosecutor. In the wee hours of the morning (sometimes at 3 am and other times at 4am), accompanied by his huge dogs, he would walk to the school, down the dormitory side and let his bulky lips apart: “Form 4s you are still sleeping while form 1s are already in class.” And that sentence would get everybody running for the other exit doors, some fully dressed as they had anticipated the ungodly wake ups and others in birthday suits. Delay would mean a whole week’s pain.
My bad experience with Kaunda came in 2008 when a young brilliant form 3 boy was called to the assembly front to pick an award for being the best in Migori District Geography Contest (MIDGEA). He was dressed in an on-fashion colombo trouser.
Kaunda took notice of my colombo trouser and asked me to remove it. The rest is up to you to imagine. From that incident, my classmates, led by my good friend Brian Okello, nicknamed me Naked Miles.
Kanga’s biggest day was the day KCSE results were to be announced. It was the school’s Christmas day. A day we all looked forward to. On the eve of the day Prof. Ongeri was to release results, boys spread rumours – this time round we beat Maseno but they bribed the officials so our mean score may be reduced, we are supposed to be number 2 in Nyanza but Maranda interfered with the ranking.
On that day, we would sit in the hall and keenly follow the proceedings not so we could get the breakdown of results but to read Ongeri’s lips. When we heard “No 9 Kanga High School” we would go into frenzy in a similar fashion AFC Leopards fans do when they get a goal against Gor Mahia. We would then run to Rongo town and write all manner of things on matatus: Kanga 10,5, Rapogi can go and rap.
And that was/is Kanga. I have left out so many things. Blame it on space. I have not captured the drama of Interclass ball games, Saturday entertainment and Seth Odongo alias Dikembe Disembe who I think is an upcoming revolutionary writer.
Now I move to the next school. Remember the first sentence of this article is that there are only two schools in Kenya. You’ve read about Kanga. I’m sure you are dying to know the second and last one.
Now, at Kanga they teach, in other schools they revise. At Kanga the best go for academic supper, in other schools the top performers get a crowd’s thunderous claps. Kanga’s motto is unique: Excellence and Faithful Service, in your school it is the colonial’s ‘Forward Ever, Backward Never’, ‘The Monkey See, The Monkey do’. In other schools they advise their students to be the lion in an army of sheep, at Kanga we were warned that if we surround ourselves with short people, we become short ourselves. In other schools they say that when you want to confuse the houseflies, you foul air while inside a crowd. At Kanga, we learnt that you do it while on top of a tree.
And so I conclude that there are only two schools in Kenya; Kanga High School and others.