Writer Njoki Chege once lamented that we Kenyan men do not do justice to foreplay. That we jump straight into it, like a goal-kick that goes directly into the opponent’s goal. Since I don’t want to confirm her allegation, I will first briefly take you through the tuition part of the Advocates Training Program at the Kenya School of Law after which we shall both happily walk into the bar.
First, an apology. I am aware you are looking for controversial information about lecturers, scandalous report about students and perhaps anything negative about the institution in general. Sorry, dear. I will disappoint you. My pen is not made up of defamatory ink. Also, I am not gifted at injuring people’s egos with the exception of politicians who cross my path. In case you are here for words like ‘she was hot’, ‘her pointed chest threatened to tear the piece of cotton apart’, ‘that lecturer knew nothing’, ‘the security guard was petty’ you are advised not to proceed to the next paragraph.
I think it’s only fair if I start this story from day one. Orientation. This is the day a student is told all manner of good things about an institution. Why it is important. It’s history. What we stand to gain from the training and of course why we cannot do without it. Prof. PLO Lumumba was there alongside his unparalleled wisdom. When he stood to speak, the hall was quiet. Ears were adjusted. Curtains were drawn. No word was supposed to escape unheard. Why? Because we all love beautiful English. Why should a man say you look cute when the alphabet has given him the option of saying ‘when I think of you, I don’t think at all.’?
PLO explained why lawyers are learned. He said that ‘a lawyer should know everything under the earth’s sky. That a lawyer can tell a doctor that he (the doctor) ought not to have operated on a patient in the manner he did. That when a lawyer speaks, engineers look like amateurs’. Well, he did not put it quite this way.
One bad experience I had with the Kenya School of Law was using Lang’ata road every day. The site of the cemetery was not good at all. I mean, you spend six years unlocking Lord Denning’s metallic mind, six years looking for a good letter that you’d like the examiners to write on your transcripts, and handling drunk clients who want to sue Sportpesa for not including, in the betting list, FC Barcelona of Umoja Estate, and then, after all these struggles, the world expect you to end up in a place where you are going to meet ignorant ancestors.
Now let me take you through what matters. In term 1 – by the way I don’t know why they use such primary school expressions like ‘term 1 and pupil’, all I know is that Jesus was a teacher – we had class assignments which allowed us to get to know each other. To evaluate one another’s academic trustworthiness. Who to trust with what question. Who is rich enough to sponsor the printing of assignments. And of course, whose computer (or funnily, whose email) crushes on the eve of the deadline.
Term 2 was all about project work. Picking up from the crushing emails, the library was closed, my uncle called when I wanted to do the work and other short stories, Firm X had issues. So temperamental were their meetings that I think calling it confrontation is being democratic at the expense of the truth. I will explain. I know you want the full picture. You saw the kind of enmity between Raila and Kibaki in December 2007? Their hatred for each other was as tight as jealousy between men fighting over the same girl. That was firm X.
But what was the cause? Did someone’s pet – the lovely American cat – ate her homework? No. The animal is always lying quiet on a couch, waiting for someone to keep her warm. Did someone’s Guiness scold the assignment? No. Black drinks matter. A poor law student cannot miss even a drop from his Friday night’s cup. Was the internet down? Not really. Smartphones can do everything and we can afford bundles. So what was the cause of the fuss? Someone was suffering from late adolescence. I won’t go beyond this.
Away from useless papers and onto the ones that matter. Back in college, I thought the University of Nairobi had the best lecturers. We were taught by professors. Students from other colleges borrowed our notes. We thought we had the brightest lecturers who, while teaching, dropped words of wisdom in between concepts. Dr. Gakeri was famous for this: “I am told your relatives in Main Campus went on strike. I hope you did not join them. Lawyers don’t throw stones, they throw words”, “I do not understand why men are looking for educated women. I mean, there is no intellectual discourse in marriage”, “Muslims practice what Christians preach”, “Those in a relationship should love each other forever and a day.”
And so we had no doubt in our minds that our teachers were exceptionally good. Not until we met KSL’s Chrispin Odhiambo, Murambi Simiyu and many others who I will not mention because they tax time and space.
Chrispin would walk in class with no book or paper or tablet for that matter. But still, he dictated notes like he was reading from some script. The topics, subtopics, concepts, cases and examples he gave were flowing so beautifully we had no doubt he is something special. He made me erase the thought I always had that the word ‘genius’ was included in the dictionary only for beauty purposes.
What I liked about Simiyu is that he moved us miles away from cramming. He taught law in practice. Some of my friends thought KSL is a waste of time. Simiyu proved them wrong. If Kenyan teachers can attain his stature, the question of half-baked professionals will never arise. Besides, he has a great sense of humour and some witty remarks. What more can a student ask for?
Lastly, which is what you are looking for, in case you want to know what happened between me and that girl – the girl whose white large eyes romantically rolled behind the glasses, whose figure was a round-about towards which all masculine eyes moved before going round and picking the exit route, I am saying she was circular and succulent – kindly, be serious.
The Bar exams
In some movie I watched way back before I discovered I should be authoring plays, there was a character who said, ‘when you pray for rain, you must be ready to deal with mud’. ATP Class of 2016 prayed for admission to KSL. God granted the prayers through a suit that successfully challenged the legality of the pre-bar exams. Little we knew we had voluntarily assumed risk.
The bar exams is the toughest exam in the world. Actually it is the second most difficult test after the HIV-test and its results are equally anxiously waited for. The name tells it all. ‘Bar’ is simply barrier truncated.
It is an exam for which you are required to read Bible-sized materials but the questions are picked from five verses only. It is an exam that has questions whose answers the gods will not give you despite the fact that you are sitting for the paper in a godly catholic environment.
But whatever the magnitude of the mud, one thing is for sure; a lawyer will one day walk into the bar and he will come out sober.
Making Good Use of the Alphabet