The Writing of my Place in History

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To My Teachers and all Teachers: I Love You!

teachers punishment Kenya

I am who I am largely because of my teachers. I am even writing this blog, in part, because I don’t want to let my teachers down. They all thought I was going to be a journalist, or editor of some sort, because, English and Swahili were my bread and butter. Oddly, all teachers, both in Primary school and High school; even teachers who never taught me but knew me… They all advised me to be a journalist. I feel like I let them down. Or maybe I should write a newspaper article and send copies to all my teachers.

 Somebody hook me up with a newspaper!

 I joined nursery school, or preschool to you, at three years old. I think my mother was busy and she wanted me to spend my days in school. Who else went to school that early back then? And so, my second mom became Teacher Seberina. She would take me to the ruhusa( that’s short call to the uninitiated),  she would feed me and do all the things moms do. And because my parents used to teach me how to write the alphabet, my name and their names (first child syndrome), I was very bored in class, I knew most of the things Seberina taught us.

Our Class 1 entry test was “Write your name” I wrote mine and Teacher Seberina promoted me to Class One. But the hunger I felt that day! Nursery pupils would go home at around 12:00 noon and Class One pupils would go at 1:00 pm. I simply couldn’t handle the hunger… so, the following day I went back to Nursery and told Seberina my mother had told me to go back. I never told my parents – they knew after a few months – Parents, check your kid’s books every evening! If you know Seberina, and where I can find her, please tell me.

When I decided time for Class One had come, I went ahead and met Teacher Mutunga. Now, Mr. Mutunga was feared by pupils in Upper Primary. But to us in his Class, he was every so gentle. He rarely caned us, and was just too patient. In first term, I got paracent(100%) in all subjects except Kimeru, where I got 36%. So I had 736/800 points and I was still number 16 out of 81 pupils. It was a huge class of clever pupils managed by one teacher. Mr. Mutunga called my grandfather to school (I will tell you about my father one of these days), and told him to buy me a Kimeru textbook, and he would be amazed at what I was capable of doing. I got a Kimeru book, and needless to say, the following term I shot to number 1. My grandfather still talks about this one incident. Long live Mr. Mutunga.

 By class two, I was a philanthropist. My teacher was Mrs. Maore. She, like Mr. Mutunga, had two sides. The gentle one, and the tough one. She taught us the National Anthem in both languages, the Loyalty Pledge, and the Lord’s prayer. I think that was her mandate. We were the only class in that whole school that knew the Loyalty Pledge. One day, I did homework for my best friend, Barnabas, and Mrs. Maore knew from the handwriting. So, she sent me to the staff room to get a cane. The only cane in the freaking staff room was this loong bamboo stick! The teacher who handed it to me just told me ‘Good luck to whoever is going to be punished with this’. To cut a long story short, I have never helped anyone else do their work since then. 🙂

teachers were savage

 Class 3 was also a big big class. We were 73, in one class. So big it was divided into two classes though in one class room. Two rows were a separate class from the other, with a separate class teacher. Miss Susan and Mr. Kathukumi. They split the subjects, but marking would be done separately. They would sit with us in class, each on their side of the class. And they somehow managed us. I was position 3 in all three terms.

Upper Primary: Coming back after lunch!

Now, Class 4 was different business altogether. Upper Primary. On a separate block and “coming back after lunch”. Discipline was paramount and you were now a responsible youth. Our big Class three was cut down to only around 40 pupils. Some were ‘asked’ to remain in class 3 and others just dropped out. Others went off to boarding school. Mr. Kathukumi went with us as the class teacher-all the way to Class 8, but now we had to live with many teachers. Different subjects. Life was tough.

 Mr. Kungutia taught us Home Science and Mathematics. This was another crazy teacher who I hated with passion in school…and loved outside school because he would always come by our home to chat with Grandpa, and buy Mr maandazi. I meet him every time I go home, to date. And he has maintained if he didn’t beat me as he did, I wouldn’t turn out how I did. But he says he wished I was bigger- I was so small, “nilikuwa nakosa nitakuchapa wapi“. He became my best friend when he was transferred.

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students share a desk Africa

Mr. Mbogori taught us Music and Mathematics at some point. He would give you one stroke of the cane for every sum you got wrong. And since I was one of the poorest in Maths, I was an enemy. I was guaranteed to receive canes. One day, he came to Music class and said “There are two clefs in music. The G-Clef and ……. “. Being a mjuaji, I raised my hand and said “Bus Clef“.

Stupid! Which bus are you talking about, Kensilver, Stagecoach, or Kamawe Bus? It is Bass Clef.. pronounced, Biis”.

I was the happiest when Music was scrapped and he became our English teacher. He became my best friend henceforth. Last we met, he introduced me to his teacher friends as “.….he used to write compositions better than most novelists….

 Female teachers are so much like mothers. Smiling with you one minute and beating the bejesus out of you the next. Take, for instance, Mrs. Mutua. She was a very good friend of our family, and her daughters, Dorothy and Bessy, were and are some of my best homies. We loved her in church and the community (still do), but when she was on duty at school, woe unto you if you came to school late. She used to cane our bare feet-in that cold. One day, it was raining and I refused to be beaten. We had running battles all day with her, and I presented myself to her in the evening when she threatened to report to my father. Mrs. Kamau, too. She taught us CRE and was very motherly, always counseling and advising our adolescent heads. Until she caught you getting naughty. She would cane you while advising you. “I-am-doing-this-to help-you. You-Mwenda-will-remember-me-in-future!” How many hyphens did I use? Those are strokes of the cane.

 Did I tell you I loved and thrived in languages? My favourite teachers, obviously, were my English and Kiswahili teachers. Mr. Marete and Mr. Ngeera. I would entertain them using my English Compositions and Inshas and they would repay me with special care. They would give me books-novels and riwayas– and compositions from other schools. Where I lost points in Maths, I made up in languages. We talk with Mr. Ngeera all the time on Facebook, and I still exchange novels with Mr. Marete whenever I go home for holidays.

Sorry, I never made it to a journalism class as you had wished.

 Head teachers

There is a time our school had a different head teacher every term. I don’t remember most, but it was a very unstable phase-when I was younger. The school performed very poorly-inevitably. This changed in my upper primary years. We had two headteachers:

 Mr. Meeme  did so well, all the surrounding villages sent their sons and daughters to our school, and he was poached to head Maua Primary School-where he is to date, because-it is in town and, and, as the face of the division, we want Mr. Meeme to maintain it for the visitors. How crooked is that?  Now, Mr. Meeme was a no nonsense teacher. He also used to come home and talk for hours with my grandfather-an education pioneer in the region-but would not be smiling at us in school. He had what he knew as, “Twenty Strokes of the Cane” Twitch your Chill fingers…that’s how he used to demonstrate it. He would have you hold the flag post during assembly and work on your small ass with his rapid fire cane.

 After Mr. Meeme came Mr. Mutua, commonly known as by his first name, Richard. Now, Richard was a nice man with lots of stories. He taught us Mathematics in Class 8, and oddly, I have never hated him like I hated all my Maths teachers. He had stories. And he was the sponsoring church chairman. And he was very caring.

I was crazy enough to sleep away from home on the second day of KCPE, and I came in late-who does that?- Poor Richard! I met with him at the school gate coming home to see why I wasn’t there yet. He hurriedly took me to the class, where the papers had already been handed out. He is so caring, still. We talk from time to time, and the other day, when the rogue NGO was hiring, I was on top of his list. Since retired, he is now running a school of his own and is quite successful at it.

Unbroken records

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Frankmwenda Gitura Primary School classmates
Some of My classmates

We had good teachers. Teachers who had taught our parents before us, there was stability in Gitura Primary School. They produced the best class ever in the school-us, and most of them were promoted and transferred to other schools right after we left in recognition for their good work. And the school has never been the same again. It pains me that the record I set- I came in the first position-has never been beaten, so many years later. Neither for Boniface, who came second, and Lenana, who came third. The school has never beaten our mean score, and the way things are, we will hold the record for some time. I wish I could save it.

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Sadly, the big class of 81 we had in Class One completed with just 23 pupils. Some repeated, some never completed. It is all good. Those that completed are doing well- we met the other day, at Eric’s funeral. We are represented in  most professions, some of us are married, with kids and I am looking for a wife. 😉

I am glad the teachers’ strike is over. But teachers deserve the highest salary affordable. It should be the best-paid profession. I am here, writing this blog because my teachers taught me. You are reading this blog because cliche as it may sound – a teacher taught you how to write. LET US PAY TEACHERS!

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