- September 8, 2020
Going through life, you must have heard of the axiom ‘choices have consequences’. This is my story. The motive. The plan. The execution. The consequences. The regret and self-loathing. The transformation, years later, and how I found myself speaking the message of leadership and reason to hundreds of students in secondary schools.
Anestar Boys, Bahati, rests on a farm in Moronyo, Nakuru where the wind sighs softly as it moves through the buildings. The environment is remarkably conducive for studying.
In 2011, third term, disaster struck the school.
At around 8 p.m. while students were in their respective classes for night preps, heavy smoke spiralled skyward from the roof of Kilimanjaro dorm.
Screams tore through the serenity as students milled out, desks, and chairs rustling on the floor. Directionless noise, with everyone trying to do something to stop the fire. Students filled buckets with water and emptied them onto the flames. But lurking somewhere in the field, bracketed in darkness, a few boys watched as the rest scrambled. Their actions had sparked a series of events whose ripple effect would see the police get involved and students expelled.
I was at home when the fire happened, serving a one-week suspension for allegedly planning a strike. According to the teachers, my suspension and that of a few other boys had successfully uprooted the evil in the school and that was that. They did not get us all though; those who remained were ready to see things through now that we, the suspended, had not given up their names.
So how do I know what happened that night? Well, someone had to come up with a plan. A dorm fire is not an easy thing to organise. Someone had to convince other students to agree to the plan. That someone was me.
Looking back at what happened after, I realize that I have greatly paid for my mistakes. I have also grown through it all. As the rapper Eminem puts it, I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one. This is my story of rebellion, regrets, redemption in the form of many trips to high schools with Steve Muthusi’s Personal Development Challenge.
Let us start from the beginning.
I cleared my KCPE and attained 344 marks in the year 2008. I joined St. Marks Boys, Cherangani.
Going into secondary school, I was a highly motivated student. But as soon as my mum said goodbye and I realized I was left alone to face this new chapter on my own, things changed.
The tiniest in the boys’ school, I was mildly bullied. In one instance, a group of ten older boys circled my newly-found friends and I in the field and asked us to sing the national anthem. They made me sit on the ground and threatened to beat me up if I did not furnish them with plausible reasons as to why I had by-passed hundreds of schools from Narok, and chosen Cherangani as my destination. That was as bearable as a toe-stub. True terror came when someone, two classes my senior, warned me that sodomy and sexual assault of freshmen was a commonplace occurrence.
Luckily, the then academic captain, Peter Bwire, who was also a Christian Union and Drama club leader, took me under his wing. I shifted dormitories and went to stay at the prefects’ cubes. Life became bearable. The first two terms were easy. I made friends with teachers, participated in drama and music festivals, excelled in my studies. I loved my school.
When we opened for the third term though, we took tune-up examinations on the same day. Since Cherangani is quite a distance from Narok, I must have been the last to report back to school, just as the sun was dipping into the western-most horizon. Other than the reason to ensure we studied while at home, issuing out exams on opening day was also a move to make sure students reported back early. I wasn’t allowed to go in and mingle with the rest who had already sat for their exams. They made me sit for English and Biology papers at the school gate.
I was sure I had flunked. In fear of getting whipped over poor performance, two days later I crawled through a maize plantation that stretched to the fence and jumped over it. That was the end of my stint in Kitale, Cherangani.
My mum talked to the principal of St. Stephen’s Nkoitoi, Narok, and I soon transferred. It was here that I met new friends and started drinking alcohol and getting high in school. I sold bhang and introduced several students to liquor. I dug holes under the fence so I could crawl out of the school when I needed to buy liquor. At age 16, the principal had me arrested for what she called, ‘negative influence on other students’. I spent the night in a police cell. When my mother got me out I dropped out of school for six months and helped her rear chicken. I was the running joke back home.
In January 2011, I joined Anestar Boys and restarted form two with fresh resolve. That lasted a whole two terms. When we opened for the third term, I was certain only of my hatred for school. My hatred craved company. I congregated and convinced a number of students to be part of a strike.
It started when a teacher hit my friend. He was ill. He had a running fever, lacked an appetite, and his body was weak. When he went to the staffroom to make known his problem, he didn’t even get to talk. He got slapped across the face upon entering the room because his necktie was askew. The teacher on duty could not have a conversation with a cretin whose tie was improperly knotted. My friend came out, a vein pulsing on his temple and tears in his eyes.
That was strike one.
10 a.m. porridge served to students was knocked out of the school schedule- strike two.
And strike three was simple, I just hated school.
For nights, I schemed. A plan to pelt stones was in place but the first try led to the suspension of three students. They refused to give up more names. With the three taking fire on my behalf, a new plan had to be hatched. This time, the seniors took over my initial plan. They decided that a dorm would burn.
On the day Kilimanjaro dormitory was to be set ablaze, the three boys who’d been suspended came back with their parents. This time they gave me up. I was shown the gate, with a one-week suspension letter. I was at home with my very angry mother when we heard the news over the radio that a dorm at Anestar boys had been razed and property destroyed. Luckily enough, the fire had been put out a few minutes after it erupted, preventing full-scale destruction.
I was a troubled teenager who found fault in little things, who wanted to stoke flames of unrest just for fun and so I could be away from school. Call me a fool, because that’s who I was.
Why am I writing my story? Because I want to get it off my chest. Because I look back and regret the teenager I was. Because I wish I could go back and fix my past but the best I can do is tell my story, and the lessons I learned to teenagers in the same headspace that I was.
Since 2016 I have spoken at more than twelve secondary schools- because I eventually found my redemption. And today, I want to play a role, however little, in making secondary schools great. I want to help children learn the importance of speaking up and resolving issues with teachers and parents. I hope that the events I narrate do not make anyone see fault in the schools I went to. That’s not the point. They were all great, words of wisdom from my teachers follow me to date.
My name is Lesalon Kasaine and this is my story. I’ll take you through my life as it was, at four different secondary schools, to university and the man I am today.
Choices have consequences is a four-part series following the life of Lesalon Kasaine. It will be published every Tuesday over the next four weeks.
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