- September 15, 2020
I do not have much to say about my stay at St. Marks Boys, Cherangani. But I have a lot of love for the place. It is one of the few places I intend to return to and mingle with the students someday. If I weren’t so weak and scared, I would have stayed till I finished my form four. I have already recounted how they put me through the wringer by asking that I sit for my exams at the gate, in the evening, tired from hours sitting on a bus. Maybe I should have been stronger and taken it on the chin but I wasn’t. I chose, instead, to sneak out of school and go back home.
My mother was scared when I got home. The school had called her in the morning to inform her that I’d snuck out. To get to Narok, my home town, from Kitale, you have to go through Eldoret, and then Kericho, and then Bomet. I was only fifteen and so mama was worried. When I got home she embraced me and asked why I had snuck out of school. I stuck to the story that it was unfair for them to have me sit for my exams at the gate, and that I was scared I’d failed. Poor performance would be met with a thorough beating and I ran to avoid it.
Mama decided that I needed to be at a day school where she could monitor me. She enrolled me at St. Stephens Nkoitoi, Narok, where I joined form two. This is to mean, therefore, that my third term of form one was wasted. At my new school, I was disadvantaged and had a lot to catch up on. I hated the school because it was overly strict, we led a monastic life with caning and prayers being the order of the day.
I was brought up a Protestant and it was odd joining other students in prayers, the Catholic way, every evening before going home. However, I vowed to please my mother, scrub clean the stain of rebellion that marked my young life and wipe away the shame I put her through when I jumped over that fence in Kitale.
I regret to say, however, that my fresh resolve did not last a month. On a balmy Sunday evening, while at home preparing to go to school the next day, my friend visited. I had schooled with him at primary level, and he had enrolled at Njoro Boys, infamous at the time for the notoriety and hardened lives of its boys.
“Bro, I’m on mid-term. My mum told me about your story, that you left Kitale and are now day schooling. You are a bad-boy, just like me. Let me show you something that goes well with our kind,” he said.
Making sure we were alone, he pulled out a bottle of liquor; some hard spirit called Metropolitan Gin. He unscrewed the cap and for the first time in my life, I gulped something hard. As a kid, my late dad used to make me sip some beer. Just a small sip, and I would be very happy. I would feel like a man. But this was something different and it burned my throat.
Later I would become a master at taking Metropolitan Gin, neat, no chaser. I had some adult buddies running a butchery in my neighbourhood, and they were weed smokers. I would buy some from them to take back to school for some smoking friends I had made.
I soon started absconding school. I would wake up early in the morning, put on my uniform, but then carry some home clothes in my bag. Instead of heading to school, I would head over to this field where kids used to kick around a football during weekends (I don’t know why, but we called the field Spain). I would change there and the rest of the day would be spent at a friend’s, who was a dropout or something (I don’t quite remember the details) at a movie hall. He was employed there to show movies to locals at ten shillings per film. I would help him collect the money, and then we would get high on some hard liquor. In the evenings I would get dressed in my school uniform, go back to mama and pretend school was all good.
The movie hall was sealed with only one main entrance and a small back-door. Windows remained draped with heavy curtains throughout the day such that inside was pitch black. Most customers were men and teenagers. There was a blackboard outside the hall where the movie showing was advertised in coloured chalk calligraphy, next to a poster of the movie, taped to the blackboard. And one large speaker, booming and cracking with film sound effects to attract customers.
Inside, men would enjoy the movies blanketed in the stale, stuffy heat of the hall.
In a hood called Majengo, such film halls were common. On a few select nights, the owners would run porn at a higher price.
One day a neighbour saw me walking around the streets of Narok town on a school day. I bet I was taking a walk to the liquor store. She was sure she had seen me in school uniform earlier at dawn. This neighbour tattled on me.
That evening I was given a serious beating. Trust my mother when it comes to discipline. She had a lot of fight in her, I had to wriggle out of her grip and run for dear life. Slaps, flays of a beaded, leather Maasai belt. Having discovered my truancy, she immediately enrolled me in boarding school. St. Stephen’s Nkoitoi was both a day and boarding school.
I hated school even more and my grades took a nosedive. This frustrated me, and I led a life of sneaking out of school over the weekends and sneaking back with liquor. I introduced my close friends to Metropolitan Gin, and this became our ‘coping mechanism’.
Life here was tough, Catholic nuns are no-nonsense. Morning prayers were a must. You had to memorize the Apostles Creed and recite it fervently as though your life depended on it. Being a mixed school, only girls who performed well in class kept their long hair. The rest were shaved.
Once, I was caught sneaking back in and the nun who was the principal called the cops. She was on good terms with the cops at Narok police station and, therefore, asked that I be locked up for three nights, as an example to the rest of the students.
Looking back, I get nauseated at how this was even possible, I did not feel like a criminal. The principal drove me to the police station. I tried to run but the strong grip on my frail arms by one of the teachers kept me a prisoner. I don’t recall much, only that I was asked to kick off my right shoe, remove my belt, then I was tossed into a small cell where those waiting to go to court were being held. This was in 2010.
I cried. The place smelt of sweat and dirty socks. Rough-looking guys coughed persistently. Everyone was asked, by some tough-looking guy who seemed to have been in the cell for long, to say why they were arrested. Some urchins, brought in for snatching a phone, reeked of glue on their breath, from sniffing. I cried even more when I realized there was no bed. We slept on the floor. Older guys harassed me, making me tell them what a sixteen-year-old was doing in a police cell.
My mum came for me in the morning. I don’t know what she said to the cops, but I was released with a clean record given I was not taken to court. I guess that is unconditional love.
Since that day, I hated the school with fresher clarity. I told mum I was done and she told me I was destroying my future and that she wasn’t ready to waste resources on a kid who was not ready to get a decent education.
All these irked Mama and she would beat me up. I saw her cry in church sometimes, in the company of other women, praying for me. Some family members berated her for my ill upbringing.
My memory fails me with the details, but during this period, I listened to lots of music by Eminem and even started writing my own rap songs. I could relate to some of his lyrics. All through, mama always told me, “I love you, my son. And when you see that you are wasting your life and hurting me; when you decide to go back to school, I will pay for your school fees.”
Six months later, a cold evening found me in bed, troubled. I thought about my life. About my friends, who were all in school, now a year ahead of me. I thought about the pain mama went through to raise me and my brother, as a single mum. The next morning, plagued with guilt, I visited Isaac Muigai, whom as I write this, is my friend of 19 years. Schools had closed. By then he was the Christian Union chairman at Anestar Boys. I admired his life. He was a friend who never judged or shunned me.
That day Isaac helped me talk to my mum, and then took me to a man in Narok who was a personal friend to the Director of Anestar Boys. After promising to go back to school, study and be a good kid, I was given a second chance. Or third chance if you are counting. The only condition was that I repeat the lost year.
Mama was happy. Isaac was happy. But I blew it when that dorm went up in flames.
Choices have consequences is a four-part series following the life of Lesalon Kasaine. It will run weekly, every Tuesday. Read part one here
Or proceed to part three
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