Down Memory Lane – How Were Your School Years?

300 hundred Kenyan schools have gone on the rampage in the last one month! And the reasons they’re giving for burning their schools and in some cases killing and injuring their own makes you want to weep. Bad food, power outages, difficult exams, inadequate entertainment, use of mobile phones, DVD, Music systems, unlimited visits to girls’ schools etc etc.

Others want their boarding schools converted into day schools. What are our youngsters up to?

I don’t know much about the conditions in schools currently but I don’t think they’re any tougher than those of yesteryears.

I’m not by any chance suggesting that modern kids should be put through what we went through but it’s no harm to go down memory lane.

I remember we used to celebrate blackouts because we got a chance to break the monotony of evening preps. Our food was not any chef’s pride. It was maize and beans, sima and cabbage, rice and cabbage and then more maize and beans.

CROOKSSometimes there was the distinct taste of paraffin in our food. Rumour had it that it was added deliberately to curb sexual urges – God only knows sexual urges for whom.

It was a girls only school and we were confined in there for 3 months with no half term. There was no homosexuality. Besides, back then high school age was still too young.

Despite the watchful eyes of Italian Nuns, we were naughty like any other teenagers. But other than making noise and laughing in class, the most truant we ever got was stealing bananas and avocadoes in the school farm on weekend nights.

Never mind that mother dorm would always find them in our mabati boxes – when the bananas started ripening, she would smell her way to the culprit box in minutes. Never mind too that the said fruits were officially for student’s consumption anyway and were served every few days in the dining room.

Punishment, depending on the crime, could be anything from strokes of the cane to uprooting a tree. Or kneeling on gravel for hours with hands raised up. Strokes of the cane were regardless of chilblains (Purple fingers) which were the order of the day. The area was so cold that water sometimes froze in the taps.

As far as entertainment went, every Saturday night from 8-10 pm, anyone who wanted to be entertained would gather in the dining hall and dance to music of mother dorm’s choice. At 60 years of age, she was the official school DJ. She loved ‘Night Shift’ and ‘Chosen Few’ to bits. Either that or those were the only santuri’s the school provided. There was also television on the opposite end of the hall where we could watch habari and current affairs programs on KBC. Dunia wiki hii or something like that. Television was only switched on on Saturdays. Wednesday mornings we gathered in the dining hall and belted out songs from Golden Bells.

Still back then, strikes, though not entirely unheard of were rare. Nobody died and no dormitories were burnt. Older boys grew up rearing rabbits and feeding cows.

The modern Brayoos and Stanoos are growing up on a diet of chicken and rice and other such goodies? Television, play station and the internet? Mobile phones and discos? Well, some of them may have but not all.

Unfortunately many innocent parents, some of whom can barely afford the school fees will be forced to pay for damage caused by their sons. And that is just after they bail out their sons who have been charged with murder and arson.

The blame game is now in top gear, poor parenting being the major one. Parents are too busy scaling the corporate ladder to know how their children are growing up. Some are mostly drunk and their kids are learning that it’s actually ok to abuse alcohol.

Media influence has not escaped the blame either. Television has become the official baby sitter in many homes and kids are growing up on a visual diet of violence and hard core movies. Sexually explicit music videos on Channel O have replaced nursery rhymes and lullabies.

Some have even blamed our current politics. Kids have learnt the beauty of impunity. They feel they can get away with anything.

Bottom line I think it’s the general rot in society that is manifesting in the kids.

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