By Mundia Ngumi
It’s 5.00am on a Friday morning of July 1984. I wake up naturally without an alarm, and prepare myself for school. It’s drizzling, chilly and misty. I don’t shower, I just rinse my face with ice-cold water, I hit a mug of fermented uji and one big ngwaci, change into my khaki short, khaki shirt, and orange cardigan and walk to school barefoot. As usual, the children of our neighbouring Kingori’s family are calling my name loudly at our gate, “Ju!” for us to walk together to school, 4 km up the hills and valleys.
We arrive at Kariguini primary’s school compound on time. Mr Kamunya, the Deputy Head teacher is on duty. Classrooms have neither windows nor doors, and I can see pupils settled at their respective desks. I’m the head scout, so, while the rest head into the classrooms, I go to the staffroom to get the school flag and mount it ready for hoisting.
The bell rings and it’s assembly time. We all troop next to the big avocado tree. Avocados are very ripe. Some are falling and we are wondering why dogs are not eating all these avocados, because nobody eats them. A few speeches, a few boys are caned and we head to class.
Mr Githae, the maths teacher comes in carrying 5 huge sticks. He gave us 20 sums yesterday. Except Peris, the rest of us don’t understand a thing about them, because he doesn’t teach. He just loves caning us for failing and we are used to it. He gives us more 30 sums for homework. The lesson is over.
Mr Munene comes in. It’s an English lesson. He is angry and spends the whole lesson caning children because he has beef with some of our parents. “Kihii giki, niui thoguo ni muguruki” (Uncircumcised boy? Do you know that your father is a madman?) Mr Munene tells one of the boys, as he canes him. The rest of the teachers are good and we love their lessons.
In between the lessons, I’m called out. A girl had just fainted and being the only first aider, I have to attend to her, and within 15 minutes, I have resuscitated her, she is fine.
Its lunchtime, 12.30 pm. We all run back home to eat Githeri and run back to school as fast as we can, to make it before 1.30 pm. We attend afternoon lessons, and in the evening, we head back home.
It’s only that we don’t have stop watches, otherwise we broke Eliud’s record long time before he did.
It’s around 5.30 pm, in the evening when I arrive home. I find a mug of uji and a boiled egg which I take ravenously.
But, there is one remaining task, fetching nippier grass for the cows… I pick, my favourite rider, the wheelbarrow and comfortably ride it in style 3 km to our gishagi farm. Before 7.00pm I’m back home. I settle down, bath, eat my dinner, study for an hour and sleep, ready for a similar day tomorrow.