So today, the 2018 results were released. Gone are the days when we would enjoy our holidays in a combination in suspense and nonchalance. Your parent would always look at you as you feast on the goat ribs and wonder whether that is a goat-in-waiting eating another or what. These days your fate is sealed earlier. I do not know whether it is a good thing or not and neither am I writing about it. But it is. Anyhow.

Well, to let you in a little. I was supposed to write this story at the beginning of the month when the KCPE results were announced but I was a little caught up with life. So as time passed by, I really wondered whether I should still write it because a writer must be current. Then today the other results were released and boom! I decided I must write today, and only today, lest I take too long and my readers judge me as a stale out-of-topic party-spoiler boring writer, in whichever order your English teacher would deem fit. After all, He is a God of second chances, isn’t he? So, before I bore you.

My first story starts with the photo above. That was the first passport-sized photo I ever took. It was taken around mid-2005, and it bears the face of a person who had a lot of hope. The photos were to be affixed on a yellow form that I was supposed to fill and send back to Nairobi. I desired to join Starehe Boys Center and School, and I needed to apply beforehand, so as to qualify a chance to join the crème-dela-crème.  

I filled the form and mailed it back. Then worked hard so as to get that coveted privilege. KCPE came and it was a doable exam. From where I stood, I was headed to Starehe. People in my village and the immediate surroundings also filled me with a dangerous form of confidence by continually telling me “You are newspaper material”. Well, it shows you believe in a person but it also piles too much pressure on them, and the fear of letting people down. My father also was in this group that believed in my “newspaperability”.

There was no text-message verification then. You had to go to the school and wait for your fate there. Which is why after the results had been released on I guess 28th Dec, very early in the morning I took our bicycle, rushed to our nearby town and purchased a newspaper, as I headed to school to see what shape my future had. I was reading the newspaper as I rode the bicycle. Whether I was on the lookout for vehicles is a story I did not care about then. What mattered to me was being in the papers, and by so doing not letting down all these people who believed in me. I flipped the pages as I skimmed through, looking for the three names of the newspaper-material boy.

His names were not there. Or maybe they had not been traced by the time I reached my primary school up the hill.  Well, I convinced myself that if they were not on the newspaper, at least they needed to be on the “right” position on the school performance sheet. I rushed to the noticeboard and well, I found my three names. I had performed well with a decile past the 400 mark, only that the newspaper had not considered me worth their ink. Would my society accept “newspaperlessness” as a form of success still? I could only hope.

Well, now was the other adrenaline moment of waiting for the admission letters from schools. I was a bright chap, and had been made to believe so, and therefore my name did not belong to any of these small-small local-local nameless schools. My eyes were focused towards Jerusalem. Towards Starehe and beyond. So I waited.

No letter came. Others continued getting theirs but mine tarried. May be he who laughs last laughs best, I still knew enough English to keep myself amused. Well, after some time I received a letter, the only letter, from one of the above-described schools. Njoro Boys High School. That was not the school of my ‘type and class’, I had been made to believe. But it was the only one that showed interest in this Starehe-bound boy. Long story short, on the morning of 30th January 2006, I was clad in a grey uniform, trademarked with the inscriptions GT everywhere, to join this school that my father had joined exactly three decades before then.

Four years went, and Njoro Boys did its work in and on me. As it unofficial slogan went, “The School of Men”. Sometimes unwilling men.

My KCSE nears and my ambitions soar. I want to be an engineer. My father had been calling be an engineer for a long time because of my fascination with things mechanical, and with dismantling and always-unsuccessfully piecing them back together. Only that he had never mentioned which type of engineer. He did not even indicate that there is a wide array of these; he just called me all. And so an engineer I strived to become, even when the Physics practical paper hammered me. I wanted to become an electrical engineer, it looked cool. Then I wanted to be a software engineer, this one looked cooler. I had seen it in my form four Computer Studies book. But who is JAB?

This morning around 2nd March, 2010 finds me on my way to Nakuru. The results have been released and Strathmore has given us a week or two to go and handle the exams, finish the celebrations and the village-hero coronation, or go through the mourning phase, whichever side we allowed ourselves or the society to apportion us. We had done KCSE the same year with my elder sister so we were aware that that evening at home, it was uncertain which mood would prevail. May be the parents were preparing themselves to be fluid enough to handle whatever would become of their first and last-borns.

This time I had not been taunted newspaper material. Which could mean any of these or none whatsoever: I had become thick over time, my earlier “newspaperlessness” had made them lose hope in me, or they just stopped caring. I cannot remember the exact emotion that reigned in me that morning; all I remember is that I was on my way to Nakuru, and my sister on the other end was following the results closely.

She got hers. There was a big celebration. She was hugged. She probably shed a tear. Now it was clear to me that I better be not the spoiler of the already-jubilant mood at home. Mine came and yeah, I had passed too. Whether I had passed well or not probably was up to my mother to decide, and when she got the time to comment, she said my performance was not bad! Then quickly added that my sister had beaten me and deserved to be celebrated. She performed better than be when we look at the abilities. I soldiered on. It was a good day.

The moment of tension was soon coming, when we would wait for JAB to tell us whether we had qualified for the courses we had chosen, or whether we needed to go and amend them. I missed Electrical Engineering by a single point, and fell for Software Engineering. Not bad. When we went to Kenyatta University, they rounded us up one evening and told us that Software Engineering was not recognized by the Engineers Regulatory Board, and that we needed to switch to other programmes. I tried my luck with Electrical, but it was not successful. So in Software I stayed.

Looking back at all these, I realize something about life: it goes on, and usually, it goes on well if we decide to see the bright side of the sun. I may have wanted Starehe but Njoro Boys was the place that was needed to mould me into a responsible adult, and that it did well. I formed very many strong relationships there that are very valuable to date. Software Engineering is what is was born for. Electrical would have been too boring for me. But this was learnt after not getting what I desired and embracing what came my way.

I realize that sometimes in campus what benefits you most is the interactions, connections and the experiences that you come out of that place with, and not necessarily the curriculum. It is good when we set goals and targets, and work towards them. Yet when we do not hit them, it is not doom and gloom unless we choose to interpret it as such. Life adds up backwards. It gives us opportunities which sometimes do not make sense upfront.

Right now, many parents have their children called to the “wrong” secondary schools and they are up in arms. Their children are Alliance-material. And probably correctly so. And that is the first error that I would like to point out: don’t bring your children up with a classy mentality, telling them that they belong up there and have nothing to do with lower levels. This makes them grow with a sense of entitlement, easily judgmental of others, and with a bad attitude towards the people who operate at the level they were warned against.

You can encourage your child and challenge them to do better and get better without having to plant such a dangerous mentality in them. It works against them later on, especially after campus, when life does not hand them the classy things they had been groomed for, and the only available chances are the ‘lowly’ ones they were made to believe do not belong to them.

While I understand the importance of the “right” school, with all the facilities, discipline and culture that promises success, I would suggest that you train your child to become a responsible and all-round adult. One who is able to maximize the little resources available, or the many resources that they have at their disposal, to make their lives better and be of help in the lives of other people. That way, your child shall turn out to be the adult you will be proud of, and may be not necessarily the one the fits well into the society’s levels of calibration.

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I wrote this (like most other write-ups also) as I was doing my laundry this evening. In fact, I had to stop washing those clothes so that I could write the lines. Every cloth was a line. You now see why they are called cloth-lines? (Hehe)

I love laundry because it makes me write, not because it makes me clean.

So, just in case I don’t do any other laundry this year, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. It is always my pleasure to have you read my sometimes poorly-coordinated thoughts.