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Thefts I Recall From My Boyhood Days

With permission, I have extracted this picture-quote from a website called Durban Daughters. All rights reserved worldwide.

It was an evening in 1993 or 1994; the exact year has gotten lost in the mist of my memory. But I recall vividly Mum giving me some mangoes that evening at her grocery in Kiserian for me to take them home, a three-kilometre walk. As I was heading home with the mangoes in my hands, I met a boy who struck up a conversation with me.

When we reached a T-junction a few hundred metres from Kiserian, the boy asked me to walk with him on a different route that passed through a slum we used to call Vietnam. I agreed to walk on the route because I knew it like the palm of my right hand. Then while we trod, the boy offered to help me carry the mangoes Mum had given me. I again yielded to his request and gave them to him.

Guess what! When we reached a certain point, the boy suddenly ran away with the mangoes on a path that branched from the road we were treading on. He did so quickly and unexpectedly. I had been cheated. And that turned out to be the first theft I witnessed in my life.

That evening when I went home, Mum did ask me about the mangoes she had given me. I lied to her that I had eaten them, a statement that made her scold me. How I wish I had told her the truth! But then, I was just a small boy with little experience in life.

I still meet that boy sometimes in my walk in Kiserian these days. Of course he is a grown-up man now. But I have never bothered to befriend him and remind him of the way he once stole mangoes from me. I have chosen to keep him at arm's length. Like last Sunday when we met in Kiserian, we looked at each other in the eye without exchanging a greeting.

Then at another time in 1996, some other boys again stole from me. It was on a Sunday afternoon. After attending church in my home-town Catholic parish, Mum gave me a carton at her grocery for me to take home. As I was walking from Kiserian, two boys pounced on me from behind, snatched the carton I was carrying in a split second and took off with it. I didn't bother to run after them. Neither did I shout for help. I just continued walking home as if nothing had happened.

The evening of that Sunday, Mum did ask me about the carton as she had asked me about the mangoes a few years eariler. This time, I told her the truth: that the carton had been stolen.

I was never mugged again on my way home from Kiserian in my boyhood days, which I attribute to luck because my home-area was constantly raided by thieves. Like my neighbour Deya was harassed by robbers so much that he had to relocate to another place. And I don't know what made Deya's home a prime target for burglars because they never came to our home.

On one night in 1999 when Deya's home was raided by thieves, my father and a few other members of my family went to help. Whether they succeeded in warding off the robbers, I have never known. But I remember hearing that the thieves threatened my father that they would come to our home the next time. That got us worried.

In the days that followed, we lived in constant fear of being attacked by thieves. My father hid all important things at home, mostly books, in places he thought the robbers would not bother to look at. Like he hid some books in the cowshed. As it turned out, the thieves never came.

RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on thefts I recall from my boyhood days, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometime back on "The 8th Commandment". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.


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What I Would Do Differently in School

In black trousers and blazers in the photo above were the three most senior captains of Starehe Boys' Centre in 2003, posing for a picture with a Catholic priest. The captains, also known as red-lions, were (from left) Joshua Abaki, Peter Kariuki and Gilbert Kimani.

I still remember that morning as if it were branded on my forehead. It was back in 2002 when I was a Form One student at Starehe Boys' Centre. After taking our usual breakfast of a bun and a cup of tea in the dining hall, I started running towards the kitchen. I must have been running like a headless chicken because on my way, I hit the cup of a prefect. It fell on the floor and cracked.

Provoked, the prefect stopped me and lectured me angrily. Exactly what he told me, I cannot remember. But he must have been furious with me because I recall of how I went to the Main Study, the office of red-lions, crying and pleading to be freed from the prefect's wrath.

I can't recollect which red-lion I talked to that morning in the Main Study. It must have been Gilbert Kimani (see photo above). All I recall was the way he listened attentively to my rantings. And I don't know if he took any action against the prefect. Again, all I recall is that the prefect never harassed me again for breaking his cup.

And that was the thing with me at Starehe - I was a confused and timid student. That confusion and timidness affected my social life because I was shy when talking to people in one-on-one conversations. I remember how lonely I used to feel on the first evening of almost every term as other students exchanged stories about their holidays. My poor social life explains why I never ascended to any leadership position at Starehe and why I never had a girlfriend with whom to exchange letters as I observed in some other students.

Apart from having a poor social life, I also never excelled in academics - at least not until I got into Fourth Form. That was in spite of reading a lot during my free time and over the holidays.

Today, I thought of the things I would do differently if I could wave the magic wand and roll back the clocks of time to 2002 when I was in Form One at Starehe. Let me share my thoughts here in the hope that I will enlighten one or two high school students out there.

First, I would absorb as much as possible during class time and take good notes for future reading. To ensure I learn a lot during lessons, I would read ahead in textbooks so that I would be familiar with what the teacher is talking about. And should something seem unclear to me, I would raise my hand and ask for clarification from the teacher.

To tell you the truth, I never used to understand much during class hours when I was in Starehe. Mark you, that was from around 8.30am to 4.00pm, meaning that my school days went to waste. I also never used to read the notes the teachers dictated for us in class. And that meant that I had to use much of my free time to catch up in my studies instead of engaging in other mind-building activities like socializing and playing sports. A poor student I was!

The other thing I would do differently at Starehe would be to acquire a leadership position. I would particularly work at becoming a red-lion because I came to admire the responsibilities, privileges and opportunities that the red-lions used to have. Most of the red-lions in my time at Starehe landed opportunities to study overseas. Some were accepted in such highly-esteemed universities as MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

If appointed a red-lion, I would use my powers to curb the cult of mediocrity and indiscipline that grips some learners. How? By lifting my fellow students' spirits and bringing them together. And as part of leaving a legacy, I would print the following note and have it framed in the Main Study:
I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this Main Study, and all that shall hereafter occupy it. May none but honest and wise students serve under this roof.
Don't get me wrong: I don't mean to say my life in high-school at Starehe was a disaster. I did have some remarkable achievements. Besides scoring an 'A' in the mighty KCSE exams, my other notable accomplishments were accompanying hymns on the piano and giving talks during evening assemblies. And judging from those achievements, I would advise high school students to develop the habit of reading everyday and to find a hobby they can excel at. That's all I am saying.

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