Noticing the Little Things
During my daily walks to my hometown of Kiserian, I sometimes meet friends who are too absent-minded to notice me. I don't really know what goes on in their minds that makes them absent-minded. Maybe they are usually just mulling over the problems in their lives or worrying about the future.
Two or three Sundays ago, I met a young man called Timo who was walking with his face looking down as if he was searching for a lost coin. I thought that was a pathetic way of walking but I didn't take him to task over it; I just greeted him and continued minding my own business.
As for me, I usually make an effort to walk with my chin up while wearing a cheerful face. I also try to notice the little things as I go about my walking. Today, let me tell you about some interesting writings I have observed over the last six years during my walks and travels.
Then a few weeks ago, I saw another guy wearing a T-shirt that said, "We rise by lifting others up." I found that writing educative and spot-on.
And then three weeks ago during that time I have told you I was commuting to Kasarani in Nairobi, I found myself in a bus with a sticker that had this quote printed on it: "In every desert of calamity, God has an oasis of comfort."
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Memories of My Days at Noru-Moru
As I was taking a leisurely walk around our home's compound today afternoon, I couldn't help thinking about my days at Noru-Moru Primary school where I began my schooling in 1993 and stayed on till Standard Seven in the year 2000. Noru-Moru is a public primary school that caters for the educational needs of children of the poor in my home-area.
Back in the '90s when I was a student there, all the windowpanes of the school's classrooms were broken and nobody bothered to have them repaired. The school had no access to electricity and piped water. It also had no fence around it. And some pupils used to attend the school barefooted and in tattered uniform. It truly was a school of the poor.
Because the school had no fence around it back in the '90s, pupils could get into it from any direction. And that was advantageous to latecomers who tried to dodge teachers on duty.
I don't really know what it was about Noru-Moru that made quite a number of my schoolmates to repeat classes. Maybe it's because some teachers were lackadaisical by their not finishing the syllabus on time. Or maybe it's because of the humble backgrounds from which some of its pupils came from. All I remember is that quite a number of my schoolmates did repeat class as if they were getting paid to stay longer in school. Imagine I would at times study in the same class with pupils who had been classmates of my senior siblings.
When I talk of pupils repeating class, I have been reminded of a Maasai elder called Ole Murkuk who owned vast tracts of land near Noru-Moru. A polygamous man, Ole Murkuk used to have kids in almost every class in the school - from kindergarten to Standard Eight. He was such a virile man.
Besides its pupils, the other people of Noru-Moru I remember were, of course, the teachers. I especially recall those who were ruthless when it came to disciplining pupils. Among those ruthless teachers was one I recollect vaguely as Miss Kaloki.
Miss Kaloki was a young light-skinned Kamba woman who never spared the rod. On several occasions in 1997 when she heard us making noise in our classroom which was near the staffroom, she would come inside and command us in Swahili, "Toeni hizo magunia! (Remove those sacks!)" By telling us to remove our sacks, she meant our sweaters. She would then start caning us on the back, one by one.
Then there was Mr. Wanjohi, a no-nonsense man who taught Mathematics and Science in the school. He was merciless when it came to admonishing and caning pupils who could not follow his instructions. And he aroused such fear in us that whenever he entered class in the morning, some pupils would start trembling like trees on a windy day.
Mr. Wanjohi tutored me in Standard Five and again in Standard Seven. I recollect distinctly one lesson in Standard Seven, he taught us English in Kikuyu, his mother-tongue, by telling us that if we wanted to remember how the word "tongue" is spelt, we should pronounce it as "to ngu e". In Kikuyu, "to ngu e" means "I can die!"
Stern as he was, Mr. Wanjohi had a favourite pupil of his whom he admired because of his brilliance. And the pupil was my immediate elder brother Paddy. It was not only Mr. Wanjohi who admired Paddy; some other teachers did too.
I recall vividly one afternoon in the late '90s, a female teacher found me guilty of some wrongdoing. She took to the staffroom, asked me to lie flat on a bench and then beat me repeatedly on my buttocks, as if they were a set of drums, while asking me, "Why aren't you like your brother [Paddy]?"
Another tough teacher I remember from my schooling days at Noru-Moru is Mrs. Waguchu. Like Miss Kaloki, she too never spared the rod when it came to correcting pupils. As luck would have it, she only taught me for a short time in Standard One in 1994, so I can't recollect her ever disciplining me. Instead what I remember most about her was the way she uttered a positive comment about me in the mid '90s during one lesson.
Well, Mrs. Waguchu and another teacher called Mr. Sakuda were checking our schoolwork during that lesson. And when it was my turn, Mrs. Waguchu told Mr. Sakuda that I would grow up to be a great man someday - or something along those lines. Now that I am a grown-up man, I am trying to live up to Mrs. Waguchu's expectations.
I still meet Mrs. Waguchu every now and then during my walks to my hometown of Kiserian. She has long since retired from teaching. A couple of years ago when her son was seriously ill, she asked me for the phone number of my brother Paddy who is now a doctor. That Noru-Moru could produce a doctor shows it wasn't such a bad school after all.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on my memories at Noru-Moru, you might also enjoy another story I wrote sometimes back on "Remembering My Teachers". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.