Mature & Balanced
A True Story
on Jan 30, 2021
When I was applying to four top American Colleges in 2006, I had one of my high school teachers describe me in a recommendation letter as "an exceptionally caring, mature and balanced young man who would add to your school in many ways". I borrowed that phrase in quotes from an informative book titled How to Get into the Top Colleges which I didn't read in full. As it happened, I wasn't accepted into any of the colleges.
Looking back, I don't think I was a mature and balanced young man. If I had been, I wouldn't have stopped attending classes at the university in JKUAT without communicating home. I honestly don't know what was going on in my head as I hung around JKUAT while my family worried sick about me - an immaturity I exhibited again in 2011 when I was at the University of Nairobi.
After I left the University of Nairobi in 2011, I continued behaving immaturely. Believe me when I tell you that I had a habit of running away from home whenever my family members failed to fulfil my demands, forgetting they too were having challenges of their own.
Like one Friday night in 2011 or 2012, I slept outside on our farm because of a disturbing issue I have forgotten. All I remember is me lying to Mum that I was from church when I went back to our house early the following morning which was a Saturday. Quick to discern that I was lying, Mum replied that I had been sleeping outside. She went ahead to complain to me that she would doze during the day while selling stuff at her grocery because of me having caused her a sleepless night.
Probably as a result of the way I had caused Mum a sleepless night, I felt terribly guilty that Saturday. It was like the whole world was rebuking me. When I went to church at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi later on that Saturday, I unburdened my guilt to a friend of mine called Jack who did nothing to assuage my feelings.
Then on another Friday in 2014, I tried to organize a family meeting to discuss how we could make productive use of our land. I kept sending messages to my family that Friday and when it became apparent to me in the early hours of the Friday night that they were unwilling to attend my meeting, I went to sleep outside, leaving our sick Mum all alone in the house. On going back to the house at around 11.00pm of that same night, I found my younger brother Symo unhappy with me. Symo thought it had been very immature of me to leave Mum alone. And he was right.
As I reflect further on my life in the past ten years, I have uncovered several other instances when I behaved immaturely. Like there was a time in 2014 when I gloated over the tribulations facing my friend James Karanja Maina who was put on the newspapers on a notice warning the public that he was no longer an employee of Keroche Breweries. Karanja's tribulations must have escalated as he was brutally murdered a year or two later.
Then there have been times I have judged others harshly, reacted in anger over minor issues, meddled with some of my friend's affairs, worried over little things, allowed others to hurt my feelings and sent abusive messages to friends. An immature young man I have been.
Now that I have grown wiser, I am striving to be the mature and balanced young man that I had one of my teachers say of me in the recommendation letters I sent to American colleges in 2006. I am endeavouring to conduct my affairs responsibly, to empathize with other people's suffering and to listen to criticism without allowing it to affect my inner peace. Likewise, I urge all young people out there to behave in a responsible manner.
I especially have a message for teenagers still living with their parents - please don't be too hard on your parents when they fail to live upto your expectations. Understand parents are people too. They also have pressures. While you're worrying about your friends, they're worrying about their bosses. Like you, they have days when they get offended at work. They sometimes cry; they get their feelings hurt; and they don't always have their act together, just like me and you. So mature up and understand them.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on being mature and balanced, you might also enjoy another one I wrote last year on "Maturing Up". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Remembering a Maths Teacher
A True Story
on Jan 25, 2021
How can I forget Mr. Samuel Obudho? He was the head of the Mathematics department and also the Form 3 Senior Master during my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre - in those days when Starehe was well-known in Kenya for its exemplary performance in the national secondary school exams known as KCSE.
I remember Mr. Obudho as a dutiful teacher who loved his job and held students to high standards of discipline and performance. At one time in 2004 when I was in Form 3, he fixed me for a severe punishment for just not wearing a tie during a Chemistry lab session we had on a hot sunny afternoon. How humiliating it was to do the punishment!
Not only was Mr. Obudho tough on Form 3 students but also on teachers. Sometime that year when I was in Form 3, he reproached a humorous and easy-going Maths teachers of ours called Mr. Joseph Kasili for not tutoring us well. Mr. Obudho came to our class one morning at that time to inquire from us something about Mr. Kasili and his teaching methods. I really sympathized with Mr. Kasili to see him being reproached by Mr. Obudho like a primary school pupil.
That morning when Mr. Obudho came to our class to inquire about Mr. Kasili, I voiced a complaint about our English literature teacher - an attractive lady named Miss Gathige. And guess what! A day or two later, Miss Gathige informed us that she was being questioned by Mr. Obudho. When she asked us who had reported her to the Form 3 Senior Master, some of my classmates started shouting my name. Feeling embarrassed, I repeatedly denied that I was the one who had complained about Miss Gathige.
Because of his duties as the head of the Mathematics department and the Form 3 Senior Master, Mr. Obudho used to teach only one class in Starehe, and it was a Form 4 class. In 2005 when I was in Form 4, it was our class that he taught, replacing Mr. Joseph Kasili - that humorous and easy-going teacher I have told you about.
Shortly after he became our Mathematics teacher in 2005, Mr. Obudho got to know me by name. And I must have been an excellent student of his because of the way he had a high opinion of me. He once asked me during a lesson to go to the blackboard and solve a Mathematics problem that was troubling my classmates.
Sure, I was an excellent student of Mr. Obudho. I will never forget the time Mr. Obudho came to our class and handed some of us the results of a Mathematics paper we had sat for in a major exam; I was among those he handed the results, and when I found out I had scored over 80% in the paper, I went dancing around the class.
As my high school years came to an end in 2005, Mr. Obudho aspired to succeed Mr. Yusuf King'ala as the principal of Starehe following the death of Mr. King'ala in October or November of that year. Unfortunately for Mr. Obudho, some senior members of the school administration opposed him.
Early in March 2006 as Mr. Obudho was embroiled in a dispute with senior members of the Starehe administration, I chanced to meet him one evening walking on a highway in the school. After I greeted him, he asked me how I had fared in his subject in KCSE exams. He was pleased with me when I apprised him I had scored an 'A' in the subject. And that was the last time I recall seeing Mr. Obudho in Starehe, for he left the school shortly afterwards, ostensibly because he couldn't put up with the school administrators who had opposed his ambition to be the principal of Starehe.
A couple of years after I left Starehe, I spotted someone like Mr. Obudho walking on a peopled street in Nairobi. I would have loved to greet him but because I was not feeling high in spirits, I didn't summon the courage to approach him and introduce myself to him. Failing to greet people I know when I meet them on the streets has been a weakness of mine whenever I am feeling low in spirits.
Over the years, I became curious to know what became of Mr. Obudho and how he fared with life after he left Starehe. I also wondered how he reacted to news of Starehe's declining performance in KCSE exams in the last one decade. Part of my curiosity was quenched mid last year after I learnt from Facebook friends that Mr. Obudho had passed on after a long illness.
Learning of Mr. Obudho's demise has made me appreciate the gift of life and of good health that I am now blessed with. It has also infused me with gratitude for the life of my father who is an age-mate of Mr. Obudho. My father also wears glasses just like Mr. Obudho used to do. Till we meet again, rest in peace my beloved Mathematics teacher - Mr. Samuel Obudho!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on a Mathematics teacher I remember, you might also enjoy another one I wrote in 2018 on "Remembering My Teachers". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.