Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Down Memory Lane - How Were Your School Years?

300 hundred Kenyan schools have gone on the rampage in the last one month! And the reasons they’re giving for burning their schools and in some cases killing and injuring their own makes you want to weep. Bad food, power outages, difficult exams, inadequate entertainment, use of mobile phones, DVD, Music systems, unlimited visits to girls’ schools etc etc. Others want their boarding schools converted into day schools. What are our youngsters up to?

I don’t know much about the conditions in schools currently but I don’t think they’re any tougher than those of yesteryears. I’m not by any chance suggesting that modern kids should be put through what we went through but it’s no harm to go down memory lane. I remember we used to celebrate blackouts because we got a chance to break the monotony of evening preps. Our food was not any chef’s pride. It was maize and beans, sima and cabbage, rice and cabbage and then more maize and beans. Sometimes there was the distinct taste of paraffin in our food. Rumour had it that it was added deliberately to curb sexual urges – God only knows sexual urges for whom. It was a girls only school and we were confined in there for 3 months with no half term. There was no homosexuality. Besides, back then high school age was still too young.

Despite the watchful eyes of Italian Nuns, we were naughty like any other teenagers. But other than making noise and laughing in class, the most truant we ever got was stealing bananas and avocadoes in the school farm on weekend nights. Never mind that mother dorm would always find them in our mabati boxes - when the bananas started ripening, she would smell her way to the culprit box in minutes. Never mind too that the said fruits were officially for student’s consumption anyway and were served every few days in the dining room. Punishment, depending on the crime, could be anything from strokes of the cane to uprooting a tree. Or kneeling on gravel for hours with hands raised up. Strokes of the cane were regardless of chilblains (Purple fingers) which were the order of the day. The area was so cold that water sometimes froze in the taps.

As far as entertainment went, every Saturday night from 8-10 pm, anyone who wanted to be entertained would gather in the dining hall and dance to music of mother dorm’s choice. At 60 years of age, she was the official school DJ. She loved ‘Night Shift’ and ‘Chosen Few’ to bits. Either that or those were the only santuri’s the school provided. There was also television on the opposite end of the hall where we could watch habari and current affairs programs on KBC. Dunia wiki hii or something like that. Television was only switched on on Saturdays. Wednesday mornings we gathered in the dining hall and belted out songs from Golden Bells.

Still back then, strikes, though not entirely unheard of were rare. Nobody died and no dormitories were burnt. Older boys grew up rearing rabbits and feeding cows. The modern Brayoos and Stanoos are growing up on a diet of chicken and rice and other such goodies? Television, play station and the internet? Mobile phones and discos? Well, some of them may have but not all. Unfortunately many innocent parents, some of whom can barely afford the school fees will be forced to pay for damage caused by their sons. And that is just after they bail out their sons who have been charged with murder and arson.

The blame game is now in top gear, poor parenting being the major one. Parents are too busy scaling the corporate ladder to know how their children are growing up. Some are mostly drunk and their kids are learning that it’s actually ok to abuse alcohol. Media influence has not escaped the blame either. Television has become the official baby sitter in many homes and kids are growing up on a visual diet of violence and hard core movies. Sexually explicit music videos on Channel O have replaced nursery rhymes and lullabies. Some have even blamed our current politics. Kids have learnt the beauty of impunity. They feel they can get away with anything.

Bottom line I think it’s the general rot in society that is manifesting in the kids.

Related Post: Susan Akinyi's Sad Story


31337 said...

the good old days, i did only one year in prep school and headed back to day school, i did not quite agree with being locked up in school and i was on medication at the time requiring more attention than could be offered at the school, after splitting my face open requiring a number of stitches i was transferred back to a day school so fast my head spun, though i wondered whether it was the morphine, or the speed of it all.

ragskanyi said...

This really is a sad situation.

Sayra said...

Niaje Shiko,

Lol ur entertainment ... hahahaha.
Us guys we never paid so much attention to entertainment from radio or TV, dancing was our thing and the one movie we watched on sato night was enough.
Its in high school that i came to hate cabbages, till to-date i can't stand them. The paraffin too used to make me sick and loose appetite in a flash, i many times stayed in class hungry.

Funny thing is as we continue playing the blame game, the measures that the education minister has put in place to apparently deal with unrest will be by passed ones the students are back in school. We always managed to get a way to by-pass rules that we never liked and they will too.

nobe said...

hi! i found your blog at entrecard and i just wanted to see how it looks like, so here i am!

i am nobe, and you can find me at the following addresses. hope you can drop by sometime. :)

willpress said...

Well the motto was "Perseverance shall win through". One quickly learned it was another way of saying "Human Suffering on a Large Scale"

You hated the diet the moment you saw it. In fact you were welcomed with ugali n spiceless beans. But soon you discovered your survival dpended on it so in a week you'd be eating that stuff lyk a buffet treat.

D/H rules were more than the rest of the school rules combined.Food was a major issue here.

Water shortage was common and such crude methods as shadoofing came into play.

Prefects appointments was a pseudo political reward scheme to those who worked their way up the boot lickn ladder.

Entertainment came in the form of DSTV and a hi-fi system. First three rows for cops, after which nature took its course.

Libido was high especially after a run of sum R18 VSNL movies.

We caught a few in homosexual acts but it died down since one was a cop and he resigned...

All these happened in the early 2000s. . .

Shiko-Msa said...

Intelligensia you split your face doing what? Probably scaling a tree ama? Lol. Me I was in boarding school for a good 9 years. 5 in primo 4 in seco. Can you imagine that? I was a tough little cookie already by the time I went to seco.

Hey Rags. Long time. Really sad indeed.

Sayra cabbages haki - I so feel you on that one. Cabbages ndengu and porridge.

aai Willpress please tell me what is shadoofing? That's a new one. Willpress are you talking about a school? Hiyo ni kali.

Hey Nobe. Welcome to Wanjikuville. Of course I'm headed to your place right now. Thanks for the visit. Don't we just love Entrecard?

willpress said...

Yeya, shiko am talking bout a high school, fact bila fiction hehe!

Shadoofing hmm well they usd to do water rationing and seal off some of the big ass tanks. .so what we did, one would make a rope out of several ties, belts, anything attach it to a bucket handle, climb the tank and proceed to dip the bucket into the tank and harvest water. Yeah thats shadoofing. It was a "capital offence" so the moment you saw a cop, better you destroy the evidence by dumping your tools into the tank and RUN!! Its no wonder that there are so many buckets in those tanks mpaka wa leo.

Shiko-Msa said...

Willpress by cop you mean a prefect right?

Thanks for the new word shadoofing though I hope I wont ever get to shadoof. Us we were lucky water was in plenty mpaka ya irrigation. Only nobody wanted to touch it coz it was mostly freezing cold. I have a friend in their school (Primary) they used to go to the river to do laundry there! The river was way down hill and they would then carry their wet clothes and buckets of water uphill back to school. Gosh!

Na hiyo shule yenu ni kali.

Maua said...

I went to 4 different schools in 6 yrs, 1st 2yrs being a day school. All my friends had gone to boarding sec schools, and they always had tales during the holidays, and I insisted I wanted one. 2yrs of seco and 2 yrs of high school were spent in a boarding 'prison'. I don't think I'd dream of taking my kids to any.

Water was rationed in the 1st school but no shadoofing (no tank). We always stored water in pails under our beds, no wonder I always had homa. My 2nd last yr, we had showers that only worked at 4-5 am when most of us were in bed.

In my last yr (the only mixed school I attended), we had a strike on the only week day we had tea and scones for b/fast, we formed a river of tea headed to the headie's office, when he came out to address us, we threw the scones at him. The previous night, we had burned the school bus, and when the fire brigade service was called, we blocked the entrance and insisted it was our bus and we had all the rights. Reason for burning - we had been refused access on one of the school trips.

But needless to say, my 2 seco yrs in a boarding school are the most memorable, and the rest 2, I just compared.

Anonymous said...

haha, i love this, my school was a catholic one, God forbid, we use to wake up each day at 5 am for mass. woe unto u if u didnt, this sista who was the deputy would descend on u like mad. anyway, we had enough of that, so we striked at one point and they made it mass for only 3 days a week. despite all that, it was my best school ever. i kinda miss it. i had fun

UrXlnc said...

Hey Ciku


looks like guys are unleashing testimony

so here goes

uummmmm..! when i went to school, eeerr.... there was no school


take care folks

just killing time touring blogs today have some 3 hrs of nothing ahead.

UrXlnc said...

But seriously, i see that MPs and other bodies are agitating for return of caning in schools

my opinion is that this alone is not a deterrent but that does not really matter. what needs to be revisited is why caning was banned in the first place

and many other stories.

when you as a parent now or in the future will be confronted with a case where a teacher has beaten your child to death, there can be no excuse to justify it.

we are already hearing that some teachers report drunk to school, while others have affairs or molest their pupils.

stand back and think about it seriously, and you will find caning is not an option but a quick fix. strong disciplinary action certainly is required but caning is not one of them.

Shiko-Msa said...

Mmmh Maua kumbe ni nyinyi. Striking and burning stuff. We’ve caught you. Tea and scones for breakfast that was lucky. For us if you wanted scones you bought at the school canteen on Fridays only. But they served bread once a week in the dining hall. The school also reared chicken and we ate boile eggs once or twice a week. Otherwise uji was the in thing.

Neema same I was in a Catholic school. We had mass at 5.30 in the morning then breakfast then cleaning the school then class. Woe unto those who wet their beds coz there was no time to shower with the ice cold water. Then we did Rosary every day at 5.00 jioni before going for super. I miss that life also in a strange kind of way although I hated it then.

Urxlnc welcome to Wanjikuville. Confess confess. Ulienda shule wapi? Thanks for the links. Some of those stories especially on ‘spare the child’ are simply heartrending! Caning when it existed was misused by some teachers who were psychos and came to unleash their personal problems on the students. And surely caning a child for not paying fees is too unfair. That’s not a disciplinary case!

For us caning was not so common, I guess coz of the purple fingers thing. But if you had a caning date then the teacher would wait till afternoon when the weather was warmer. Imagine waiting for canes a whole day! That was enough torture. Our punishments were mostly manual labour and kneeling on gravel. Slashing grass, cleaning and even uprooting trees! Gosh.

Sayra said...

Mambos. When you went to school there was no school ... things were that bad? Lol ... aii yawa.
So true caning will not solve a thing. I remember in primo i one day woke up and decided i will never be back in school reason- too much canning. I was taken to another school where caning was illegal. Discipline was done by counseling and i tell you i reformed and am still a straight person mpaka wa leo ... but do i say ... lol.

Lucky you caning was not so common. I first experienced purple fingers in class 4, by the time i was in class 5 i could take it no more.

Shiko-Msa said...

Sayra hiyo ya UrXlnc ni kali.

We also had guiding and counseling which people dreaded more than the caning Lol. But it worked.

Nairobian said...

your article is spot on -on an issue that needs comprehensive solutions, i was in Patch funnily enough we never did strike, though there were numerous reasons to?

HLumiti said...

When any punishment is administered to the extreme it degenerates to abuse and is obviously not justifiable. I doubt if that is good enough reason to prohibit caning which in proper perspective is a corrective measure. Note that even the said HRW report highlights how other forms of punishment have been abused. Is this to say that punishment should be done away with altogether because it can be abused? What then are these "strong disciplinary actions" that should be implemented?

The HRW report is clearly unscientific, heavily biased and simply refuses to distinguish between abusive violence and corrective punishment.

I too was caned in school but I never turned into an arsonist or some other form of rebel because of it. Neither have thousands upon thousands of others who have accepted their punishment in stride.

We are now getting over enthusiastic to rationalize child indiscipline for the sake of some fuzzy notion of modernity. To 'dialogue' with chaps who cannot even spell the word itself, let alone have a clue as to what it involves.

Shiko-Msa said...

True Lumiti. Too much of anything is poisonous.

Nairobian we too had lots and lots of reasons to strike. But we did not.

Anonymous said...

the problem is mob mentality ama aje shii

Mcheku said...

I see Crates came today, umepotea sana!

I dont know why people think caning can help reform anyone. I was caned in primo of course like everybody else those days and honestly it didnt help much, coz that was when I was at my rowdiest. Secoo there was no beating but there was guidance and counselling and numerous pun-oos, I did quite a lot of those and for the four years I was there there was no strike at all even though there were many reasons to do so.

What I dont understand is whether these arson fires I hear of are triggered carelessly or whether someone does so deliberately. Coz honestly I dont want to believe teenagers can be that mean.

Parents are definitely the first culprits to blame for their children's activities they cannot shift blame in this one.

Shiko-Msa said...

Crates sema where did you go to school? And what were you upto there? Kwanza wewe I'd love to hear your story.

Mcheku the fires are deliberate. They go out and buy petrol purposely to burn the buildings. Makes you wonder also about those who are supplying the petrol to this day knowing full well what the students are doing with it.

These kids have just got to realize that life was never easy and unless they stop disrupting their studies, it'll get even harder in future.

HLumiti said...


I'm curious to know whether you were rowdy because you were caned or you were caned because you were rowdy.

My position is that caning is not THE solution but that it has been and ought to remain PART OF the solution.

Ordinarily, no one likes to be caned. And therein lies the cane's deterrence and it works for the normal child. It is these normal ones we should be guiding thus, away from criminal intentions.

As for the deviants, yes, the cane will not work. Nothing will, not even prison.

BP ONE said...

I strongly support Lumiti on the the cane issue , Canning has to make a come back to our schools if we really want well disciplined students , after all it is there at home..i mean parents do cane their kids ...why not at school?.
BTW did you come across this article…South Korea "Stick of love" ceremony
“……..a traditional Korean ceremony in which students bring a gift from their parents to give to their teachers, possibly at the beginning of the school year.The gift is a special punishment cane called the "stick of love", evidently symbolising the parent's desire that the teacher is to keep the student in good order by punishing him or her when necessary. It is also a mark of respect to the teacher in a culture where teachers are traditionally honoured. In one scene, a schoolboy presents his teacher with the stick, which has a specially-carved handle. The teacher then hangs it up next to the blackboard.In return, the teachers present the students with pencils, possibly symbolising the hope that the student will work hard throughout the year.” See link
Shiko... don’t ask me about my school days especially Secondary ….those days were more or else like hell on earth just imagine half a cup of tea for break fast, few grams of poorly cooked rice or ugaly with beans for lunch or supper. Literally we were put on diet against our wishes…Since the school had no electricity there was no TV or any other entertainments available, we used to organize our night preps by buying “hurricane” lamps and kerosene to fuel it. With all those problems there were no strikes at all ..,,,canning was there but not much , teachers opted for other form of punishments. I think the majority of us were well disciplined and mature ,the few rotten ones were expelled from the school if the headmaster realizes that they can’t be corrected.

UrXlnc said...

hlumiti, bp1

lets look at this issue a little more broadly

lets focus on the full spectrum of moulding a disciplined child (or student)

it starts on the bright side with awards for effort (exemplerary or just for improvement over the last performance) sliding back to no award or no punishment and finaly into the punishment zone where priviledges or opportunity are denied and finally it gets physical

we focus too much on the one end of punishment and are not encouraging the child enough to push to be rewarded for good work. that sadly seems to be the kenyan way of doing things, it seems we are more interested in the "man i never got caught" than in the "wow, did you see how i accomplished after so much effort"

in short dwelling in punishment is not nearly as progressive as awarding merit and effort

my view is that the moment a child gives up on being awarded for effort, they begin the hardening process (can take any punishment) and from then on we are just helping them along as we increase the severity of the punishment.

fear is a transient emotion, very effective at onset, but completely unreliable and almost useless once one gets over it.

whereas hope builds upon hope which builds upon hope (for future success). trust me, it works wonders for the children

you guys on this forum are young, i encourage you not to dance around solutions that may or may not have worked in earlier years, and embrace the reality that children or youth are more enlightened, more informed, and more ready to look you in the eye as you raise that cane and ask you, why are you caning me. more often than not, they'll present you an argument that you cannot ignore.

i urge always that we avoid the quick fixes and go for long term solutions

HLumiti said...


You should be able to make your point without getting patronizing. That is the resort of those who have little or no point to make. If you have made any in your comments at 11:04PM above, they are lost in the condescending cloud and therefore unlikely to elicit any useful engagement, at least from my end.

UrXlnc said...



notwithstanding that, that is as far from truth as could be, i do apologise, because that was not the intention and spirit of the comment and if it has come out that way, then it is unfortunate.

what would help me here however is if you would kindly point out the offensive remarks.

Shiko-Msa said...

aaaai BP your school wins hand down! Those were tough tough conditions! Imagine if this current crop is given kerosene at school they'd have more than enough to burn. And that South Korean idea is a good one. Thanks for the links I'll check them out later.

Mcheku you have a question to answer. Were you rowdy because you were caned or you were caned because you were rowdy? Toboa. hehe.

Urxlnc thanks for the links.I'll check them out. I think it's the age remark that did not sit well with Lumiti. This place is mixed. We have the young and not so young. Perfect mix if you ask me but we have to debate without the age boundaries.

Mcheku said...

Maybe I used the wrong word, I was not a rowdy girl but I was more than happy to be cheeky and I was always late to school.

I was the worst noisemaker in my class (even though I was a prefect). Kwanza in primo the teacher even thought the solution was to make me sit with boys (it was still in that era of not talking to boys) surrounding my desk all round ati so that I dont talk......waaah! That became the noisiest corner in the class.

I was caned because I was cheeky, not the other way round.

Shiko-Msa said...

lol mcheku. I was also very cheeky and loved to laugh and make noise.I also did very many panoos. To this day I'm an expert in cutting grass. I can do a very neat job of that. But I don't unfortunately.

This trip down memory lane has been wonderful.