Monday, 5 August 2013


Thursday evenings at Alliance were reserved for clubs and societies. It was the highlight of the week. For in addition to not having prep, clubs and societies would organize debates and usually invite girls’ schools to participate. To a mass of hormone-charged teenagers, the presence of girls always set off a wave of excitement.

And so, soon after supper on Thursdays, the school would usually become a beehive of activity and at the best of times, a kaleidoscope of colours. The Accrossian greens mingled with the Kotetian reds, the Bomarian greys mixed with the Choxerian browns, the Cabbs blues interspersed with the State House greens. Once in a while, we might even have the odd ‘third world school’ like Senior Chief Koinange, Mary Hill or Moi Girls Kamangu straying into our hallowed grounds.

We derisively labeled the latter schools ‘third world’ because, in the foolishness of our youth, we had categorized schools into a similar hierarchy as that obtaining in the world economic order without any sense of irony in the fact that this global hierarchy placed our own continent in the so called ‘third world’.

We were guaranteed to have at least one girls’ school grace the School each Thursday evening. Even when no other schools showed up, we were always guaranteed to have the faithful Accrossians coming to attend one or other activity hosted by the Junior Debating Society (JDS), the Fourth Form Debating Society (FFDS), the Senior Debating Society (SDS), the Young Christian Students (YCS), the Young Farmers’ Club, the Wildlife Society, the Kiswahili Club, or the Science Club, among others. We were allowed to be members of up to three clubs but we usually found a way of gate-crushing the activities of others when the guest list was right.

Ahead of an external meeting, as we called debates where visitors were expected, a highly elaborate ritual usually got underway in the dorms in preparation. Boys would take an extended shower after games and rush through their supper after evening parade. We would then don our best crisply ironed uniform, owned or more likely borrowed, and splash on ourselves generous doses of cologne – usually Brut Ferberge – which was shared all around. I sometimes wondered whether the visiting girls might not suspect that this cologne was supplied to all students by Mr. Owiti, our Quartermaster, along with the uniforms that were issued to each student on arrival at the school.

The debates would be held at the Carey Francis Memorial Lecture Theatre or any of the lecture rooms in the Science Block – BLR, PLR or CLR. In most cases, the visitors would arrive to find us already seated in the debating room and so there was no chance before the meeting started of striking up a conversation with a girl, or ‘hooking’ someone as we called it. We therefore spent the half hour of question time trying to impress the girls by asking witty questions to the ‘cabinet ministers’ and contributing thoughtfully to the main motion of the debate. But all the while, we would be busy identifying who our preferred ‘catch’ would be and making calculations on how to go about ensuring we ended up ‘sinking with her’.

 Following the debate, we would all stroll to the Dining Hall for refreshments and socializing for a few minutes with the girls before escorting the Accrossians to their gate or seeing off other visitors to their bus. The short walk from the debating chamber to the dining hall was a critical period. It was a make or break for one’s social standing in the School. Competition for ‘hooking’ the preferred chick would usually be intense particularly because at that age, peer pressure was overwhelming and our definition of beauty largely superficial. There were therefore few girls among the visitors that were considered acceptable to ‘sink’ with and the fewer the visitors, the more intense would be the competition. Floating was unthinkable, though it often did happen with devastating consequences for one’s reputation.

On Tuesday evening once a month, the Theological Society, whose patron was the inimitable Rev. Fred G. Welch (more famously known as Contra), would invite several schools at once. It was then that all the girls would seem to descend upon us at once in perfect display of grace and colour. They would join us in hearing a talk by Dr. Tokunbo Adeyemo, Prof. Watson Omulokoli, Rev. Timothy Njoya, Rev. David Gitari, or some other theologian as they addressed us on some deep theological subject. The fact that the Theological Society meetings were reserved for Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Formers, made junior boys long with envy for the day they would be admitted into the elite club.

Once or twice a term, there would be a charity film screened on a Saturday night to raise funds for some worthy cause. Unlike other entertainment activities which were free, students were required to pay a small amount to buy a ticket for the movie and refreshments were sold at the Senior Common Room during the interval. Proceeds would go to charity. No charity evening was complete without visitors from one or more girls’ school.

One Saturday evening there was a charity film about to be screened. Acrossians had already arrived and I was busy making calculations as to which chick I was going to ‘hook’. Being only a Form 2, and with my sinking skills far from perfect, there was a distinct possibility of floating and that would be an unspeakable dent on my reputation. 

But the early signs were good. I had already spotted three distinct prospects. The evening was pregnant with possibility. Still, one could never be too sure and I had to position myself strategically within ‘striking distance’ of my first choice, a fellow Form 2 girl from Macpherson House whom I had met during swimming practice a few weeks before. Things were looking good.

Just at that point, a stream of red skirts and sweaters flowed into the hall. Alas, Loreto Limuru, better known as Kotet, had responded to the invitation, a rare occurrence for charity films which were usually a Bush-Across affair. 

If the excitement before had been palpable, it now became downright tangible. Quick re-calculations had to be made among those of us who had loyalties in both schools. There was great potential for trouble as I spotted a Kotetian I had spoken to on several occasions before, enough times for observers to conclude that we were 'an item'. 

Preoccupied as I was with planning how to avert a serious crisis, I failed to notice that the stream of girls from Kotet had stopped flowing into the hall as it was now filled up with many girls still waiting to be admitted. What was more, another busload from Mary Leakey had arrived for the charity film and were also stranded outside the hall. But not for long, for soon the entertainment prefect was on stage making an announcement.

"The hall is filled up and we have to make room for our visitors. All Form 2s, please leave the hall. You will watch the movie tomorrow afternoon," he said with disturbing finality.

Was this guy listening to himself?? How dare he pick on Form 2s? Why us and no one else?? Why could it not be Form 4s and Form 6s who were asked to leave? After all they were the ones who needed to study for exams and they were the ones who were always spoilt for choice during Theological Society meetings. But of course this would never happen. 

All students were equal but some were more equal than others, especially the candidates. His choice was arbitrary, but it had been made and was clearly not up for negotiation. Form 2s were to vacate the hall before the movie could start. But we would not give up so easily. We remained in our seats pretending he was speaking to someone else. There was a mini stand off until the burly figure of Mr. Tendeka (better known as Breshnev or Brezhi ), the Deputy Headmaster, made its way to the stage. 

"All Form 2s," he said in his unmistakable Kisii accent. "You will leave the hall immediately." While we could possibly argue with the entertainment prefect, the Deputy HM had now spoken, and his word was law.

My heart sunk. Didn't this man not know what damage he was doing to my youthful heart that was still wildly palpitating with excitement? Could he not understand that this was the night I might meet my future wife?? This was preposterous! This was turning out to be a disaster of epic proportions, at least to an infatuated 15 year-old boy whose hormones were running amok. 

Having no option, we filed out of the hall forlornly as if on our way to attend a funeral. Many of us had borrowed pleated trousers and the mandatory brut-faberge cologne. I was even wearing a new pair of boots borrowed from my dorm mate. And now I was headed for Prep??

The rebel in me was sufficiently provoked and as we reluctantly made our way out of the hall under the watchful eye of the Deputy Headmaster, Mr. Tendeka, I started singing softly but defiantly  under my breath to the tune of the old gospel chorus ‘Moto Umewaka Leo’,  "Kazi ya Tendeka, kazi ya tendeka..." Suddenly, all the disenfranchised Form 2s who now found an outlet for their frustration joined loudly in our new-found freedom song, "Kazi ya huyu shetani yaTendeka..." 

The rest of the hall burst into laughter. I was not sure whether they were laughing with us because they found our protest song humorous or they were laughing at us because we were being evicted from the hall and were going to miss out of all the fun during interval and after the movie.

But Mr. Tendeka himself was not amused. He huffed and puffed on stage but that did not deter us. We sang all the way to the classrooms. We knew that we would eventually be punished for our impertinence but that was another problem for another day. What mattered to us now was that we had expressed our discontent and had not meekly walk out of the hall when unjustly ordered to do so. 


  1. You have made my day. I can't wait for book!

  2. Mwa..haha..hahaha..!! Coincidentally, I am currently reading 'The house of the interpreter' by Ngugi wa Thiong'o and this piece is a befitting collaboration, only his is set in the times back when 'men were men and Kikuyus wore no shoes!'
    Keep it up and at this rate, you will come up with a best seller.