By Victor Ochieng’

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The recently released KCPE results gave me a fateful flashback of the time I did my KCPE exams. I had looked forward to scoring 400 marks out of the maximum 500 marks but fate had other plans for me.  It felt as though twisted fate had conspired with bad luck to smear my path with a slippery goo. The boy wept.

When I was in class 8 in a frail frame, our head teacher Caleb Mudho Esq threw his well-fed frame into our old classroom that looked like the Gedi Ruins perched at the Coast. The man had a big belly that hang like a sack of sand, a thick neck and was a true African: dark like a thousand midnights.

Since he was a Jesus loving man, we nicknamed him the Burnt Offering. When he heard one of us call him that, we were thoroughly caned.  I received five mature strokes. The boy wept.

The head teacher, Rateng’, had a blue file tucked under his sweaty armpits. Rateng’, the Luo word for a dark man, was a man full of ‘nyadhi’: great style and flamboyance. He used to brag and boast that he was the best Mathematics teacher in the South of Sahara Desert, and the North of River Limpopo. One evil day, when we failed to complete his assignment, he scared us that he was going to switch off the sun shortly. The boy wept.

In the blue file Rateng’ had, there were forms from Starehe Boys’ Centre: high school that sponsors boys from a humble background. It was meant for the boys who were academically gifted, but financially embarrassed. I was one of those boys. Our family was very poor to an extent that even the poor called us poor. The only thing we had was the good gift of life, we lived below the poverty index and pangs of poverty pinched our family. No wonder, the boy wept.

Those how have read my self-help book titled from Obstacles to Miracles know that death dealt me a big blow even before I was stripling.  I lost my mom when I was 7 years old, a mere Class 1 pupil. An egg, not yet a cock. I was left alone like the four lepers cited in 2 Kings 7. It was both sad and bad that mom had never introduced me to dad. Whenever I asked her about the man who sired me, she only quoted for me Psalms 68:5: “God is the father to the fatherless, and the judge to the widows.” It was pensive and painful to grow up without a biological father since in the world it is said that : Dad is destiny. No wonder, the boy wept.

I was born out of wedlock and my mom thereafter took me to my maternal grandparents.  I school at Anyiko primary school barefooted and jigger infested. I was also a chronic bed-wetter. I was drenched in this self-made night rain up to the time I was in Form Two. The boy wept.

In the chest of the village, we struggled and grappled to make ends meet. As we tried to reconcile the estranged ends, some malevolent forces pushed them farther apart. Affording the three basic square meals was like asking for a blood donation from a mosquito. Going to school when pinched by pangs of hunger, sowed in me seeds of sorrow. It hurt my heart. The boy wept. 

I filled the forms with great glee. I had the hope and optimism of joining the dots in Starehe Boys’ Centre.  However, to my utter surprise, I had only scored 339 out of 500 marks. To join Starehe, one had to score 400 marks. That is how I missed the chance to my dream national school started in 1959 by Dr. Geoffrey Griffin. The boy wept.

Fortunately, I received two calling letters. One to St. Mary’s School Yala, and the second one to Kanyawanga High School.

When I took this invitation to my grandpa, the old man looked at me , opened his mouth and in a tremulous voice, he said: “My grandson, this is the end of your education. In fact, I have hatched a plausible plan. I’ve a brother who bought lush land near Kisumu. I want you to go and become his herd’s boy.”

In a swift speed, like a bullet fired from a gun, I responded: “Grandpa, I don’t want to become a herd’s boy. I want to go to school well, and if God permits, I want to become a polymath, a professor.”

I closed my mouth, and did nothing. The boy wept.

When I had reached the end of the tether and it seemed like I was walking away from my academic dreams, God in His grace and goodness bailed me out. He made me smile wide like a mile. Yala Christian Outreach Church decided to take me to high school and made me sing the hymn Close to Thee.

That is how I found myself in a decimal day school whose moniker sounded like a tongue twister – Nyamninia Secondary School. Like the sacred son of the carpenter close to Lazarus’ tomb. The boy wept.

Once I got admitted into the school, I forgot about the giant schools and encouraged myself that: Places don’t make people, but people make places. To realize your dreams, you don’t need to be in a national school. You can blossom anywhere and everywhere you are planted.  Like Joseph the son of Jacob, you can move from pit to palace or from prison to palace.

Jesus was born in a manger, but he refused to be a cow. He chose to be the King of kings.

I understood the wise words that a lizard in Africa cannot be a crocodile in America. America did not make America, Americans made America.

The writer rolls out Form One Plug-in Programmes in Secondary Schools. He speaks to staff, students and parents during Form One Induction/Orientation Day.


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