I DEDICATE this to all the parents whose children have missed the cut off points for university admission. Its a story of my life. A bit long but worth narrating.
DUE to various reasons which I will narrate to my grand children some day, I did not manage to get the JAB cut of points in my KCSE in 1990. I was in Molo Academy. I missed the line by afew. And my academic life ‘came to an end’. I recall when I went for the results (yes that time you physically went for them), I met my Geography teacher called Mr Kirui and he told me “Tuku (Thuku) you will surfife (survive) tont (don’t) worry.” Two boys in a class of 30 students joined university. One was called Charles Maina (now a Rev in the USA) and the other was Isaac Nderitu Kihurani (now a Pediatrician at the Aga Khan Hospital). My friend Lempaa Soyinka had equally missed the boat yet he was the best chop I ever encountered.
BETWEEN January and August 1991, I had the worst moment of my life. The life of a self-declared failure. The life I would not want any of the KCSE candidates, to go through. A life of stress, which drives a young boy to commit suicide.
MY parents in Nyeri attempted to console me, but I could read the disappointment in their eyes. I’m the last born in a family of Five girls and two boys. Initially we were three boys but one (first born) passed away in a car accident back in 1977. The five girls follow each other at the top. My brother is the 6th born and I follow him. Four of the girls are university graduates and the fifth just decided not to go to university. One, (the eldest) is a medical doctor, called Dr Anne Wahome.
My sisters had pulled from the remote Munyange primary school to Alliance girls and Mary Leakey at their time. My brother went to Mangu high school. At one time my dad (himself an Alliance old boy) was accused of bribing to have his daughter admitted to Alliance. Yes, haters have always been here.
THAT was the record in my family. So, the disappointment in my parents particularly my father over the last son’s failure was apparent.
January to August, my sisters and their friends made all efforts to “place” me somewhere. I was to enrolled at an Asian school of arts in town (I’m a very good fine artist). I did the interview and passed but refused to join. Someone suggested nursing. I told the person to go do nursing herself. I started thinking of joining School of Theology. I even went to see a PCEA moderator at Bahati church called Rev Nkonge, one of the men I admired most. But I killed the thought.
I would spend time in Nairobi, back to Nyeri and back to Nairobi and back to Nyeri.
In Nyeri my dad allocated me a piece of land to grow foodstuffs and also gave me a kibarua for making bricks. He would pay me some little money. In the afternoon I would do some photography in Munyange village using a small red camera. I would go to Nyeri town to “process” the pictures and many times I made loses. I also practiced my fine arts selling my works in Nyeri town and Nairobi (at Gallery Watatu). Esther Wanjohi that was when I drew those things you talk about. I was very active in church.
BUT back in my mind, I knew I had failed and all I was doing was to “kill” time. I became highly emotional and high tempered. I became reserved, yet still outspoken in that village as the photographer. I started writing a book or something. Were it not that I was a strong Christian in a sober village, I would have fallen into alcohol and drug abuse very easily. But those days there wasn’t much kumikumi. I avoided my parents since we would easily pick arguments at the slightest provocation.
THEN one day in August 1991, when visiting one of my sisters in Nairobi, something happened that completely changed the direction of my life. Something I remember up to this day.
LIKE it happens in other families, my father was mobilizing his children to rescue their youngest brother from total destruction. It was only a matter of time before he hit the lowest and something had to be done. They were discussing my fate behind my back. Behind my back because I was not cooperating. I rejected every course offered. Yet I didn’t really know what I wanted.
ONE of my elder sisters is called Gladys. Her husband is Dr Joshua Wathanga. The Wathangas are a famous family in Mukurweini, Nyeri where his father Wathanga Senior was a famous chief, prominent businessman at Kiahungu and a KANU leader during those Nyayo days. He was the chairman of the board of a school called Kiangoma (now Mukurweini Boys High School).
In August 1991, while visiting Nairobi, my elder siblings decided to have a word with me. I always hated that moment when people gathered and then called you for a piece of their mind. I still hate it. But I also felt I had reached a dead end and needed some help, any help. I was ready for anything and they knew it.
So, while having a meeting somewhere on Ngong Road, Joshua asked to have a word with me in private. He spoke to me about fate and future and many other things, like an elder brother, then dropped the proposal (which I later realised had been discussed in the meetings and agreed on). He asked me one simple question, “if I get for you a school for you, would you accept to repeat Form 4 and work to improve your points?” I still remember that question. I answered it in one word, “Yes”. He did not discuss anything else with me. He broke the news to the rest in relief. I realised Joshua had been assigned to rescue this boy from Egypt and take him to Canaan of academics.
Every other plan had already been worked out. Joshua asked his father to try and get for me a vacancy at Kiangoma to join in 1992. The school headmaster was a man called Mbuthia old friend of my dad and elder siblings. One of the farms in Nyeri borders ours. It was not about whether I would join the school, the question was when.
1992 seemed to be too far away and it was agreed I should join Form 3 in September 1991. I accepted.
All the other plans were finalised and come September 1991, I was back to school as a Form 3 student. For weeks I was the laughing stock among other students and even some teachers. My decision sounded crazy to students who were eager to finish and go.
It was there that I madam Catherine Gathe my geography teacher, Tony Toni Tone. Morrison Ngari, and many other great friends.
Joshua’s sister, Jane Wathanga was the head of catering in the school and her assignment was to ensure their little boy was as comfortable as possible (you know what I mean – kana gaitû). Most of the times I would take my meals in her office.
Around October 1991, my parents came to visit me. It was the most memorable visit I ever got in all my high school days. During the discussion, my dad assured me that he had all the faith in me and knew this time I would hit the bull’s eye. I wept as he told me those and more words. I also noticed he had sold a Chevrolet pick up and bought a small blue Mazda. I wept as they drove out of the compound. Little did I know that was to be the last time to see him alive. He died on November 11, 1991 as I was busy taking the end of Form 3 exams. The news of his death was broken to me by Joshua and their family friend Dr Wachira the Daystar Vice Chancellor.
The rest is history. In 1992, I gave a serious take at my studies in a way I had never done before. I was also a drama tutor for the drama club. When results were released I had crossed the cut off point by far and I already knew it. I was admitted to KU which I joined in July 1994. Between January 1993 and July 94 I worked in a dry cleaner. Story for tomorrow.