When I was younger, and in primary school, I hated school. Most pupils thought I was wierd. I read too many storybooks. I didnt talk to people. I didn’t wear ‘Bata’ shoes like them. I walked home as opposed to taking the matatu for five shillings, which I saved to eat samosas, which made me all the more wierd.
And so to avoid the stares, and the hushed, and not so hushed, unkind words that eight year olds say about each other, I started cutting class. I’d go to school, wait for the assembly, and when no one was looking, I’d go out through the back gate. Ours was a posh school by government standards, and so the expansive space meant no one noticed the eight year old boy with a bag full of undone homework and unused games kit, walk through the back gate, a ‘Nancy Drew’ book in his hand.
Like i said, our school was located in a posh area, and posh people don’t walk to work, so i’d go to a lane i knew no teacher used, find a gate, say hi to the askari in a BM uniform, (long time ago, there were only like five security companies) look for a lawn, sit down and start reading a storybook. I’d lie to the guard that my fees wasnt paid, so i couldnt go to school, and he, knowing the struggle, let me use his lawn to study, only he didnt know he was aiding and abetting the illiteracy of a minor. I did that for many weeks, and since mobile phones werent popular back then, the class teacher, Mrs.Bosire, didn’t have a means to tell my parents that i was cutting class. I’d then go home at around noon, just to be sure that my mum left home. Finding her home, without a valid reason, would have meant a serious beatdown.
Well, one day, with a mandazi in hand, sitted on the lawn like I owned it, I was reading a Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew book, for me at the time, that was like having an entire season of Cold Case on a rainy day that I was off work. Bliss.
Then a man stopped his motorbike and walked up to me.
I didnt put my book down, because I knew he wasnt my teacher, and he could do nothing to me.
I looked up, gave a dismissive nod, and for effect, took a bite of my mandazi, and went back to my book.
He then asked me why I wasn’t in school, I said I didn’t have class that day, (smh, such an obvious lie), he told me to stand up and get on his bike. We were going to school to confirm. I would have refused, but he looked threatening, big and strong and I had also never been on a motorbike befor. Back then pikipiki’s were for rich people, or for KPLC servicemen.
And so I picked up my bag, put the rest of my mandazi in my pocket and he lifted me onto the bike, as we sped off, I was thinking to myself the whole time how I’d tell my friends that I’d been on a real bike, not a BMX. We got to school, and even if it was a bit forcefully, I was taken to Mr.Werehire’s office, the Senior Teacher.
That day changed my life.
After it was established I was lying about the not having class bit, my records indicated that I had missed about a month of school, the amount of time he had seen me on the lawn, and gotten worried I was missing school . He worked for a courier company, and he was just worried that I’d get a poor grade, if I kept playing truant. After making sure my case was being handled, he said goodbye and left. He didnt ask for a refund on the fuel, or ask for my parents number so he could say what he did, he just left. As the engine roared off, Mrs.Bosire was called, and I was given a note to take home. A note that summoned my parents to school. I grew up with my mum, so it was to her that i took it to.
She read it, asked me if it was true I was being a truant, head bent in shame, I said yes. She didn’t beat me, as she normally would have, she told me, with tears in her eyes, that school was important, and that she was sacrificing a lot, so that I could go to a good school. That touched me, her not beating me, cause I knew that if she had forgone smacking me, then it was a big deal.
When I went back to school the next week, I didn’t stop being the wierd kid whose shorts weren’t from School Outfitters, but that didnt matter to me anymore. At least I stayed in class and read the storybooks on my lap instead of at someone’s gate. I wish it had a fairy tale ending, and I’d have topped KCPE, gone to Alliance and been a surgeon, but I still think the man on a bike changed my life in a good way. He saw a truant boy, and he took me to school, he didnt have to, but he did. He didn’t take me to school cause he’d get paid, or because we shared a tribe, (I dont even know what tribe he is), or because he’d post it in the papers as a community service exercise. He did it because it was the right thing to do.
I wish I’d see him now, and tell him thanks, Mr.Werehire and Mrs.Bosire too, because I don’t know how long I would have been out there on that lawn, skipping school. But because I can’t reach him, I try and do as much good as I can, I fail miserably most times, but I won’t stop trying.
Have you ever had someone do something nice for you ? Did it make you change in a good way ? Would you like to have that effect on someone else ? Then you need to stop waiting, and start doing.
You don’t have to buy a bike and go around picking up truant kids, you could decide to refuse to litter, refuse to join stupid, tribal conversations on social media, volunteer your time and resources towards a cause that’s special to you, and slowly, one person at a time, we can refuse to let selfish, ineffective, opportunistic politicians decide our destiny for us.
Because I think we need more people like the guy on a motorbike, and less people who travel in six Mercedes Benz’s.
Whether you believe Raila or Uhuru’s version of the story, the fact is that 60 people are dead in Mpeketoni. That means widow, widowers, orphans, emotionally scarred children and a broken social fabric and a dying, if not dead, local economy. Please Pray for them.