You get into first year with your fair share of hopes and ambitions. And a multitude of pressure from your old fogeys [if you have a dad like mine] to perform well and do them proud.
“The son of a WHOLE Principal can’t be failing his exams. You will subject me to untold shame,” Omondi Were declares.
So you’re motivated. And determined. You must work hard. You must emerge the best. You must assert that indeed, you are your father’s son. You avoid folk of the opposite sex at all costs.
“They will distract you,” states your elder brother. “They are nothing but bad luck. Walking time bombs,”
You are your only friend. You talk and listen only to yourself. And your guts. You frequent the library as much as you can. The silence in the vicinity sometimes drives you to long uncomfortable sleeps but you keep coming back. Those sleeps from which you awake and wonder, “Did I snore? Did I fart? Did I say the name of my crush out loud?” But you digress. ‘Cause nobody cares. This is campus; your business is your business. Besides, you wouldn’t dare ask the geeky guy seated next to you deeply engrossed in his Calculus assignments if indeed you did do all these things or not. Because what if you didn’t? He’ll probably look at you like you’re the weirdest guy he’s ever met [though chances are it’s a reality] before moving on to the next table in grueling silence. The kind of silence women accord us when we refuse to give them money for their salon [weave] expenses. Or what if you really did fart, snore disturbingly and totally shout out the name of your crush in your sleep? Then asking would only make the moment more awkward for the both of you. So you let go altogether. And you just sit back up and continue with your studies like nothing ever happened. Prepared for the worst but still praying for the best.
You never miss class. You have a clean slate on your attendance sheet. And you’re earlier to lessons than ‘happy-hour’ enthusiasts at Lavish Lounge where 4 beers retail at half the normal price from 6p.m – 8p.m. Your assignments are always complete in time. And you can’t help but express gross disgust at those who struggle to finalize theirs at the last minute, or offer to kiss your sore arse just so they can copy one answer from your script. Where have they been these past two weeks since the assignment was given? What have they been doing? You grill your conscience with queries to whose ripostes you don’t have but eventually you stop. You don’t wanna know anyway, you resolve.
The weekends are your rest days. You lie in bed all day watching Vampire Diaries or reading a romance novel. And Facebooking. You’re not on Twitter, so you wonder what the hoot the ‘#KOT’ everyone’s been talking about all week is. And you hope it’s the newest clothing line in town ‘cause, heck, even The Man Above knows you’ve just about had enough of Versace this… Versace that. You hear drunk folk yelling foul words to each outside your window at night but you pity them for not having anything better to do with their money than splashing it on cheap liquor at Maggie’s. The women in short revealing skirts give Johnny goose bumps but you remember your big bro’s advice so you cool the little fella down. Plus, you’re Christian. ‘He’ll’ probably have to wait till you’re married before going all commando on whoever it is your folks have in store for you.
And life continues. And the first semester ends, then the second follows. And the third. Then you’re through with your first year and you’re proud of yourself. And your grades. Even Omondi Were looks at your transcript with a little grin in his face before urging you to do even better next time. Although in his mind he’s still tryna figure out why you, being an I.T student, just had to score an A in HIV/AIDS of all the units then get a C in Programming. “Priorities, Son. Priorities,” he proclaims. But nothing ever pleases this old man, you conclude. Nothing. You could buy him a Vitz if he was old, poor and riding on bicycle but he’d still get grumpy about why it was so damn small. Nevertheless, you still love him to bits; that grouchy old man of yours.
Second year beckons. First semester, same old same old naive you. Then the second semester summons and you start getting bored. A burning desire strikes deep within you to try out something new. You want to feel a part of the movement. You don’t want to be left out in the early Monday morning class WhatsApp conversations about which is the hippest joint between Klub Image and Brown Bottles, or which video parades the most flesh between Pombe Bhangi and Moneymaker. So you start hanging with/around the big boys. The cool kids. And you do everything they do. Everything they tell you. They say jump and you don’t even ask how high, up you go. They say sip and you don’t even ask what it is, you just stick your slimy tong’ue into it. And lick till you need a saliva refuel.
You get into a few relationships here and there. Then you leave and start sleeping around. And you enjoy every bit of it. You remember your brother’s words and you wonder why he wanted to deny you of such a satiating quest. Screw him, you’ll deal with him once you get back home.
Meanwhile, back in class, nothing is working no more. You are failing your C.A.Ts, exams, handing in your assignments last and showing up to class late. Looking as wretched as a plastic-surgery-gone-wrong Vera Sidika someone would think you ran into Vin Diesel’s fist on set Fast and Furious 7 the previous night and it totally dismembered your whole face. And slowly you start copying other people’s assignments too. You stop reading and start carrying mwakenyas [tiny pieces of paper containing the whole syllabus] and smart phones with PDF files to exam rooms. You and your boys have a seating arrangement, the answers rotate all round. When the results come back, everyone passes with ‘flying colors’. Everyone is happy. You hit Maggie’s, the very place you had criticized in first year, and you celebrate over a glass [or jug] of keg. Life is good.
You’re now fully into the system. You understand how everything works around here. Whenever you miss class there’s always someone signing against your name on the attendance sheet, making it look like you did attend the class. That’s your ‘boy’. Your ride or die partner. His assignment scripts are yours too and yours his, save for a few details on the cover page which you alter. You sign against his name too on the attendance sheet whenever he’s out nursing his Monday blues too. Yours is a ‘Scratch my back I scratch yours’ relationship.
The lecturer gives out projects at the beginning of the semester but by the last week, even one person is yet to begin. You lift one off the internet and change a few details here and there so it daen’t look like a complete copy-paste. Then you present your work with a “To hell, whatever happens happens” attitude. And when you’re through you take a stroll towards Maggie’s as always. You’re now a customer here. You and your crew. She sees you and she doesn’t even have to ask your order. But just in case she does, you could always bellow, “Kama kawaida” to refresh her memory. Life is good.
You and your boys drink together, and study together when C.A.Ts or exams are around the corner. You sit together in the exam room and you help each other. Yours is an education system in which nothing is as important as knowing the person sitting next to you in an exam room. Because in this generation, there’s very little you can do on your own. Especially academics. You can never get a First Class honors by keeping just to yourself only. Few have succeeded. It’s a combined effort; teamwork.
At the end of it all, when you’re sitting at the back during graduation with your honestly acquired Second Class- Lower while the very ninjas who used to drink like fish but carry each other’s weight as their own during exam time are at the front with their cheeky First Class Honors, you’ll realize only one thing; Son, Degree ni Harambee! ‘Cause lets face it, employers out here just want what you on have on your papers these days; not how you got it. The end justifies the means.