The last weekend of November marks the end of school for high school kids.Many of them will be happy to leave that cesspool of hormones and emotion we call high school. I can’t blame them-high school is that four-year asylum we put teenagers whom we have no idea what to do with.The bully each other in there and run amok and burn schools and learn to roll spliffs- the institutionalization of children does more harm to them than good. But again, what options do we have?
High school comes with its fair share of absurdities. Take for example the idea of pledging loyalty to flag one has no reason to love on Friday mornings. Who came up with it? And why does it only happen in schools and nowhere else? I have not even talked about Boy Scouts-those famous fellows in clumsy colonial garb who march like the country is at war. What do they do with that ridiculously overpriced brown garb after high school-adorn their rooms with it like war veterans? I have never understood Boy Scout Movement.
Twinned to that is the idea of controlling kids with a trilling school bell. Every waking moment, there is a bell tolling for all of you robots, waking you up when sleep is at the sweetest, calling you for supper of beans and weevils and maize. Or dismissing you after preps. No word defines high school better than a boot camp that doesn’t yield soldiers.
In high school, one lives with the permanent idea that teachers are out to get you. Like Orwell’s big brother,teachers watch your move, aided by sadistic prefects who lord over kids like demigods. But soon after high school, one realizes that life has more than its fair share of characters who are out to get you. From the taxman to bullies to the state-life is a big high school with no trilling bell. High school never really ends.
On the flip side, high school has its glorious moments. The bonds one forms there are long-lasting, since they are formed by a group that one endured the same harsh school administrators and scrummed for the same loaf with. A man who went through high school without forming life long bonds must be suffering from acute inability to form friendships syndrome. He should go to his high school and ask for full refund-even if he got straight As.
I am sure children of this era took a thousand selfies beside academic bonfires to mark their glorious end of schooling and entry to the world of men. Every generation has its own tools to preserve itself in the sand of time. In our times, we had no smart phones to do so.There was no Whats app or Instagram or Facebook. Most homes didn’t have phones-unless your dad was a Minister in the then Moi administration. Thus there was a great likelihood that we might never meet or connect with our classmates again after high school.
To that end, we had Farewell Books-a mushy collection of tidbits, class gossip and high school trivia that makes little sense twenty years later. We used the spaces in those books to rant about teachers whom we hated. I wrote in several such books-and my rant had to include several unsavory words for my math teacher who told me I was terminally stupid since I couldn’t hack Calculus. The vitriol we had in high school for teachers was enough to exterminate a small village.
Going through my high school farewell book twenty-two years on, most of the stuff therein makes little sense. Every other classmate wished many things which included a phat girlfriend (now that’s some 90’s slang) who had our English teacher’s figure and Mariah Carey’s voice. Second was a loud twin cam turbo car. Third was a swanky Sony Walkman and enough money to hang out at Vybestar or Club Zig Zag every weekend. This tells you so much about our priorities as high school kids then, though they haven’t changed much anyway. Any man wants some good-looking woman, a swanky turbo charged toy to vroom around in and some legal tender to throw around with his boys. Men are that simple.
But then there is this kid who was in Form Two then who wished me none of the above but wrote words that I have mulled over for two decades now:
Now that you are going out of school as a free man don’t be a free man. I know it’s hard to understand this statement but please make sure you do.
Where is this kid now? Which books inspired him to pen such eternal lines during those pre-Google days? Has he penned an award-winning inspirational book? Is he on Forbes List of Top Africans under 40? Has his face graced the cover of Times magazine already?
I want to meet this kid because for over twenty times, I have Googled the above lines and found that they weren’t plagiarized. I want to meet this kid because for over twenty years after high school, I have tried not to be free.
To one Charles Mugane Kamau, wherever you are, I am always mulling over your words, trying to understand them, trying to live up to them.
I salute your spirit!