At the slopes, there is a village, a very shy village that is watched over by the tall ranges of the Aberdares. The village is Mathome, and in mathome is a young boy called Kago, and his papa, Mugo.
By now, you are wondering how bad it had to be, such that Mugo hated visiting Kago’s school. Right? Lets do a small flashback.
When Kago was in class 6, or as they called it Standard 6, he was not the brightest kid in class. In fact, he was one of the dumbest kids. He was so dumb, everyone laughed at it, him included. Do not get it twisted, Kago is only dumb when it comes to classwork, otherwise, he is a pretty sharp kid. Back to class 6.
English happened to be the hardest hurdle for the young boy, and on this day, results for an exam they had done were handed out, and Kago had managed a 16%. Their English teacher was enraged. After the paper, he called Kago to the staffroom during lunch hour, when all the other teachers were there, in his small way of protesting how hard his job was. It so happened that Kigo was walking past the staffroom to his office when he peered into the open floor plan office and saw his nephew looking down at his shoes, as teachers took turns questioning him.
Kigo is a healthy elderly man, Mugo’s eldest brother. He has a potbelly but does not drink. Behind his back, other teachers say he swallowed one of the many footballs he keeps in his office for the school team. It is a lie because if he had to swallow a ball, he would swallow two since he loves his plate quite excessively. Like his brother loves his bottle. He has a reclining hairline, and when he wears his checked suit and sharpshooters, he would pass for a village pastor.
‘What is going on here… Why is kago not in class?’ He asked, taping on the doorframe to the staffroom. ‘What has he done?’
The other teachers were silent. Not everyone liked getting into a confrontation with Kigo, who often preferred running the school like his little colony.
‘Kago managed to get a 15% in English.’ Kago’s teacher announced, handing the head teacher the result paper.
‘My my my…’ Kigo started. ‘What has come of you my nephew? These are questions even your father can answer!’
‘No he can’t, they are tough questions, I prefer science.’ Kago spoke up, still looking at his toes peeping out of his shoes.
‘Yes, I would prefer science too if I was you, at least you had a 21% in that.’ His science teacher, who happens to be Bethi’s brother jumped in. Everyone but Kago and Kigo laughed.
‘If you think you are wiser than your father, come with him to school tomorrow. I will embarrass you in front of him. He was a very clever young man growing up, I don’t know where you inherited these marks from.’ Kigo retorted. He ignored the science teacher’s remarks. Despite his shortcomings, he was not ready to join the people shaming his nephew. ‘Now, run off to class and bring your father to school tomorrow.’
Kago smiled and run off. He was sure it would be a win.
The following morning, Kago and Mugo walked into the staffroom. Kigo was waiting for them and had taken his place on the deputy headmaster’s seat, who had taken the discipline master’s seat. Everyone else had looked for a place to settle their buttocks. It was a cold morning on the slopes, and Kago looked funny in his oversize trench coat and scarf. Nobody had updated him on why he was here. The previous night, he had spent his sweet time at the Magongo bar, and when he got home, Kago was fast asleep. It is in the morning he got the news, and the alcohol had not cleared from his head. He looked a little bit confused and sleepy.
‘Mwalimu, jambo.’ He acknowledged his brother, and sat apposite across him. ‘I got word that you needed me here.’
‘Yes, Yes bwana Mugo. Your son here is failing terribly in English, and I was telling him how good you were in English.’ Kigo said, with his usual careless arrogance. Mugo just sat looking at him. He did not know what to say. Kago on the other hand was waiting for the moment of fame. Childish excitement.
‘So, you actually called me to school this early so I could show your colleagues that am better than my son?’
‘Yes, we just want him to know that he has nobody to blame for his poor grades other than himself. If we can show him that even at your age you are better than he is, he will surely pull up his socks. It is child psychology.’
Mugo was starting to get agitated.
‘Okey, so how do you plan to achieve that?’ The other teachers looked on. Nobody wanted to join the feud, but they were sure enjoying every bit of it, waiting for the main event.
‘I want to ask you some of the questions that your sons failed that are very simple, and show him how unserious he is with his education.’ Kigo was now brandishing his nephew’s answer paper in his hand. Mugo’s face turned pale. Questions? English? At least he would have stood a chance with Kiswahili, but English?
Mugo did not move. The alcohol in his head stirred a bit. He felt like throwing up, and the only place he saw ideal to do so was in his brother’s palms. Nobody else in the room noticed him trying to give his brother facial signs to abort the mission. He knew it was over for him, as Kigo straightened the paper in front of him.
‘Your son doesn’t know the past tense of Go.’
‘Come on Kago, how don’t you know that one? It is easy, and am sure your teacher has taught you. Mr. Headmaster, hand me the cane, I will show him the importance of listening in class.’ Mugo tried his only chance at escape by taking the attention from himself to his son.
‘Actually, we want you to tell him the answer so he feels the shame.’
‘What? Me?’ Mugo’s throat was dry, and his head was starting to ache as the hangover slowly kicked in. Everyone was silent. Kago giggled a bit. He pointed a limp hand to his chest. His nails, not so well cleaned, and his trenchcoat had a number of missing buttons on the sleeve.
‘Yes, do it.’ Kigo was milking it now.
‘Eeeeh… Mwalim, am not so sure if am right.’
‘I know you are right. Just teach him some English.’
‘Past tense… past tense…’ Kago said to himself. He then looked at his son. ‘Is goed.’
The staffroom almost fell to the ground. The almost a dozen teachers broke into a deafening laughter, that was heard as far as class 5 at the furthest corner.
‘Go to class!’ Shouted the now angry Mugo to his son, who runs off laughing too. Mugo’s hands were shaking. The closest item to him was a dictionary, which he flung at his brother’s face, missing it by half an inch. It fell a short distance away, in a mess of tatters. This made the teachers add a few decibels to their laughter.
‘Are you happy now? Mr. Psychology?’
‘Come on my brother, I thought you knew that one.’ Mugo was struggling hard to hold back his laughter, and tiny teardrops formed at the edge of his eyes. His potbelly shook below the desk, as he heaved trying to conceal his urge.
With a slight stagger, Mugo stormed out of the staffroom, almost lost his step at the door but managed to hold onto the flower beds, fixed his scarf and half-walked half-ran all the way to the gate through the field. To avoid getting dew on his trousers, he tucked his trouser inside his socks and walked off, through the gate and his first stop was where he was the previous night. Magongo bar.
Throughout the day, Mugo kept reminding himself to never step foot in that filthy place again. The incident reminded him of how word had swept around that his brother had paid for the taxi that his wife Birithilla had left in, six years past.
‘I will never go there again..!’ He kept swearing at Bethi, who had to hold onto a nearby sina-taabu to keep still from all the laughter.
‘Come on Mugo, you know you cant take that kid to another school!’
‘Well, yes, but am not going there again, he has disgraced me infront of my son and the teachers.’
‘Yes, he is a terrible human.’ Even Mugo could read the sarcasm in Bethi’s words.