You know those subjects that never added value in your life? They don't end in high school. They follow you into the hollowed classes on campus. You will be there, sitting in the lecture room,  wondering how the unit will help you at some point. No answers. You only draw blanks. Because honestly, they won’t add any weight to you. They won’t make you clever, they don’t open your eyes to the world, or make you any more interesting. You don’t stand a better shot at life if you’ve done that unit. Chicks won’t be interested in you because you’ve done the damn unit.

But then, you have to do it. Because the university course planner says so. And because the registrar, a melancholic old man, most likely with marriage issues, says so.

“If you don’t do Personal Health and HIV, you won’t graduate my friend. You won’t! Use my words against me. You won’t graduate! We must teach you to be an upstanding citizen. No excuses!”

All this spiel in a concentrated Kao accent. You want to tell him.

“Let’s reason here. I am a creative writer. Not a community development officer, nor a vet officer or a doctor who mans VCT stations. At no point am I going to apply whatever I‘ve learned here.”

The reply, he’s given hundreds of other students.

“It’s not in your powers to decide what you learn and what you don’t. This is a Christian university and by the guidance of the lord, we will decide what’s right for you.”

You will swallow a humble pie. Nobody argues with God. God even made the people who made google. He knows everything. Sigh.

Do you remember things like the Solvay process, algebra, the Buganda kingdom? Do you remember Benguela currents and sauti ghuna? Do you remember the mole concept and titration? They ravaged my life in high school. But here I am. I have not applied them anywhere. And I have not died. It was not a life and death thing. Chances are, I will die before doing anything with such knowledge. It’s dead weight. Why should people study shit which ain’t gonna help them at any point?

I don’t imagine being kidnapped by a Somali pirate and at some point, he starts asking about Chemistry.

“Huh? What did you say your name was again? Osoch? Osoch Ogun. Such a lousy name. Kenyan parents really lack taste when it comes to naming their children. Are you the last born or first born? The last born, that’s why you’re already sobbing. Stop bitching around, silly boy! Okay, I am going to let you go Osoch, please stop crying. I just need you to explain how titration works and you’ll be free. Tell me about algebra Osoch, I just want to know about quadratic expressions. Don’t be a bitch, come on, tell me. Tell me the importance of Mombasa as a port city. And what do you say about The Buganda kingdom?”

I can write such pointless conversations all day. But you see the point I am driving at.

There’s this unit I am doing this semester. Personal health and HIV.  At the end of it, I should know how to be clean and steer completely out of the path of HIV. It’s a boring unit, I have attended three classes all semester long. To make matters worse, the Lec is some mama with attitude. Now, she sent us on a project. Find a school or a prison, or a hospital and teach people about the dangers of HIV. I don’t enjoy talking in front of people. It’s like chewing gravel. But I had to do it, the project adds up to 30% of the final paper.

And thus, with my small cabal: Salaton, Tracy, Mitchel, Rob, and others, we filled a matatu. Then tumbled across the sun and sands of Rongai to a school in the heart of Kiserian. Arap Moi primary.  

It was your typical primary school. Drowning in the noise of little kids. Choking with life. A female security guard welcomed us at the gate. Apparently, she had been told of our visit. She was warm and homely. We shook hands, a tired and weary handshake. I gazed into her face, there was peace in there. In spite of the circumstances in which she worked. Despite the scorching sun roasting her skin all day long, there was grit in that look. The kind of toughness you rarely come across in life, she beggared belief. She smiled, I smiled. At that moment, I knew I was going to write about her.

As we waited for the headteacher, I wandered around the school. Snapping away at running kids, playing kids, sleeping kids, fighting kids. It was a world of kids. Children upon children, upon children. Being in that environment again, I was met by blows of startling nostalgia. The kind that comes straight for your heart, a biting memory that makes you feel like crying and going back.

Teachers ordered kids around. Some crooks were told to lie down, a few paces from where we stood. Two of them, fear was already painted in their watery eyes. As the teacher brought down strokes of the cane on their small buttocks, boys yelped for pain. Crying in our direction, hoping that maybe we would help them. We weren’t saviours, just there to do a project. As they twisted in the ground, I burst out laughing. You will say that I am a heartless beast, but come on! Primary school is primary school, boys must be given some small doses. Who knows? Maybe I would have turned out differently if I was never punished?

Finally, the headteacher turned up, an aging matriarch. She showed us the rooms we would be teaching; class seven and class eight raccoons were waiting patiently like hungry lions. Ready to devour us at first sighting.

With Salaton, we took charge of one room. I am not much of a talker, while he gave long spiels about HIV, you understand law guys, I just stood like a ghost on the other side of the room. A silent sentinel, happy to let him do the talking. Relieved of duties, my vision spread across the class, observing. How are class sevens in the eyes of a UNI guy?

Some were dozing off, effects of githeri most likely. That was me back in time, to this day, I struggle listening to people talk. I’ll rather read your damn speech, but standing in front of me, I will as well fall asleep. I have only listened to one guy to give a complete speech, PLO. Because, well, he is PLO.

Or maybe, the kids thought.
“You campus assholes with your fancy clothes and phony accents, think we care about what you have to say? I am going to sleep all through and you can’t do shit.”

They slept. We didn’t do shit. Heck! I doze off in some lectures, who am I to blame them? Few were listening. Shouts of ‘’amenichuna’’ were common. I spotted one boy reading a novel, hiding it under a desk. I smiled at him when he came up to turn another page. He reminded me of myself. Math and physics lessons were my novel reading hours. God is truly faithful, after four years of reading novels in class, I managed to pass. Yet there were guys who never slept, who always listened, copied notes. But then…

Some kids are pure savage. I caught another one trying to push the head of his desk mate under the locker. I found it funny. Some girls showed signs of growing into great beauties. Their young, unsullied and nubile breasts, tutted pugnaciously under their sweaters. That description of breasts seems a bit graphic, don’t worry, I am no pedophile, and the eyes will always see. I thought of them growing up. Passing through high school. Then campus. Meeting horny boys who want to impregnate them and disappear. Or sponsors who just want to fuck.

Salaton continued imparting wisdom to the kids.
At the end of it, we changed the approach to be more interactive.
Dreams flew out of bags. They want to be surgeons and doctors and pilots and architects. Sadly, nobody wanted to be a writer. Maybe, we are the last of a dying species, the last breed of writers on planet earth.

 A certain chick asked about attachment. This startled me. A standard seven kid asking about attachment? I mean I did not know shit about attachment until campus. But there was a toddler asking about attachment. Why would a class seven girl be thinking about attachment? What was going on that kid’s head? She must be capitalist at heart.
There are questions kids ask and you feel like hugging them for a century.

“Campus mnachapwa kama sisi?”
“Huko mnavaa uniform?”


  1. This is a beautiful piece..
    A one of a kind...
    Hata mimi hushindwa kwa nini nafanya HIV..

    1. thanks for reading. we are third world maybe

  2. You have this thing of writing our hearts out😁😁

  3. Hehe,,, sauti ghuna...I'll surely die without using that $#!T!!!! Nyc work mahn!

  4. You nailed it.....some units though!


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