Celebrating East African Writing!

For the children of this land? by Naomi Kamau

It was on a Saturday exactly four days after he had cleared his O level exams. On this day he had joined twenty other youths at the Shirika Theater for an auditioning. He had never forgotten the words of appraisal he had received from his teachers and parents after a short play Meno ya mamba (teeth of a crocodile) during a parents day meeting.

The auditions were started on time and everything ran smoothly. The following Monday he had traveled to the army barracks with his friend whose sister was an army officer therefore his mother who worked near the Shirika Theatre went to find out whether her aggressive son had being short listed in the qualifiers list. Her fore finger run down the ten names list three times but she could not find her son’s name.

After he got the news, the words of Mr. Polycap Kuinua his High School English teacher, came to his mind, ‘never give up on life, on your dreams and potential, because if Thomas Edison did, the world would be filled with darkness today, therefore keep away from people who belittle your ambitions’.

Two weeks later his father added one thousand shillings to his two, which he had saved while still in School and he enrolled for computer packages at the local church. In mid March the results were out, Eliakim Inzofu had missed only one mark to qualify for public university admission. “Hope is a rope that swings me through life,” he told his mother with a burning desire in his heart to further his studies.

By March 22nd time Eliakim was done with his computer packages and attained a distinction. The desire to become a teacher and writer, made him wake up everyday and search for the best colleges and universities in Kenya. The Martyr College of East Africa did not offer a degree in Education, but the Presbyterian Joiners University offered the Course and was well known for its standards. Nonetheless, the school fees was so high that one semester tuition fee would cater for his one year school fees and expenses together with his six friends of the Amua drama group in his high school.

That evening they were seated in their living room, his parents looking at him calmly, with echoes of silence present. All over a sudden an unforeseen courage grasped Eliakim and he spoke in a manner that sent his mouth into uncontrollable weeping.

“Dad, mum, the greatest amount of currency in this country is 1000 shillings, have you ever by any chance whether by fate or by your sweat afforded that amount at once? His parents nodded slowly yet firmly.

“Great” he continued, “then you will just look for one hundred notes of that amount and I will be in school, not for me or for you but for a greater course, the children of this land.”

After this he could not stand the sight of his mother crying, therefore, he walked out of the room heading towards a small bedroom which he shared with his nephew.

Exactly three months later he had received an admission letter for the January semester, from the Pres Jo University as it was commonly referred to by the natives. His parents had decided not kill this young man’s dream and they had braced themselves stretching out their wings to look for the six figure amount. The year came to an end without Eliakim noticing it, he was looking forth to joining the highest institution of learning. The day finally came, and his admission process went on well. After one week of orientation to the University life, his classes commenced.

One month into his newly acquired status, the unexpected happened, the public university lectures went on strike complaining of poor pay. Eliakim did not have to worry because he was in a private university. But what happened two weeks later begun to worry him, the primary and secondary public schools teachers followed the trend, of the lecturers.

One particular teacher was carrying a placard written: I have taught pilots, engineers and even doctors but what is my reward?

These words cut Eliakim’s heart into two pieces. He could not control his tears as he continued to watch the news; the pain was too immense for him to bear. The words he had told his parents before, ‘not for me or for you but for a greater course’,  haunted him he felt like a betrayer more than betrayed. He had chosen a path with no fruits, who would pay his labor? What about his parents’ money?

He performed well in his end semester exams where he had attained a 3.43 GPA (Grade Point Average) on the 4.00 scale. At the opening of the second semester he was thinking of changing his career. Maybe Medicine would do, he thought, because people will always fall sick. Or yet another law, people will always break the law or want to make it. But none of these options was appealing to him. He continued to press on. However he totally avoided watching anything else on the television other than news bulletin. His free time was occupied by books, books and more books. Over the weekend he would research on various topics in the internet.

In the end of second semester exams he improved by 0.10 points and attained a GPA of 3.53 which pleased his parents. In his second year of academic study he decided to look for a part time job, by this time his school fees was straining the family’s income. After one month of searching he earned an interview from one international hotel. His fluency in two international languages; French and Dutch had added weight to his academic credentials. One of the interviewers was the owner of the hotel, a rare appearance in all the interviews he had heard of.

She spoke in a firm voice using heavily accented English, “Young man, you see, you enducated peoples are very stupind.”

Eliakim raised his head high with eyes wide open. The lady continued, “You use your mbrains and make peanuts, while people like me use our minds and make mbillions.”

She stood up and went straight to him, and with her hand placed on his shoulder she told him, “You will not see me here on Monday morning I will nget up and go to muthainga to play golf while enducated nderelicts like you will come here and make money for me, don’t worry anyway you have a njob.” She pulled her hand off his shoulders and walked out smiling.

Eliakim landed a job as a receptionist. He kept recalling the words of that lady two weeks in succession, day and night, food became tasteless and life lost meaning. After his first pay he surprised his family with presents to each one of them and also paid the water and electricity bills. By this time he was taking evening classes, and paying 30% of his total school fees.

At the end of that year he heard of a better working opportunity with Kung Kung Motors. He applied and was called for an interview. On that Tuesday morning, he woke up at 5am and prepared himself even though the interview was scheduled for 9am. He was there on time and to his surprise there were about forty people for the interview, while only three were needed. A lot of questions were colliding in his mind such that by the time his name was being called he heard no zeal for the work. To his amazement in the interviewing room, were celebrities he had read of or seen in the television. One famous rugby player, two musicians and a Chinese comedian.

“Eliakim Inzofu,” said the rugby player, ‘tell us one thing that you would change, improve or do away with in this country?”

He kept quiet for ten seconds, before he took a deep breath and uttered these words, “I would change the education system in this country, because school and the learned are only valued in books; in theory but not practice. I would broaden the smile of a forgotten people,” he paused, “teachers. They have begat pilots, doctors, musicians but the reward of their labor is poor. The emphasis placed on talents and natural gifts should also be placed on education, because education is also a talent. I have begun writing articles to address this issue and if my voice is not heard I will walk from one school to the other as far as my legs can carry me, and ensure every teacher hears me out. United we will stand and fight for this course which has such a great cost.”

The Chinese man looked at him surprisingly, and said, “Mmmhh education and motors what a diverse gap to bridge.”

Eliakim walked out to where the rest of the interviewees were seated, he was the second last interviewee. Twenty minutes later, the interviewers came out and the Chinese man addressed them, “We have heard all of you and we will make our final decision by Thursday and thereafter contact the qualified ones on the same day. In the meantime you are free to leave, but I request Eliakim Inso… Inso…” he had a hard time pronouncing Inzofu, “Insofu to be left behind.”

© Naomi Kamau 2010

If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.


One comment on “For the children of this land? by Naomi Kamau

  1. roundsquare
    March 16, 2010

    i love your struggle to narrate, Naomi, and like Inso…Inso.., let it come out finally, naturally!! keep writing, keep reading.



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