Wednesday, September 2, 2009


The way I ended up writing about elephants and wildlife in general was out of a computer error (which in wildlife is referred to as random sampling). I wanted to be a computer scientist. Everyone wanted to be a computer scientist in our days. In those days, computers had just been introduced in the country and they elicited a lot of feeling. We were told that they (computers) could do everything. That people would be without jobs because the computers would do all the work and only those who studied computer would have jobs.

We were also told that they made everything easy and that by the turn of the millennium they would be pulling shocking stunts like telling you only what you wanted to hear (because you told them what to say in the first place) and driving the kids to school. I fell for this lie easily because I like everything made easy. I actually have a library of the ‘made easy’ series that was popular in our days.

Unfortunately this computer science craze coincided with the introduction of the 8-4-4 system. In this system, the educationists in our country decided that we could do all things (just like the computer). So they would meet in these hotels and ask each other, ‘What do we need to add to the curriculum?’ and they would say building and construction and homemaking and pottery and business studies and art and craft and we ended up doing so many subjects. We were used as the system’s test tube babies. I remember they made us build a traditional mud hut!

So with the computer error, I landed in a wildlife class. We were not given time to brood over where we had landed. We were loaded into the college bus and headed for Naivasha.

On this first field trip, we were asked to count wild animals on some private land owners. No sooner had we arrived at the farms than we were loaded into these KWS lorries and given some counters. We were supposed to press the counter every time we saw wildlife. The result was 37 buffalos. I felt like a class 2 kid in a game of numbers.

When the lecturers came, they asked us what the result was and they had these papers with tables and graphs. They wanted us to fill the number of animals in the sheets. They had listed all these animals that were very weird for a person who had hoped to be a computer geek - dik diks, antelopes, gazelles, tortoises (how do you sport a tortoise from a lorry that is cruising at speeds of 100km/h. To us, wildlife was the Big 5. Period. We did not spot them.

The following morning we were loaded again into the lorries and spent the day scurrying after squirrels, hares and lizards!

We ended up with a ridiculous award ceremony where the land owners were awarded for hosting the wildlife. The animals were the original owners of the land and now people were being awarded for hosting them? I knew I had landed into a jungle whose laws I did not understand.

The end of it all is that I spent the next 4 years cruising Kenyan roads. We spent 5% of the time in class, 10% in the National parks and the other 85% on the road and private ranches carrying out unproductive wildlife censuses.

Then at graduation, in the graduands booklet, I was listed under the computer science class with a First class honors degree. Except that there is no proof to this day, I think I had an alter ego.

I went out of my way to correct the error and the computer science certificate was shredded in the company of two witnesses.

I made a fake one later which I have framed and will use to intimidate my kids with showing them how sharp I am with the aim of pushing them as far away from computer science as possible. I still have the graduands booklet as proof! This is my hypothesis; Human children are not like elephant calves who do everything mama does.

Seems like the computer has not noticed that we are in a new millennium where it was supposed to replace the human race. With last year’s K.C.S.E results, I am thankful I ended up with wildlife. At least I don’t have to live with the fear that there will be no elephants in the country, unless of course we continue taking up their habitat and awarding ourselves for showing them great kindness.