SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL A CHILD in our days meant that if you kept the rod in a cupboard and let a child run care free, he or she would get messed up and would not become a responsible citizen. Today it means that you actually keep the rod in the wall unit and take your kid out and spoil him which translates into spending money that can feed several Kenyan families for a year at some popular spot.
It is in the 90s when whacking children became a word for the old fashioned, when parents started to behave as if they had been to school to learn parenting that they started to say that they would not use the rod on their children. They said this oblivious of the good results the cane had produced- them. Now their kids have evolved into dorm-burning goons and surprisingly they all agree that it is the Minister for Education’s fault. I didn’t know that one of his capabilities was child rearing!
When I was growing up, strikes were unheard of in schools. This is precisely because actions which were not going to hatch into strikes even if they were incubated for a thousand years were treated as felonies.
I remember a time we picked some heads of wheat during a marathon from a field and the owner of the wheat field spotted us and reported to the school administration. We were sent home with letters of suspension which then was a big word. Today, students have dubbed it ‘Suspe’ (u is pronounced as ‘u’ in put) and they speak about it as if they are talking about sharing groundnuts. A suspension in our days was equivalent to being sent into a war zone unarmed with opponents armed with nuclear weapons. These were first, your parents during the suspension and the teachers after the suspension and the rest of your sweet school life.
So I went home with my suspension letter and on arrival and after explaining what had happened at school, which the headmistress had indicated as gross misconduct which the school will not put up with, my mom’s response was ‘mmph’. Now this was more scaring than if she had just taken a hammer and broken all my bones.
I was informed that I was going to be a guest because I belonged to school for that period of time. Next, I was going to keep to the school’s schedule. That meant waking up at 5 A.M. and taking a cold shower, after which I proceeded for preps. At 6.30, a cup of white porridge was ready in the kitchen and the rest of the day, I spent holed up with books in the guestroom. This lasted the two weeks I was on suspension.
While I stuck to githeri whose only difference with the school one was that it was free of weevils, (my bro, on several occasions suggested to my mom that he knew a place they could buy weevils to add to my githeri), my family went on a chicken eating spree which we have never witnessed again. This was the first phase of the war. They began with the cold war.
Then the day to go back to school arrived. We were ushered into the Headmistress’s office like rogue political leaders to The Hague . We started with the most important business which was to compensate the farmer of the wheat which we had eaten. We were surprised when the farmer was paid for two acres of wheat. We were informed that we were going to be his combine harvesters and we were free to eat the rest.
The headmistress had strategically placed some three Bunsen tubes on her table to aid with the interrogation. Immediately our parents grabbed the tubes and started thrashing us. The headmistress rang the emergency bell and everybody gathered at the assembly ground. We emerged with our parents from the Headmistress’s office still being whacked to prove that they (our parents) would never allow wheat thieves in their homes. The beating was made worse because our parents were competing to impress the Headmistress, who had this subtle way of fueling the beating by saying it was enough.
At the end of it all, with our bodies feeling like they were made of lead and our legs feeling like overcooked spaghetti, we were each awarded a Sun-yellow cardigan which meant that we marked for the rest our lives in school. We were not supposed to remove them even if the sun descended a few metres. The other students treated us like we had the Amazonic flu and nicknamed us egg-shellers or Land-miners because that is how we carried out our business in school. We spent the following day at the wheat field. After half an hour with our teeth aching and our jaws locked, we were relieved of that punishment but it determined the relationship I was going to maintain with wheat in the future. I keep as much distance as I can with wheat unless it has passed via millers into bakeries. A wheat field reminds me of my appointments with the dentist.
If an eggsheller made one more mistake, it led to expulsion. This is a line you did not want to cross because of all the ogre stories the teachers told us if we became unlucky enough to be expelled. First, there was no other head teacher who would accept you in their school. The teachers told us that we would end up married to farmers or charcoal burners with scores of children clinging to our only dress and for the men who would be lucky enough to get to the city, they would push mikokoteni for the rest of their lives.
For dorm burning students, I would recommend that we ask them to build and burn new dorms as punishment. But because we can't, we could send them with those tall jerrycans which are inscribed with a broad 'X' on both faces to the oil wells of Saudi Arabia or Nigeria to get the petrol for themselves to burn the remaining dorms. By the time they get back they wouldn’t know where it was they were taking the jerrycans much less what it was that they wanted to do with the contents because by then they (the students) would be senile! Hahaha. So what we should probably do is to round up the guys who banned caning in school and set them on fire and then reinstate it. Or what do you think?
Just in case you think I lost my marbles, it is second term when the strikes' demon strikes and you had better advise your little spoilt brats that we don't have time for their stupid reactions to mock exams.