I was on my way home from work recently in the Rambo Kanambo minibus when I bumped into Boi, my high school chemistry teacher.
He had not changed one bit. He may have aged but his temperament remained the same. He started a conversation about discipline that stirred up memories of punishments in high school that I would much rather forget.
“Hawa dereva na makanga wafaa kupatiwa corporal punishment, hawana nidhamu ata, hizi nyimbo ngani za anasa wanatuchezea hapa? (This bus crew deserves corporal punishment for playing such bad music)” he said, his face contorting with disgust.
WHY NOT JUST BOARD A NOISELESS MATATU?
I wondered why he chose to board the ‘nganya’ instead of the quiet, boring Kenya Bus or Double M buses.
Boi was not just a chemistry teacher; he was also a strict disciplinarian. Boi was a nickname coined for him because he was a student at our school two decades before my admission.
He knew every panya hole in the school fence. He could easily sniff and smoke you out of the dormitory ceiling when avoiding evening preps. He could foil any trick or booby trap a student tried to set up.
His real name was Mr Gaturuku and even the most mischievous student obeyed the law when he was on duty. He once single-handedly unearthed a banana stealing cartel, putting a stop to the enterprising students’ profitable venture. These wise students would raid the school shamba at night, harvest a sack of bananas and store in the ceiling to ripen. They would later sell them to students, making a tidy sum.
“But you see Mr. Gaturuku some of these nganyas are made like that to attract customers who are willing to part with some extra coins for free WI-FI, comfort and entertainment,” I explained. I knew he was easily angered and I did not want to risk that.
I once had to clinch the rosary tightly while gnashing my teeth, fearing the wrath of Mr Gaturuku because we had disobeyed the 5am hooter to wake up and go for the morning preps.
I was in Form 1M, class ya machopi (the class with the bright students), and I wondered why I had to wake up early to study introduction classes.
We had decided to sleep in until 7am but screams from the corridor woke us up.
It was a fellow student from a neighbouring dormitory who was being flogged by Boi, who was on duty that day.
We did the only thing a sensible student would do: we hid under the bed and prayed for the power of making ourselves invisible. We also prayed that Boi would not come to our dormitory.
After a few minutes later, the screams stopped and we hoped our prayers had been answered.
We sent one of our friends to survey the situation but we had fallen right into Boi’s trap, as he had heard us talking. The boy, Ephantus, ratted us out after receiving his punishment, which had him howling.
Gaturuku walked into the dormitory holding a Bunsen burner tube and calling out the names of those he could visibly see under the bed.
“Professor macho ya mwalimu ni kama mkono wa serikali (Professor, the eyes of a teacher are like the long arm of the law),” he called out to Wachira, a fellow student. He was nicknamed professor because of his big eyes and round glasses.
He then knelt down in between the bed I was hiding beneath and where Kimathi was. Kimathi was breathing heavily and due to the size of his body, the bed swung side to side. Gaturuku hit his shoeless feet hard with the Bunsen burner tube and Kimani cried out in agony: “Ngai fa fa uuuuuuuiiiiiiii saidia (God help me)”.
Then this fellow called Kimwangi burst out laughing.
Mwalimu hurriedly went to the direction where the laughter came from, and that was how Kimwangi was nabbed saving me from Gaturuku’s ‘vita takatifu (holy war)’.
“For the last time if you’re hiding under the bed, come out!!” he called out and two more students came out.
I stayed put until the teacher left. My friends dug a six-foot-deep pit for the rest of the week.
By now, Rambo Kanambo was stopped by a traffic officer for overtaking on the wrong side of the road while trying to avoid traffic jam. The police officer entered the matatu looking out for the people who had not buckled up safety belts.
Knowing the drill, I hurriedly buckled my belt. Unfortunately for Mr Gaturuku, his seat didn’t have a safety belt and the officer whisked him away as he pleaded, saying it was not his fault.
His day of reckoning had come.