Why our country is one big secondary school

When I was in high school, inspections were the order of the day. Every Saturday, we would clean all corners of the school. The exercise left the aroma of detergents hanging over our dormitories.

After the clean-up, all boys wore their best uniforms. But the cleanliness would only last as long as the inspection, as dirt and chaos would  soon return to their rightful place.

Besides the cleanliness check-up, there was another sudden inspection which we called “tero”. ‘Tero’ was short for terrorism brought about by prefects. During ‘tero’ the prefect would punish errant boys for serious crimes such as smuggling alcohol into the dormitory or minor ones such as hiding jar of margarine under the bed.

Occasionally, one’s sleep would be rudely interrupted by shouting prefects who while banging boxes would ask a myriad silly questions like “why is this shirt dirty?” “why do you have so much food?” Regardless of how you answered the questions you were sure to get a thrashing.

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Directed glare

The teachers were always woefully disconnected from the realities of school life. For instance, not even one of them knew that we had given them nicknames. They also never seemed to know that there were bullies, thieves and smugglers all wearing school uniform.

I recall one time during a meeting when the vice principal asked who the notorious student nicknamed “Refu” was. He was itching to punish him.

The vice principal then directed his glare at an innocent-looking boy named Ken and asked: “Do you know who this Refu is?” We all burst into laughter, for Ken was the “Refu” teacher was looking for.

Teachers would often give directives that we would ignore with glee.

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The school was always a Wild West of sorts, where the rule of law only existed in the minds of the teachers; where order was instilled through fear and the cane.

Whenever there would be a lot of chaos, there would be inspections, declarations and warnings by teachers and prefects. But nothing really changed.

I remember these moments because it appears to me that as a nation we are still in secondary  school.

We are still an unruly and wild post-pubescent country that thrives on police operations, task forces and weird policies from a very disconnected cabinet.

The population is often terrorised by police operations when things go wrong. We have knee-jerk reactions to accidents and many other disasters.

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Walk to work

Last week Kenyans walked to work because the Government had been lax for years and the matatu industry was thriving in the rot and dirt it had descended into.

So deeply entrenched was this madness that now we have to inspect passengers to ensure they wear seat belts. Are we suicidal?

We get into matatus that are driven by people we can clearly see are drunk and on top of it we fail to wear safety belts. We are indeed teenagers; we are addicted to revolt against authorities even when it is at our own peril.

The madness extends to our school system where suddenly teenage pregnancy is now a crisis.

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News flash! They got pregnant months ago, the fact that you are finding about it now means you have been sleeping on the job. But never mind, we now have a task-force that will come up with impractical steps like banning school visits and separating girls from boys during music festivals.

Out of touch

Clearly, just like high school, the Government is out of touch with the reality. When millions of Kenyans were walking home, not even one CS offered the many buses that are at their disposal to ferry Kenyans.

If we are not in high school, why are the yellow-lined school buses being driven as recklessly as matatus? It is because drivers and teachers are still in high school.

Like high school students, the average Kenyan is a ruffian hidden in plain sight and ready to pounce at the earliest opportunity.

When a truck full of cooking oil crashed the other day, the rich joined the poor in looting.

I saw expensive cars parked by the roadside, as their owners left to steal Sh1,000 worth of cooking oil. That, my friend, is why we cannot see change in this country. Why? Because most of us behave like excitable teenagers. We are greedy to a fault. It is any wonder then that no matter who we elect to office the same rot will continue.

Wear suits

The only difference is that most of the rich are prefects of the Kenyan society; the consultants, policy advisors, doctors and analysts of the Kenyan society. We can talk the talk, wear the suits but ultimately we are the problems we claim to be solving.

Let us just admit it, most Kenyans are like high school students; dirty, indisciplined and unruly 99 per cent of the time.

We only tidy up things when prefects show up at the door to carry out inspections. This is our norm; our high school country.

Maybe one day we will grow up. But until that day, I fear for the next truck that spills its cargo.

Mr Bichachi is a communication consultant [email protected]

Kenyanssecondary school