Pudd'ng loves school. Missing school, even when she is under the weather, is out of the question for her. Plus, she will do anything, like joining all the clubs in their institution, to make sure that she stays longer in school. In fact, Tenderoni and I have lost count of the number of clubs that she belongs to.
Which is one reason why, when she was sent home from school not so long ago because of school fee arrears, I felt like I was letting her down. I do not like my daughter stressing herself about such adult things as school fees. But I also understand there are days when parents' backs are against the wall, and things spin out of control.
The right to excel
I always feel it when Pudd'ng tells me that some of her classmates were sent home because of fees arrears. I put myself in the shoes of these parents.
One term, when I went to collect Pudd'ng's report book, her class teacher told me about the class' performance. One of the brightest pupils in the class did not do the exams because of fees arrears.
I felt that the school was denying this kid the right to excel, because of circumstances that were beyond her control. And I felt like she was my daughter. I know there are schools that do not send children home because of fees arrears in the middle of the term, but allow them in school throughout the term. They only do so at the beginning of the term, if the previous' terms arrears were not cleared.
If only schools could find a way of balancing between making profits and allowing their charges to stay in school – if and when they have fees' arrears – I know, for a fact, that parents would breathe easy.
Majority rules ... not
I once heard a song with the lyric, "a promise is a comfort to a fool". And when I hear politicians from both big divides promising that they will provide free education, from nursery to secondary, I feel like I am being played for a fool.
For majority of Kenyans, if this was promise was honoured, it would take a huge load off their chests. It would make them worry less. It would make them feel like they are part of the government, and not mere pawns in a four-year-long chess game.
I am majority of Kenyans.
But the problem is that, in Kenya, the majority – wananchi wa kawaida - are ruled by the minority; wabenzi.
The hardest question in the world
"When am I going back to school?" Pudd'ng asked when she was sent home from school, and I realised that, to fathers – well, except deadbeat dads – this is one of the hardest questions in the world.
It is the hardest question in the world if you do not know where your next paycheck will come from. It is the hardest question in the world if you do not have a job ... or if you are hanging on to a job that scarcely meets your needs. It is the hardest question if you are besieged with debts, which you used to feed your family, and the Credit Reference Bureau is on your case. It is the hardest question in the world if you have a bright kid – heck, any kid – and that question constantly rings in your ears.
"You'll go back to school on Monday," I promised Pudd'ng and, thank God, the Almighty provided for this need on that very day.
I know this much is true: for parents who do not know when their kids will return to school, this hardest question in the world drives them nuts.