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Wear that cap proudly because you have earned it


When schools and colleges are in session, my neighbourhood is a sea of young people. Within a radius of five kilometres, I can count eight primary schools, and those do not include private ones. If you know anything about public schools, you will know there is nothing like a small one – they go the whole nine yards. Add at least five-day secondary schools and a private university with over six thousand students. If the young people got together and decided to overrun us, it would take just seconds.

It is a moody little town that thrives when schools are in session and hibernates during holidays because the economy is nearly solely driven by the school calendar. But there are those of us who live here, school or not. Being only a few kilometres from the centre of the storm, the centre is the most convenient source of my groceries.

Even more important, this is where I go to gather local gossip from shopkeepers, the butcher-man and mama mbogas. This is also where I put my life out, just by walking there, for villagers to judge me and for them to exercise the audacity to tell me to watch my diet because my behind is growing out of control, or I am shrinking like someone whose husband is either not making enough money or is cheating on them.

Going to that shopping centre is like logging on to social media to check who and what is eating who and what. It is therapy.

The shopping centre is often an interesting place to be when university students are crisscrossing between the hostels and lecture halls. If you look closely at the faces of the people who are not students, you will see fascination disguised as disgust when the young people perambulate in tiny skirts, shorts and tank tops.

They are everywhere because you cannot argue with fashion. It is not unusual to see young men and women walk the village roads, smoking casually. You will see older people stop, look and shake their heads in what a non-observant person could take as disapproval, but I know a lot of ogling is what happens, and a lot of envy for youth.

Sometimes, you will hear older people loudly wonder what is taught in universities these days – only people who have never been to university/college would ask that.

Usually, I will answer, ‘Certainly, they are not being taught how to dress, or smoke’, which they will take as support, but what I really try to communicate is that the students are there to learn, not to be taught how to dress like traditional Jewish wives.

A week ago, I was at the mama mboga reluctantly listening to her rant about the economy, which was a drag exercise because what I really wanted to hear was the gossip happening at the butchery next door about a love triangle, then a young lady walked in. She was hard not to stare at.

For starters, she was drop-dead gorgeous and wore a smile as if it were part of her attire. What, however, drew me to her was that she was wearing a graduation cap. 

“Is the graduation tomorrow?” I asked her, a little surprised because I was sure it was a week later. Her smile double-illuminated as she shook her head, and then dramatically explained; “It is next week, but I am going to wear this cap every single day, everywhere except to bed and bathroom. I have earned it with four years of blood and sweat. Besides, how do you pay so much money for something you are going to wear for only a few hours? I am making it worthwhile.” I hugged her.

I did not ask her what she studied. It did not matter. They may not be teaching how to dress (why should they?), or how not to smoke (again, why should they?) at the university, but it is probable that they may be teaching them to be loudly proud of their achievements, and how to make the best of situations – there is nothing you can do about the gown-hire being too expensive, but you could wear the hat, or even the gown, for a whole week, instead of a few hours, as you let everyone know that you put in the work.

Make it count.


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