For some time now, Pudd’ng has been saying that, after she sits her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams, she wants to go to a boarding school.
From what she sometimes says – or, at least, my understanding of what she is saying – baby girl thinks boarding school is a place where students have tonnes of fun. She once said: “In boarding school, we will be watching TV till late at night.”
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And I remember thinking that the only things my so misinformed baby girl would be watching late into the night would be either the dormitory ceiling, the bottom of a bunker bed or the gazillion sheep that she would be counting.
Pudd’ng’s cousins are in boarding school, which they joined after they sat KCPE.
“Can you imagine that my cousins travel by bus to school to Kisumu and Homa Bay counties, alone?” Pudd’ng gushed – putting an emphasis on the last word – and adding that it was such an adventure.
This year, Pudd’ng’s best friend went to boarding school. In their school, if a pupil reaches class seven, it is mandatory for them to start boarding. It is either that, or your transfer your child to another school.
Before Pudd’ng’s friend went to school, they swapped boarding school stories. Which were mostly stories that they had heard from their peers.
“My BFF does not want to go to boarding school,” Pudd’ng told us, a couple of days before she left for boarding school.
“Why?” we asked.
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“I don’t know.”
And this represents the other side of the story. A story of children who, for whatever reason, are forced – by authority figures -- to attend boarding school. For Pudd’ng’s friend, I figured that the forced boarding rule, which strategically started a year before KCPE, had everything to do with raising the school’s grades in the national exams.
Home science lessons
Pudd’ng school has a sister institution, which has a boarding wing. A couple of months ago, Pudd’ng’s drama team went to the sister school to practice for the musical festivals.
They went on a Saturday morning, and they found the pupils in the boarding wing doing their washing.
“Dah-dee?” she asked me when she returned home. “Kwani, in boarding school, pupils wash their school uniforms?”
“No, they don’t,” I said in jest. “Why are you asking?”
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“We found the pupils in the boarding school washing their own clothes.”
“Like I said,” I continued joking, “The pupils were not washing; they were doing a home science lesson.”
Pudd’ng missed the joke; same way she misses the point when I say that a football player missed a penalty kick.
“Dah-dee? The player didn’t miss the football. He kicked it, and the goalkeeper caught it.”
The big question
The recent spates of dormitory fires in secondary schools have not escaped our children’s attention. Some even personally know peers who are directly affected.
“I saw a student who was in our school last year,” Pudd’ng told us last Sunday. “He’s in Form One in a boarding school, and he told me that he is home because a dormitory in their school was burnt down.”
Then Pudd’ng, whose body language suggested that she was not that enthusiastic about attending boarding school anymore, asked the question that is on the lips of everyone who cares about the future of this country: “Why do high school students burn dormitories?”
I did not have the right answer. I do not think any one person has. I attended boarding school. I know that it’s a thin line between leaving high school with the tag, “arsonist”; or clearing as a straight A student.
Hopefully, if and when our daughter goes to boarding school, I pray that she will, as I constantly tell her, think for herself. I pray that she will not succumb to peer pressure and do something that she will regret all her life. I pray that she will not be a statistic. I pray that she will lead others out of, and not into infernos.
I’m praying for your families, I hope you pray for mine.