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My daughter is in Class Seven, but she is already pumped up about joining a high school. Yesterday I returned home from a work trip, and the first question she asked me was, “Did you say that I will not join a boarding school?”

I did not know what she was talking about. Until she clarified that my wife had said that, as her parents, we had come to the conclusion that, when she joins high school she will attend a day school.

“Mama was pulling your leg,” I told Pudd’ng, who heaved a sigh of relief.

I almost missed high school

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The first thing that always comes to my mind when I remember my Class Eight exams was the near tragedy that befell our family. In the January when I went to Class Eight, my father was shot and nearly killed by an upcountry neighbour. My father was on leave and our village neighbour – who was Kenya’s first African minister – was attacked by thieves. My father and other villagers heard the cries for help and went to the neighbour’s rescue.

But, in the madness and darkness, the neighbour mistook his rescuers for attackers, shot through the fence and a bullet cut through my father’s face, missing his vital organs by mere inches. Fearing the repercussions, the neighbour still insisted that my father was among the thieves and my dad had to stand the ignominy of being handcuffed to his hospital bed.

The case was thrown out and, in the Christian spirit, my dad forgave our neighbour.

My dad almost lost his life. Because all our resources, thoughts and efforts were centred on him, I almost missed registering for exams and picking high schools. My big brother is the one who picked the high schools. I had no say in an exercise that was about my life and future.

Pain of transitioning

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The issue of transitioning to high school is a big deal to parents, pupils and teachers. For parents and pupils, this is a stressful matter, considering that there are only so many places available for pupils. And for school administrators, if pupils transition to “good” schools, it gives their school a good reputation, which is really all about the bottom line.

Some time back, Pudd’ng’s teacher told me how, when it comes to choosing preferred high schools for their children, many parents get it all wrong. They do not, for instance, look at the marks that their children have been getting, and they choose schools that, save for a miracle, their children will not get in.

“But they do have faith,” I remember telling the teacher; but he replied that faith should not let us to turn blind eyes to the cold hard facts.

Basically, what the teacher was saying was that you cannot flog a dead horse. Still, as parents, we want the best for our children. And given a list of schools, our first instinct is to tick the top institutions andhope against hope that our kids will burn the midnight oil and make the grades.

Her high school, her choice

“Dah-dee?” Pudd’ng piped after I told her that Tenderoni was joking about her attending day school. “Will you be home this Saturday?”

“Why?”

“Teacher wants you to come to school so that you can choose the high schools that I will attend.”

“I will be there.”

In our day, this exercise was done in the first term of the year. You only had to pay the exam fee within a stipulated time, and you would be set to sit take the national exams at the end of year. Unlike today, you did not have to have a birth certificate to sit the national exams.

I will not shove high schools down my daughter’s throat. I will let her have a say in the choice of schools. Because, after all, it is all about her.  


Pudd’ng High School
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