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The two mboys share my strong dislike for Math

By - Joseph Maina | November 11th 2012

With Joseph Maina

Weekends have always been a hectic time in my hacienda, and chaos becomes the new buzzword, thanks to those public noisemakers known as my mboys. For starters, they love music, and they love it loud. They also conduct nightlong keshas while chain-watching one movie after the other. Schoolwork becomes history, and food becomes an endangered species (I hate to say this about my own sons, but the truth is that I am blessed with kids who eat like dinosaurs.)

Generally, they loaf around doing nothing – kind of like aide-de-camps. They then don their bling-blings and bounce around the neighborhood while wearing their jeans at half-mast. Again, they are hopeless social media addicts, and Jimmy has lately been behaving like the chairman of the Kenya Association of Facebook Users and Twitter Gurus, headquartered in his bedroom. At this rate, he will probably negotiate dowry with his future father-in-law via Twitter!

Coming to schoolwork, the lads are rich with disappointment. They treat their books, pens and other academic tools like sacred items (they rarely touch them). For instance, Jimmy’s geometrical set is five years old, but it still looks new. Consequently, I look at their end of term reports and what I see is a cocktail of forked jembes. Whenever I demand an explanation for his low grades, he complains that schoolwork bores him because it is “too hard,” and that it includes “irrelevant topics”.

“Vitu zingine tunasomanga sioni maana yake,” laments the boy, who wants to become a doctor if he grows up. Well, there might be some truth to this, but the sad reality is that in Kenya, he cannot become Doctor Jimmy without knowing cosines, the digestive systems of frogs or the economic importance of weeds. This applies to all nice professions. If you want to be an accountant or bank manager, pay attention whenever the biology teacher harps about amoeba, or when he is preaching about the gestation period of baboons and things like that. Want to be a lawyer or a pilot? Listen to the Geography teachers lecturing about diatomite mining in Kariandusi, or the Akwambo festival in Ghana, or cash crop farming in Honduras. Failing to which, you might as well kiss your dream profession goodbye.

So there I was on Sunday evening, luxuriating with my Associate Couch Potato, Tyson the cat. Ordinarily, my mboys would be right there, blasting the stereo away while spewing Sheng like graduates of Bonoko’s Educational Institute for the Sons of African Gentlemen. But things were different this time round. With exams slowly approaching, the lads made a gold rush for their books, and Jimmy even enlisted my help in solving his Math problems!

“Daddy nisaidie kufanya hii thafe,” he piped while handing me the dreaded book.

“The equation x squared + y squared =1 represents an ellipse,” went the question, accompanied by a graph. He was supposed to compute the lengths of the major and minor axes, state the x-intercepts and y-intercepts and then find the coordinates of loci. For reasons best left undisclosed, Baba Jimmy took one look at the cruel book and almost threw it out of the balcony.

“Ai, hi siwesmake,” I confessed, feeling like a sheep in a sheep’s skin. The spirit was willing, but the brain was empty. Moments later, Russell shoved his Chemistry book right under my nose, indicating the following question:

“If 1.0L of nitrogen reacts with 3.0L of chlorine gas at room temperature and pressure, calculate the number of chlorine molecules used for every molecule of nitrogen in the reaction.” Once again, I took one look at that book and saw nothing but stars and other things that looked like raw materials for a heart attack.

“Not now, son,” I said. “I have a headache,” I lied, while slumping back on the couch, so he turned to his mother for help. Of course, Mama Jimmy has no space in her life for the mole concept and similar brain chainsaws.

“Sorry, son, but I didn’t take Chemistry,” she lied. Later that evening, I overheard the lads talking about the incident in their bedroom.

“Manze buda amecheki thafe akachew blackout,” Jimmy remarked. “Inakaa alikuwa toast kimasomo,” his brother replied, culminating in a braying laughter from the two. To be honest, Chemistry and Baba Jimmy were like oil and water. Physics sounded – and still sounds – like nyef nyef to me. My Math teacher had a way of turning the classroom into a mental torture chamber, and I used to read my Math books with one hand covering the face. The result? My interest in those subjects stayed below sea level and I scored a D (plus) in KCSE, which is how my dream of becoming a cow veterinarian went up in smoke.



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