I am in this evil and pathetic stage in my life where using my money has become a rare occurrence like Harley’s comet. I am suddenly a very stingy piece of shit, clinging on my money like some black jerks on a lesso. I opened a savings account for my masters and to buy leather seats for my mother. Now, I am just mean and my entire life revolves around these two things. I see a new number calling and my heart cringes, thinking it is a friend who is stuck in Ainamoi and hopes I come to their rescue. Somebody called me up the other day and said they are contributing money for a friend’s baby shower and I flatly lied that I was hospitalized and needed funds too. The other day I wanted to go to the saloon, just around this dingy neighborhood I stay in. It is cheap as hell, but I wasn’t ready to part with a coin. I’d rather lose a tooth. I have become very needy. I called up Simiyu.
My hair is bad
No, it is beautiful, lovely and so great to touch
Not in that sense! I mean I need to go to the saloon
I told you last night, I respond, feigning calmness.
This is a chance to make him feel guilty that he forgot a detail in my life, a detail I hadn’t told him actually. I will capitalize on this tiny issue and cause so much commotion and turbulence in our relationship. I am this close to being dumped.
Oh, well, you did? He asks blankly
I hang up. I am about to push this young man to the wall and unfairly compare him with an old man like Chris Kirubi, accusing him of being lazy and reminding him that Ed Sheeran is only 26 and rich. But in this accurate comparison, I cannot mention how young Malala is and the wonders she is doing at her age. Talking of Malala, I think when I was her age, the only thing I was best in was dancing to circumcision songs, cooking ugali and receiving love letters from the likes of Tondi and Senya.
He calls back, laughing heartily on the other end with his friends. I think it was Mato and Fredi. See the friends he keeps? Just the names suggest wrong company.
Baby, you were saying?
Argh! I said you send me money now to fix this hair or else, I will shave. The stingy me blurts out
He fears baldness more than death. I would have shaved long ago, but this hair is another source of income. I went to the saloon, with the money, siphoned from him. What? You thought I am a feminist?
The hairdresser’s daughters were running around us, as if they were performing a ritual for a dead relative. The elder one was called Wambo and I later learnt she was 4 years. The other one, Wangechi, was a tiny cuddly piece of baby with scarce hair, scanty and countable. She had adorable big eyes and every time her mother spoke to me and I responded, she would put her head on my laps, staring at my face, looking for signs of lies, maybe.
But where is this story headed?
The elder girl was still in her school uniform, those sorts of uniforms that have suspenders. I would have died to wear such uniform. Ours was some sack-like checked dresses and very long, covering your entire existence. When wind blew, it would puff up like a floater.
She had been given homework and had to keep consulting her mother,
Mummy, nionyeshee hii, she would squeal
Her impatient mother told her the answer without any explanation. By the time she was approaching her for the third time, she barked at her, telling her to wait till she was done plaiting me. But knowing that I was standing between her future, I offered to help. It was Swahili homework, about writing the opposites. I was horrified looking that work. She was to write the opposites of karibu, rahisi, kubwa among other words. Like her mother, I just told her the answers. My eyes darted across her faint handwriting in her book and settle on malkia. She was to write the opposite of malkia. I asked her, do you know what malkia is? She didn’t. The girl probably watches only nickelodeon or tinga tinga tales and thinks NASA is a song. How can she know malkia?
Then her mother, sensing that I was about to radicalize her daughter into refusing to do shit, arrested the situation, saying:
You were not taught who malkia is? Do I ask your teacher tomorrow?
She stared at her mother and never said anything. I tell you this girl, by the time she is 17, will have a huge tattoo on her entire back of a dragon spitting fire. She went back to her malkia homework then supported her head with her hand.
Anyway, maybe she was taught. Class 3 may be getting hard for her. I said, but I shouldn’t have continued speaking
No! She is in baby class. The hairdresser says, her kikuyu accent coming out strongly now.
Ah baye! Baby class! I regretted why I assumed she was in class 3. But the homework can’t probably be for baby class. Does this child need homework? Really? Isn’t she supposed to be playing out there, soaking herself in sand? Staring at pictures in colorful books? Forgive my ignorance but a 4-year-old is very lineal in the way they see the world. Simple. But making them reverse their thinking and understand the concept of opposite is very ambitious.
Then she asked me to help her with 2 sums. She needed to subtract 8 from a certain number to get 3.
I turned to her mother,
How will she do this and she has only 10 fingers?
She wondered too, confessing that sometimes, indeed her kid is given very difficult assignments.
She has to subtract 8 from 11 to get 3. At this stage, the maximum number should be 10. Because she purely uses her fingers to count. How can her teacher give such homework? I was wondering loudly
Beautiful Wambo was looking at me, really unaware of what we were discussing and just wanted the damn answer.
Sometimes I also think they give her tough homework, but the syllabus has changed. It is not like in our days, her mother adds lamely.
It has not changed. It will change next year, probably. But a baby at 4 years cannot do mental sums yet. She uses her fingers. And she only has 10 fingers. The teacher in me is aroused as I explain.
These town schools expose our children. Watoto wa ushago rika ya huyu hawawezi hata kuandika jina. She says proudly and adds a laugh. Annoying.
Why don’t we let children be children? Some of these things like homework help in revision, but what can a child of baby class possibly be revising for? Wambo, by the time she will be in class 4, will be tired already. By the time she gets to campus, if at all she will, will never attend classes nor do assignments. She will say that she is resting, after all, she has been studying all her life.