National schools &culture shock


I arrived in my high school, a focused and clean-shaven student. You could see every contour on my head and my shiny bald head shore with nothing but brains and a bright future. My skirt was maxi and had “ears”. An ear of a skirt is the part around hips that hangs loosely if you don’t have hips. I was very excited. People here would know me. People would know that I hailed from the great Elijah Wanameme. That I was the heiress to my father’s property. That I was the brightest in my village. People would know my 3 names.

We entered a large hall, called a common room. It was basically part of our dorms, down stairs.  This was where registration and everything took place. As I scanned around the room, I noticed my bald head was too pronounced. I had made a mistake! Girls here appeared like girls while Gladwell appeared like some native homo pithecus. Big head, big eyes, big forehead, big nose. Those girls looked fine! Their hair was long, black and silky. Others had short hair with blow out, permed. Their faces glowed with dollars. Their skirts didn’t have ears. They had hips. They were confident and bright. Even in their walking style. Their English had a twang. Their suitcases were those ones bought in reknown stores. I sat my village self in one of the couches in the common room, dejected. I was right to feel that way. I felt intimidated. I wanted to run to Namang’ofulo Mixed, a neighboring school at home. Namang’ofulo is friendlier, basic and has people I can compete with. We are of the same class.

First encounter. We were taken to the dining hall, during lunch time. This is the hour the entire school had been waiting for. This was the hour of introduction. As we entered the dining hall, the entire school of bright girls yelled their lungs out, screaming, cheering, clattering forks and knives, banging the tables. They did all they could to produce sound. From anywhere. Aiii! That day… I have never been that shocked.

Second encounter. We were shown where to sit. We were given food and cutlery. We had to use forks and knives to eat rice! I remembered Namang’ofulo and wept inside. What’s wrong with people complicating my life? I looked at the food. Then the other meek 10 form ones. The rich girls. Then I looked at the next table of older students. They were holding the forks with their left hands. I didn’t eat.

Third encounter. We were later taken by our school mothers. I painfully observed how mine was this pretty lady. Light skin. Slim. Short skirt. And basically had a smaller body than mine. It appeared I was the mother here. Her voice was so whispery, smooth. Mine was booming. Things seemed not to favor me. Then her English, you still wanna know? She gave me a mountain of instructions:

“So, you’ll take the trolley from the counter, pull it to table 12 and offload.” “When you hear the first gong, you’ll line up on the left side of the corridor and go to the chapel”                            “After grace, is when you can sit”                                                    “Dessert is taken after loaf. Don’t start with banos.”                    “Leave up school by 5.30 and be at the ticking area at 6”.

I was looking at her hair, her smooth face. That information was too much, too new. I just wanted Namang’ofulo. Basically I didn’t understand what gong is, what up school is, banos, ticking… everything!

Last encounter. The next day, we went to class. Aiih! This school! Finding your class was not easy.  1k1, 1k2,1h1, 1h2, 1s1… I suffered and wandered off to a forbidden corridor. Senior corridor. But I can be stupid sometimes. I had been told “the left side”. In class, I felt every girl was looking at my shiny bright head literally. Then we had to introduce ourselves. People were talking fine and polished English. I can tell you for free, am an expert at verbalizing and code-switching with an accidental drop of my mother-tongue here and there. Something like, my skuli was nzoya. The girls were the ones I saw on tv being interviewed.

My name is Angela… I was in Makini School. I wanna be a doctor.                   

 My name is Christabel, I was in Koma Rock. I will be a neuro-surgeon.              

My name is Tasha from Newlight. I want to be an aerospace engineer.             

Am Wacuka from Aga Khan. I want to be a Pediatrician. Another one mentioned something about marine. I looked lost.

I am Nafula and I want to study in Namang’ofulo Mixed Secondary School. I was telling myself sadly, silently.

This entry was posted in People.


  1. Mahero says:

    Not to mention the unusual intonations people had at the end of questions. I still don’t understand whether it was the corrupted remnants of what may once have been a British accent adopted or “passed down” over the years… The culture shock was real! Good read.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hahaha! Boma is a great school and it taught girls to be leaders and not to drag in cocoons.The experience is great!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Too funny ! I don’t miss boma at all esp. Sunday night cleaning, begging matrons for phone slips and cross country oh and that long long chilly second term

  4. Elizabeth kibuchi says:

    Wah!! You mean culture never dies? When was Nafula in form one? Same old Boma!! Its like a repeat of 34years ago(1982) when i joined first form. The only difference, those days rubbles from upcountry did not have school uniform untill after like 2weeks. Instead each wore their primo uniform. Say sticking out like a sore fingure, combibe that with a strong accent and clean shaven head.

  5. Mercy says:

    Hhahaaa.. Thanks for this, brought back memories of Boma. True culture shock for sure. But it made us who we are today. Boma girls excel everywhere they go!!

  6. Irene says:

    Hi, I can relate to this! Rambo night, the sing or dance was the biggest shock of shy me?.
    We turned out alright, Confident ex Boma!

  7. Waturi says:

    Hahaha…couldnt help laughing my head out.How do u forget the shouts of “doors am locking?” and ticking was just neva my thing..*sigh* nice read gal.fond memories of BOMA.

  8. Nyawira Waturi says:

    Hahahaha…just laughed my head out.Not forgetting…”Doors am loooocking” gosh…who shouts they are locking the door except when you are going to church and dad is at the gate hooting and screaming for people to leave the house?i used to haaate ticking..*sigh*.But these were really fond memories of BOMA.Nice read gal.

  9. Gathoni says:

    Very funny indeed. All in all, many beautiful memories that will remain fore ever etched in my mind. I just loved Carol service, Speech day and the beautiful music by the whole school, vespers, Miss Boma, Third form entertainment etc.
    The last assembly of every year was always so emotional esp for candidates. The final song Lord dismiss us with thy blessing…. … those here that shall meet no more… sob!

  10. Jentar says:

    I remember the first rabble weekend was valentine’s day….I remember bunch of us were looking outside the window and witnessing all these beautiful cars parked outside, the Mercs, and some I couldn’t recognize (fancy huh!) Guy’s in those cars carrying out flowers for days and huge cards and balloons (never seen those in my life). We were made to understand that those were the ‘boyfriends’ some engineers, doctors lawyers. And the excited 4th formers hugging and kissing away! I promised my young self from the island city that I shall do whatever it takes to make it in life. ..thanks Boma

  11. louandrea says:

    Ah, Boma, the somewhat good old days. I remember joining in first term as a rabble and the first thing the red rag asked was if i can swim. I was in the heats on my first evening in school!! Those first term swimming compes before half-term were the worst.

  12. Jacinta Ndinguri says:

    6th Feb 2012 will always be in my mind n heart.. The day I slept hungry coz I didn’t know how to use a fork n knife, and wake up on 7th being woken up by Rau with a painful pinch….. Long live boma

  13. Evelyn says:

    I have a full essay to write on this….
    The most interesting being my patched former school uniform….. Then I wake up and find my only shoes gone…..’ ngoma’ canvas shoes.

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