The author is a writer of stories and poems. Besides, he is a teacher of English and literature.
When I was born in a small village known as Kivūtini, I was named after my grandfather, Mwaniki, an apiarist. Then my family was languishing in abject poverty. Mother was a potter while father used to do menial jobs. I was the last-born among my siblings. Our parents, two girls, and a boy made up a family of five. I happened to be the only boy of my siblings. Smoke was hardly seen rising from our ancient grass-thatched house, for we led a dog's life. I'm saying a house simply because we only owned one house(bedroom) dubbed 'Kasûmba' that doubled up as a kitchen. The walls had crevices that allowed light to penetrate through it: no wonder we were the first folks to rise in the village due to morning glaring sun rays!
It was worse when it rained cats and dogs. We would wake up at the dead of night to repair the mud walls.
I can't complain I had the most loving and benevolent parents, unlike other children in our village children, whose parents were irresponsible. Even though they were as poor as church mice, they tried their level best to put bread on the table. But what made me even happier and happier is that my father loved my mother. In equal measure, the mother loved her husband too.
Due to hard work over a couple of years, my parents wasted away. Our firstborn had not yet joined the school and it was evident that Jane and I would stay home for some time. She was already sixteen and she would soon be of age.
School at Last!
It was not long before we learned that my two sisters would not join the school. Since my mother was weary and could no longer work, they had to stay home to do some household chores. Life became unbearable when mother met her maker one evening. Father grew weaker and weaker as he continued toiling and moiling, searching for casual jobs in every nook and cranny but his efforts proved futile.
One evening, however, he came home unusually happy. "Jeremiah!" he called, "come over here!" No sooner had I reached where he was than he told me that I would be joining school the next day. He also added that he had landed a job in a sisal farm where he would be paid by the end of the week. I can't remember thanking him for that unexpected information for I had already despaired. School to me meant nothing at that time. Nevertheless, I made up my mind to go to school the following day.
Early in the morning, I woke up and waited for my father. Hardly had I washed my face when I saw father coming out of his hut carrying a huge pair of trousers. He told me to try it on but it was far from fitting my emaciated small waist. He cut a small piece of a rope and tied it around my waist to make the pair of trousers fit me.
It was not until 8 o'clock that we embarked on a long journey to school. On reaching, we were received by the teacher on duty. Madam Morgan for as long as I can remember her name directed us to the headteacher's office. It was after some time when a tall dark-skinned man opened the office and asked us to follow him. He opened a big book and asked father some questions. He seemed to be writing carefully, keen not to make mistakes.
After some minutes, the father was allowed to go home. He escorted me to my class where I would spend a year before going to the next level. As we were going there, several boys were laughing staring at me. I looked at my uniform and I now knew the cause for all that reaction. I just gave them a cold shoulder and headed for my classroom.
As soon as I entered, I saw the school motto, "Hard Work Pays," As my father left for home, thoughts kept on running through my mind on how my stay in school would be.
While At School
For the better part of the day, I was the laughing stock. When other pupils were speaking two or three words in English (English is the official language in Kenya) I kept on looking at them perplexed as I could not mention any word, but I could communicate fluently in my mother tongue.
That time, I was old enough to be in class four but I thank God I was able to go to school though late. The old cliche says better late than never.
It was a day full of all sorts of drama. Despite all this, I was able to get over it. I made a solemn vow to work hard to move my family from poverty.
And that is how I started school!
© 2021 JEREMIAH MWANIKI KILUNDA