Now Most of us have been “privileged” to attend boarding school at some point in their quest for that rather satiable experience that comes with being confined within the walls of academic imprisonment… — whose culmination always discards the weetabix kid demeanor and transforms one into fully armoured hard-core brainiac erudite , if not ex-hiltler militia who by all means can vanquish the very school that inculcated such hybrid qualities in them. Such is my alma mater back in my A levels and this Author Jackson Biko (Dn2 columnist– Daily Nation) couldn’t have put the the entire ordeal any better, considering his plausible prose in a deliberate attempt to show the picture perfect situation of the typical boarding school that crafted boys into Men who could live anywhere in this planet including the Sahara desert.!
I have shared in the same “Transgressions” so i had to share the same article…
Article by Jackson Biko
FIFTEEN YEARS LATER , SCHOOL BELL
STILL RINGS IN THE MIND
I feel sorry for those who didn’t attendboarding school. There was no greater struggle, no greater desperation, mischief
and fun than a teenage boy battling self-identity, constant hunger and the ever compelling need to survive and chasing
grades that would make your parents’sacrifices worthwhile. Boarding school beat us into shape, turned every boy into a man.
A few months ago, I visited my former highschool after close to 15 years. The memories rushed back, all crisp and bright. I don’t know about your high school but my highschool was basically a boot camp.You know it was a boot camp because our
school motto read “perseverance shall winthrough,” and indeed we persevered. The food was, as most high school food is, basic,only meant to keep you alive until you wentback home to your parents. And because this was pre-aromat craze, we would turn this bland food into a gourmetby using Royco, Blue Band and freshly sliced tomatoes on top of it.
To eat, we stood in a long queue lugging ourplastic bowls and the prefects — who wereall revered and feared — would walk along this queue inspecting our socks and collars(damn collars!) to see if they were clean.Dirty collar, wrong colour of sweater, dirty trousers and you would be sent back to the dorm to change and when you came back,you went to the back of the queue.Then there was always that myth of theparaffin in the food, to keep our raging testosterone in check. Which really didn’t help because we would all lewdly ogle at the then cateress as she passed by; a hundred hungry eyes, following the backside of the poor lady. Madness. You would dress a treestump in a dress and we would stare longingly at it.
But, of all the things, the one that has remained with me since was our school bells, specifically one of them.
There was the electric bell that marked the change of class periods. There was the dining hall bell that marked the meals and there was this one bell, made from an old railway metal, that marked the dawn and evening preps.
This bell was the devil’s bell. It hang from alarge tree that stood defiantly between Stansfeld and Briton dormitories.
Also if you heard this bell ring any other time other than these two times there was a major announcement and we would all
quickly converge at the assembly in the hope that our principal would all send us home for a break. (Right. Never happened).
Mornings were the most troubling and anguishing times for me as a student. After night preps, it would be lights off at 10 pm
and only the “cops” (prefects) were allowed to be walking around after the lights were switched off. It was more like a curfew period. The cops would walk around looking for unslept beds, illicit reading dens where brainies would hide, burning the midnight oil or smokers. I would barely have my head on the pillow before this bell went off at exactly 5 am. It was very loud. It was haunting and vexing and the damned bellboy would hit it many times it would yank you out of the deepest dream, jarr your soul and fill your heart with such loath and bitterness at the education system and life generally. I can still hear boys jumping off their metallic double-decked beds, bare feet landing on the cold floors with a thud, metal boxes opening and shutting, boys clearing their sinuses, sweaters being pulled over heads, the House Senior Boy, an enthusedthird former who had been awake for an hour, coffee raging in his veins, standing at the end of the long corridor shouting,
“Hurry up!” and zombies silently shuffling out of the dorms, with toothbrushes stuck in their mouths headed to converge at the outside urinals where boys, in that freezing cold, expelled thousands of litres of urea under the dark frozen night. Nobody spoke. Maybe a cough. Most difficult time of my life. I hated that bell. But seemingly it wasn’t just me because during my year, someone stole the metallic rod the bellboy used to use. I suppose the cops rounded up a few errant suspects and waterboarded them until they revealed its whereabouts. That guy will always remain my hero. Of course on mornings that you did not feel like waking up, you would feign sickness. After everybody had gone for the preps the cop on duty would do an inspection around dorms to see who was sleeping in. You better had a sick chit from the dispensary! I don’t know about now but our prefects were ruthless. They were law unto themselves. A prefect was like an American cop: you crossed one, you got into an exchange with one, you disrespected one, they would all come for you and they always came at midnight like the Gestapo. You would be woken up roughly at 3 am with flashlights in your face and about 20 cops looking down at you, pulling you out of bed and frogmarching you to what was called the Prefect’s Room, an ominous brick house in the woods behind the classrooms. There, they would have you stand in the middle of the room and with lights off and only flashlights on you, they would beat you up. Cops were just scum. To date, I cannot sleep after 6 am because of that bell. Even on nights that I sleep at 3 am, but at 6 am I will be up. That bell reconditioned my system and my life and it’s the one thing that has followed me like a shadow from high school. Sometimes I hear it from the darkest recesses of my mind, a haunting loathsome sound cutting through 20 years of time. It’s nostalgic. But I cling onto it, the last shred of my adolescence that
I don’t want to let go.
The other day, an old boy tagged me on a Facebook picture we took when we were in Form Four; we looked like chaps who had barely escaped a concentration camp; haggard, thick wooly hair, lean faces, uniform that clung desperately on our bodies, long skinny adolescence limbs, determined looks. Only our eyes defied our body language.
They were alive with hope and dreams. We were at the finish line of a rough run and we had persevered and triumphed. We were going to be just fine.
We were boys that had already been changed by, among other things we are grateful for, the ruthlessness of that evil bell
that unbeknownst to us, was the soundtrack that marked discipline.
Long live Maseno School and its old boys.