The merciless beatings, heavy and brutal punishments, lack of enough food and clean water, floods, bedbug infested dormitories and the little space that has to be shared among the seventy of them in the form of a classroom. He vividly describes these experiences and as each word that is uttered amidst sobs falls on my ears,my heart literally drops. I can’t imagine how survival works in areas such as these but they have to go through it day in, day out. I think sometimes they just wait for someone to pass out and say I quit. But this are the crème de la crème. They wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of breaking them! They are broken already on the inside and quit every goddamn day just that they never said it out loud. But here he is. A child that was born and introduced to a life that wasn’t filled with as many struggles. He had studied in private schools all his life until now. Going to bed hungry, being unknown to teachers and fellow students, not given the recognition and attention these things just aren’t what he knows and they feel so new to him. Back then it was a class of just thirty students tops. He was once a class monitor, a councillor, then a sanitation Secretary before he graduated to headboy. What the seniors and teachers ate is what he ate too; good and tasty food. He slept in a isolated cube and was regarded with awe. Every Tom, Dick and Harry knew him. He was a “celeb” like that.
Here? No one gives a damn. No one wants to know who the hell you are. They’re all there for one reason and one reason alone; to succeed and join the best universities in the world. A teacher won’t recognize you if you don’t get good grades. If you don’t sit at the very front of the class and keep screwing over your mathematics problems, they won’t even know whether or not you’re good at it. They won’t look your way if you aren’t the kid that asks and answers questions in class. Maybe if you dozz off during their lesson and they gotta thwack you to pay attention and stop wasting their precious time. The staff at the cafeteria won’t bother to know who you are. Why should they? If you’re not among those people that make the loudest noises at the canteen and yell for more food each time, you’re as good as non-existent. He can’t chew on a plate of dried sardines. He doesn’t know how to swallow them with their small sharp bones that keep injuring his oesophagus each time he tries. Ugali isn’t one of his favourite dishes. Where is some fried chicken and fries?! Clothes are stolen. It doesn’t matter if the shirt or short fits, if you wash and hang them on the hanging lines and wait for them to dry, you might wait forever because they’ll be long gone. For goodness sake, this poor child doesn’t know what stealing means. I mean he was taught about it here and there, read it in the ten commandments but he’s now beginning to comprehend what a cruel verb it truly is.
His past conditioning is to blame for every time that little feeling of oppression bubbles up in his tiny body frame. He’s never been equal to anybody but is now subject to equality.
The titles have been scrapped off, badges taken down and shoes laced up. Privileges are earned here. Never about who you know but what you know and how you make your way to the top. I’m telling him that he now needs to be an astute student. That he should study assiduously. With every pain and annoyance, he’s going to take it and with a smile on his face. And one day he’ll be an icon. His testimony will encapsulate all the experiences he’s undergoing now and will give an answer to life’s most vexing question; how did you cope?! And on those days when grass will be greener, he’ll use this to attempt to resolve acute tensions that others will feel in their own lives.