MWALIMU ONE-JIRU

Kesho the class starts at 9am, try to come in at least at 10am’ the receptionist said as if with knowledge of my deranged sleeping patterns….

I don’t know why time can’t keep me. It’s been a tough couple of years but I thought we could try and be friends; mutual coexistence. It could throw in a few minutes when the alarm rings, or when I am trying to pick clothes to wear, or when I’m late for a meeting and I am on Lang’ata road, or when I’m in a boring class, or when its Sunday and I am reluctant to have another Monday in my life. Now it just wants to be the bitter ex for no reason.

I bet it dated Marylin Monhoe and got hurt like JFK, going round the clock punishing us for what she did. I’m not Mary; I don’t even have friends called Mary. The only Mary I know was Jesus’ mother and she is a saint, no relation to Kanye. But to be fair if I was going to meet the ‘Kupe’ guys I promise I would calculate the number of longitudes multiply by 15. I would use pie, square root, I would incorporate differentiation, I would not only be on time, I would literally catch them recording that same video they were shooting. Comment-allez vous messieurs?Qui est seul? (How are you doing gentlemen? Are you lonely?)

It’s a little bit past 10am and the road leading to town is heavy with traffic. The greengrocers have already jam-packed the whole of Kware market despite it being rampaged two weeks earlier. You can barely walk on the sidewalk without a boda brushing itself against you leaving paying the vendors.

The driver is making a conversation with his mate from the next car heading in the opposite direction. He was often left by a huge gap by the car in front of us which made some of the passengers infuriated. We all sit in rumbles because mat za ronga ni zii, nobody wanted to be coerced to alight especially with the sun scorching deep into your soul.

When I walked into the first class of driving school, I was somehow oblivious and quite ignorant. It was a few minutes past 11am, a quick surveillance of the room indicated that I was probably the last student to show up and they had already began driving the cars.

There was a huge table in the middle of the class with toys on it and a few chairs stacked together at the back. The class had one light bulb that was still on and a net covering the entrance, I looked around to see if it was one of those shady places where people covered their walls with nets as well. The room was decent and slightly crowded. About thirteen people are surrounding the board, looking rather intently to what I assumed was a game. Was I in the wrong room?

One young man was holding a stick which I presumed he found in the room and decided it’s going to be his companion. People are lonely just not the ones I want. His eyes locked in mine as I made my way from the door. The awkwardness that would never end, I sighed when I found space to sit. I was facing the mwalimu (I learnt after the guy seated next to me whispered) directly from my position. This is going to be the ride of my life. I thought nervously.

Most of the questions were directed at me but I would try and look at the other students in a bid to avoid his eyes, he would thereafter stretch his ‘cane’ and point to me. I argued I was new the first few hours thereafter I resigned to saying I don’t know even when I knew. The toy cars were to help mimic the real time vehicles on the road, and the model town board that they were placed on was to echo Thika roundabout. I couldn’t find my way around his speech flaws and it drove him crazy as he struggled to communicate.


Mwalimu One-jiru
was one of those rare men with female surnames but a male first name. I doubt anyone goes through hardships like these men, I can only imagine how preschool was for him. Kids can be very mean. He had a heavy Kikuyu accent and a huge side gap that made him spit every time he said ‘the’. The spit landed on my forehead once or twice before I bent over backwards when he spoke in length. The stick in his hand was to aid him reach the toy cars when he made demonstrations.

He would take time before arranging the cars on the board, a feeling of anxiousness will envelope the room and then he would pick a student at random to drive it across town. The other students will let out a sigh and wear a face that indicates they knew the answer. His charisma for teaching was refreshing and somewhat overwhelming. But you would come out of class feeling like the cast of Too fast Too Furious Kenya or somehow like a driver of a ronga mat. Something about his authority that made the students who were much older than him respect him and those younger relatable.

The class was slightly out of balance especially for some of the students. Ras, the guy who sat at the edge was the most vocal; he often interrupted mwalimu One-jiru and talked of his side miraa aimlessly. There was Mose, I could tell he was the classroom drunk- he sat right next to me and I could tell of his yester night’s shenanigans from the door, he reeks all kinds of spirits. Evil. Mose was timid, he didn’t particularly like Ras for one reason or the other. He would sneer every time he was asked a question and laugh the loudest when he would get it wrong. I was Malcom in the middle ey?

Peter sat next to the teacher; Mose told me that Peter sat there because he is a kimbelembele.

“Anafikiria akikaa na teacher atamakiwa prefo” he remarked with a heavy load of sarcasm.

Peter had a sly look, he seemed like the kind of person who would steal from you then come to sell you the same item at a higher price. He often admitted to be a car salesperson and also acts as a middleman probably it was to gain favor from the others or in attempt to expand his business. Murei was strange, the one with the eyes that wouldn’t wander. He set his eyes on me from the time I walked in; I did not let out a yawn without a feeling of surveillance washing over me. Mwalimu would hit the board once in a while to startle him and get him out of his delirium.

“At the yerrow cup you are not to aright, pick or stop… craaasss, at the yerrow cup you are not arrowed to….”

A few voices

“pick, alight or to stop”, you could hear 5 voices repeating in unison. Peter leading the choir.

I did not fully subscribe to his teaching methods but then again kira mtu na styro yake. It’s almost 2pm and my head is banging with thoughts in kikuyu accent, Mose’s ‘perfume’ has been a conspiracy theory and my clothes an American with a major in self sabotage, Ras’ extracurricular activities had began revealing themselves and East African Baby(a young lady with slay queen connotations) had rolled her eyes back to her butt enough times. Mwalimu should be preacher. I thought to myself.

The winding up was a little too extensive, I took the register and signed out of the class, I could feel the stares behind me. Soon enough Mose followed suit and found me going down the flight of stairs.

‘Unaisingi wapi nikusindikize ome?’ he asked gleefully

Nilikosea wapi? I thought almost letting out a frown but realized I’ll be seeing him for the next one month.

4 COMMENTS

  1. The subtle way in which you build mental pictures in your readers’ minds about how Nairobi traffic and the matatu menace make the city look so bedridden transport wise and how typical classroom settings are in most of our varsities is a great writing skill you have. I can read this time and again.

  2. The subtle way in which you build mental pictures about Nairobi traffic and the rampant matatu menace that make the city look so bedridden transport-wise and typically how most classes are in our varsities is a great writing skill you have. I can read this time and again

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