To understand this post, I will require you to do 3 things before you start reading:
1. Pick a piece of writing paper that you won’t require anymore (or newspaper)
2. Hold it like you hold a cloth when washing and do a mock cloth-washing motion
3. Write down the sound that paper produces
When we joined form one in the early years of the 21st century, the school system was largely in a transitional period. It was coming from the dark days of rotten mistreatment of form ones to one where the juniors would be treated as equal students.
Now, anyone who has been around long enough will understand that transitional periods are equally confused periods. Like with the 2010 constitution, case in point the 2013 general elections where well-read individuals spent sleepless nights deliberating which seat was more beneficial to run for- MCA, MP, governor? No, senator afadhali. No, governor. Can a man run for women rep?
Such was our case in form one. If someone molested you, you were not sure whether it was actually molestation because word around was that ‘monolization’ had been banned in schools. Similarly, the senior students were not sure where elderly authority ended and monolization began. The same problem faced teachers, especially those who had been around in the dark times and to them what was currently happening was just ‘shadow.’
And that is how we ended up being one of the most monolized groups ever! Okay, I was not there in the dark days, and I have heard of cases of death, I am not negating all that. What I mean is, we were the most vulnerable group. While past form ones may have been on alert from the get go, we were made to drop our guard by the promise of changed times and admin protection. Am I even making sense here?
I will not go to the graphic incidences, because they were traumatizing, and also we were taught to forget when we forgive. I forgave all those who did traumatizing acts, so I cannot tell you what they did, because, as you may guess, I forgot. I will instead tell you of one monolization practice that I can look back to and laugh; it was a dire human rights violations no less.
You remember the instructions at the beginning of this story? I will bet you got a sound similar to this one, yes? Good.
Now, if you went to any of the four form one classes at around 8:30 pm two weeks after opening, this sound was likely to greet you at the entrance. If you were keen on your way there, you would have noticed many pages of the day’s newspaper missing from the noticeboard on which they were pinned every day at 4:20 pm.
You have probably joined the dots by now, but in case not, the sound was coming from students trying to make newspapers soft enough for use as tissue paper during the 9 pm short break.
Let me explain.
You see, for many of us who had attended day primary schools, we had no idea how much tissue paper was supposed to last you until the school broke for midterm. Again, our parents were trying to teach us to be thrift, so budget was tight. On top of that, from the same budget, we had to factor in unaccounted costs like writing pads et al. So, by default, your ordinary form one opened school with how many rolls of tissue paper? Right, two. White Tena or Toilex if you were lucky. Blue Maisha if you were facing a severe budget cut, like yours truly often did.
Now, for every form one with two rolls of tissue, there were two seniors who reported with none. And who was to take care of their sanitation needs? Right, this form one. And that is where the monolization came in.
You would be kneeling on your upper deck bed arranging your box at around 4.30 pm after classes (I never understood why form ones always did that) when a random third former would walk up to you and non-chalantly announce, “Mono, TP.” By then, his neck would be stretched that he had a view of everything that was in your box, and there was no way you could flap it closed without trapping his head in. Somehow, we slept on the same bed with our boxes; it didn’t matter how tall you were. People like Josiah Langi had a really tough time.
Not understanding if this was mistreatment or brotherly co-existence, you would pick your toilex roll, with 1001 thoughts going through your mind, roll out 1…2…3…4…5 boxes and hand to your unwelcome visitor.
The third former would then shoot you an insulted look and pose, with utmost entitlement, “Mono, did you just hand me five boxes of TP? Do I look like my hobby is holding shit?” Of course by now you would be on the very verge of peeing on your pants, overcome by fear. If you were lucky, he would order you to add more. If he was that authority-yielding type, he would snatch the entire roll and do one of two things, which were equally devastating.
One, he might disappear with the whole role, leaving you with a rude announcement “You go use those five boxes you wanted me to use.” Or, sarcastically, “This now belongs to us. When you need it, come get some from me.” Like you could even dare, in the very unlikely event you knew where he slept.
Or he would order you to get on the floor. He would then take you to an open space and announce, “What you catch is what belongs to you,” before setting the roll out rolling in the direction opposite where you were standing. You, the teary helpless mono, would set out after the rolling dear Toilex as fast as you valued a decent shit, looking like a clown all the while. It was a double loss, because if you managed to catch up with the depleted tissue, there was a high chance of returning to find your box, which you probably did not lock when you were ordered down, ransacked.
Both ways, you would just sit there, with so much pain inside, wondering what to make of it. Is it really worth reporting a tissue paper incident to the authority? Probably not. And fighting a senior was out of question. Totally.
Only one thing would you be sure of at that moment. You had effectively been condemned to the Ghushghushghushghush Movement.
Oh, and you were also sure you wanted nothing more to do with that school. Then you would start thinking of how to execute an exit. Write a letter home? Too bureaucratic a process. Feign sickness and ask for a leave-out? The school nurse will probably have killed you with painkillers before she lets you out.
What now? Escape? Yes, brilliant! Tonight!
I know the practice would be maddening to many parents, but the reason I am saying I can look back at and laugh –and the reason I am writing this- is because I just realized there is no tissue in this house and outside it’s raining like what is this. No, I know about planning, but I had unexpected guestS- emphasis S- and…ah, you get. I am contemplating old survival tactics, but I am telling myself no! That was the past, you are no longer the you you were then. Okay, but if push comes to shove, (haha) gazeti ni ya kufunga nyama, ama ghushghushghushghush.