She sat down at the chai shop in Kosirai, Nandi. After completing her form four with a moderate grade, her parents were unable to send her to college. The nearest college is in Eldoret town, and it is about 50 kilometers South West. Mount Kenya University opened its offices in Eldoret but they charge an arm and a leg. Even if she had enrolled in the university, it meant that she would have to stay in town in a shack costing 5 thousand shillings. Then the expense of buying a bed, pots and pans, cups and the daily living expenses would not be practical for her parents.
Her parents depend upon the annual maize harvest, and this year, the crop did not do too well. It is the same story for another friend of hers from Khumusalaba, a small town mid-road between Kisumu and Kakamega. I love the place! Beautiful. For a while, the parents were rejoicing that the government was going to open the sugar factory. It used to shine during the time of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Parents from around these neighborhoods used to grow sugar cane for the sugar factory. But cartels have taken over the sugar market and the authorities cant get their story straight as to who is what in the sugar industry. The parents gave up sugar cane and now grow bananas. It is the same story for parents of another friend of hers in Kerogoya. They gave up on growing coffee during the time of President Moi and decided to grow bananas.
At least the girl from Kerogoya’s parents happen to be on the right side of the republic where businessmen purchase their farm products and transport them via Nyeri town to Nairobi, via Thika. Even with her parent’s sale of bananas, the money was not enough to get her to college. You see, these girls have to depend sorely on their parents for school fees and other expenses. The only viable business employing a consistent number of young people is Nairobi Java House. With their coffee houses stretching from Nairobi, to Mombasa, they can hire young people. But they are not FEMA; therefore their efforts are not endless.
As she sat at the chai shop, she noticed a standard newspaper left by a local businessman who had stopped in Kosirai on the way to pick maize in Kapsabet to deliver to Eldoret. She turned to the opinion page and read the column by Makau Mutua: The Myopic nonsense writer from the standard who pens his short sighted venom regularly to the elite Kenyans sitting in their offices in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu and other “major” cities in the republic. “Can you believe this guy?” She asks her boyfriend who also left high school two years ago. He hangs around the village town with his idle buddies. The boyfriend picks the standard and begins to vent.
You see, Makau Mutua lives in Nairobi, probably in a house with electric power, running water, a Samsung Gas cooker powered by a 15-pound gas tank from a total petrol station. The gas costs over 2000 shillings but that is peanut for these elites who have forgotten that their mothers in the village walk around the roadside picking sticks to cook their husbands’ evening meal. I still see these women carrying wet firewood in my village, the same way my sisters carried firewood in the late 70s. In the article, Makau suggests that mothers in the village without any means of income should use gas cookers! He argues that Charity Ngiru’s burn on charcoal was the greatest fire anybody could start.
The rains are going but for the last few months, mothers without any means of income had to go to the forest to get wet firewood to make uji for their children. Then they send them to school with the belief that education in Kenya holds the same value as it did in the 80s when I left the Kenya Polytechnic with an accounting diploma. Makau and the other blind shepherds guiding Kenya are so isolated from the life of the village female that they think the women in Kosirai, Kingangop, and Khumusalaba can afford a 2600 shillings gas tank to fuel a 30,000 shillings Samsung cooker. What cooker?
Even the so called middle class living in Nyayo estate in Nairobi have to buy 100 shillings of ‘mukebe wa makaa’ from the shack outside the gates to make a meal for their ‘modern’ husbands and children who have to squeeze through a noisy matatu to go to school and work, mid month, until the government check comes at the end of the month. At least the first week they can fuel their loan car of which the bank charges up of 20% Interest! The rest of the month, it’s MATATU!
The boyfriend in the Kosirai chai shop is right to reflect, “I wonder what Jesus would say if when walking in the streets of Kenya picked up the Standard newspaper? Would he not use the same words he used over 2000 years ago, ‘all ye hypocrites! Can the blind lead the Blind?” The girl friend responds, “They should just SHUT UP”
At least the village female can still get husbands and are fertile enough to give birth!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (Ph.D)
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist