Lend an ear to my plea

Adan Mahad is a class eight student and prefect at Madogashe Primary School in Kenya. [Osman Osman / Sahan Journal]

Adan Mahad at Madogashe Primary School in Kenya. [Osman Mohamed Osman / Sahan Journal]

Adan Mahad is a class eight student and prefect at Madogashe Primary School in north-eastern Kenya. In a few weeks, he’ll sit for the primary national examination called KCPE. Is he ready for it? Here’s his story.

Enough is enough. The past five weeks have been the hardest time of my life. Imagine walking 10 kilometers a day to go to school only to find locked classrooms without notice. Imagine the pain of an examination candidate in a region that has been constantly overlooked by successive governments. The worst part is that you have no clue when students will step back into class – if they ever will.

I am counting days before I sit my final exams for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) but, folks, I feel like detachment from school is too wide for me to pen those exams.

I feel like I have seen it all; everything that an 18-year-old like me does not deserve to go through. Allow me to digress a bit so that you can have a sense of what I am going through. Perhaps you can feel it and create an image out of it.

My name is Adan Mahad. I was born and bred in Madogashe in Garissa County, Kenya. I can bet many of you have no idea of the existence of such a place. Well, it exists and I am proud to be among the villagers who have their origin in this part of my semi-arid county.

I come from a nomadic family where looking after livestock is the order of the day. Here, one is judged by the number of livestock he owns – mainly camels. If you own a good number of them, you automatically become a village elder or settle for the title “rich man” in the village.

Sadly, we are not close to those incumbent village titles. I come from a very poor family. We are so poor that you cannot define us as “a dollar a day” type of family because that would be a lie – a lie that I would never forgive you for. We live by the grace of Allah.

I am raised by a single parent. My mother passed away many moons ago and my father had to remarry to extend his “empire” and fill the world.

I have 13 siblings in total. My younger sister and I are the only ones who have been blessed with the privilege of stepping into a classroom. The rest of my siblings have been assigned domestic chores. Well, that is much better than idly staring at each other. The majority of them are assigned to staring at their domestic riches.

My father is largely absent, herding our little skinny goats that survived a severe and protracted famine that nearly impoverished them. He looks after them with all zeal because they are the only hope in the family. This means that he is seen once in a coon’s age.

My daily routine as a final-year primary school student is thick enough to write an award-winning biography. It starts at 5 a.m. I wake up my younger siblings, my nieces and nephews for the morning prayer.

Since my father is largely absent, I am compelled by circumstances to assume parental responsibilities. I am the “mini alpha and omega” of the family. Our ties with religion are so tight that no one can ever try to alienate them from us, even my teachers.

After that, I proceed to look for my torn school uniform. Half of my school short has patches of different colours. It often looks like a rainbow’s shadow. My uniform is so torn that one would confuse me with a beggar walking around wishing that someone sympathises with me.

Water is scarce at home, hence taking a shower is never a priority. There are bigger problems at hand. Showering is not one of them. But at least during the weekend, if the opportunity to go to the river comes calling, I dive into the same dam that quenches the thirst of cattle and human beings.

I then start my 10-kilometer journey to school. I find my way there with the company of chirping birds making music and creating the impression of an orchestra.

The birds have better lives than my family and I. My walk to school and back home is a long one – 10 kilometers to school, that is, 20 kilometers a day. I wonder where javelin thrower Julius Yego, the reigning Commonwealth champion and African record holder, is. I am not on YouTube but instead, forced by circumstances, perhaps I could win the country a medal in race walking, a sport we seldom try.

My long walk to school is for the sole purpose of attaining education, giving a light to myself and my kinsmen. Sometimes I achieve it with an empty stomach. You can imagine my feelings by the time I sit on my old wooden desk in class trying to understand mathematics formulae taught by a rude instructor. My body feels emaciated and the rattling worms inside my stomach will not let me give an ear to my loyal teachers, but I try.

Now, the classrooms are empty and closed. Five weeks later, our teachers have laid down their aggressive strike tools and decided to hold their chalks and continue teaching. They have been shouting, “No cheques, no chalks,” demanding a pay hike, which I support fully. The Kenyan government has lost its sense of priority by ignoring important issues. During U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the country in July, he emphasized the importance of weeding out corruption as a strategy to boost development. I thought things would change but the script is still the same, and all this comes with a price.

I am fighting to be the champion of our homestead-cum-village.

I want to pass my exams and get a scholarship to one of Kenya’s leading national institutions, Alliance High School, and be an engineer sometime in the future. Because with my father’s meager wealth, raising secondary school fees would be a tall order for him.

As for now, my dreams are rather blurry as my final primary school exams draw near. But I am confident that I will make Madogashe Primary School, my school, proud of me.

At my age, I am supposed to be completing high school. The road to this stage has been rough and bumpy but I am not planning to give up anytime soon.

I have the option of quitting and following my father’s footsteps. It is very easy but I cannot and I am not planning to do so anytime soon.

Now, the only thing that will save me from cutting my ties with my classroom is the presence of teachers in the classroom. I am hoping against all odds, praying that someone is watching all this and will soon bring a lasting solution to end the tribulations of young, ambitious children like me.

Osman Mohamed Osman is a freelance writer and a journalism student at the United States International University – Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow hom on Twitter @OsmanMOsman_

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