“I hope I look okay for my first day in my new school.” Karanja thought as he looked at himself again in the mirror. He checked again to make sure that he was looking okay.
“I hope they like me!” He thought aloud as he checked his appearance again. He was scared of going to a new school.
Karanja was 10 years old. A short, brown boy with curly hair who was in Std. 4. He was a very nice, obedient boy who was very social and he loved to talk and make friends. He was a boy who had grown up in the rural areas but he was to go to a new school in the city because his father had been transferred there.
On this particular day, he looked good in his white shirt, grey shorts, blue tie, a blue sweater and grey socks with blue and red strips. His hair had been combed and he looked very nice and tidy in his new uniform.
“Karanja, Karanja! It’s time to go.” His mother called out to him in Kikuyu. He hurriedly took his bag and rushed out of the house. He entered into the car and they drove off to his new school.
Karanja’s father escorted him to the headmaster’s office. When his father wanted to leave Karanja was afraid to be left alone in a strange place. He held his father’s hand so that he would not leave him.
The headmaster seeing that Karanja was frightened told him, “it’s okay. The children here are nice. Please wait here while I go look for your teacher.” He left the office with Karanja’s father.
Karanja sat in the office looking at the pictures on the wall and wondering whether he would get along with his new schoolmates. He thought aloud, “I know that I will be okay. I know that they will like me.” He tried to reassure himself but he was not sure. He had been told that the children in the city were very rude and that they talked back to their parents. ‘I hope these children are not rude,’ he thought as he waited.
Then the headmaster came back into his office with a beautiful lady. She smiled at him and said, “good morning. My name is Mrs. Nyambura. You must be Karanja. Come with me and I will take you to your class.”
Karanja was happy. His new teacher was so nice. She took him into a class at the end of the corridor of a large brick building. She told him, “this will be your class so remember the way we came so that you do not get lost.” She looked at him to see whether he understood and he nodded.
She opened the door to the classroom and entered. Karanja followed her in. “Class, we have a new student.” She said, “tell us your name and where you’re from?”
“My name is Karanja. Hi come from the virange of Kirika and hi am preased to be here!” He had not even finished what he had to say when the students burst out into laughter. Karanja wondered what was so funny. Mrs. Nyambura told the children to stop laughing at him and told him to sit on the chair near her desk.
She then told the students. “Today we are going to read some stories. Who will read for us?” Karanja who loved to read raised his hand. She pointed at him and he stood up to read. Somehow when he was reading the children were laughing. He could not read properly because he did not know why they were laughing and he ended up making mistakes when reading which made the children laugh even more.
Later on, Karanja was told that he did what city kids called “shrubbing”. In the city, it was considered very funny if you spoke with an accent of your mother tongue. The city kids did not have their mother tongue accents because they spoke English most of the time. Most of them could not even speak their mother tongue. Karanja did not know it but he pronounced his L’s as R’s and his R’s as L’s. This amused the children very much.
After that Karanja was afraid to talk because he thought that the children were laughing because they did not like him.
At breaktime, he went outside to eat his break. Then, some three big boys from his class came to him and asked him what he had for break. Karanja thought that they were trying to be friendly so he asked, “hi have some sweet potatoes. Do you want some?”
The boys laughed and took his plastic paper bag with the potatoes and removed the sweet potatoes. One of them called Mwangi called out to the other students, “look at what the mshamba has carried. Sweet potatoes for break! I wonder what he has carried for lunch? It’s probably githeri. Let’s go check!”
Before they went, the boys threw the sweet potato pieces down and stepped on them. They went to his bag and threw out his new books onto the floor. They found a lunchbox at the side of his bad and took it out.
“Prease give me back my ruchbox,” Karanja said. The boys laughed and Kamau the biggest of the boys opened it and said to the other students in the classroom. “Look what the mshamba has carried. Ugali and sukuma wiki.” He threw the opened lunch box into the bag as he heard their teacher coming back.
Karanja was hurt. He wanted to cry. What had he done to the boys to make them hate him so much and treat him this way? He wanted to run out of the class and never come back. Karanja knew that if he cried the children would laugh again because boys were not supposed to cry. He sat in the class feeling so alone and he could not even concentrate on maths, which was his favourite subject.
The whole of that week Karanja had no peace. The bullies would keep asking him where he was from and told him he should go back there. They said that he should go back to the shamba because he was too stupid to be in school. They asked him, “do your friends in the village talk badly like you? What did you carry today, githeri?”
Karanja felt so alone. No one stood up for him. He knew everyone was laughing at him. He did not understand why the children could be so cruel.
On Friday when Karanja went home his father told him that the next day they would be going to see his grandfather. Karanja was excited. He wanted to get away from the city and back to his old friends who loved him.
At midday the next day, Karanja’s family had reached the village. He went to see his grandfather in his hut. His grandfather looked at him and knew something was wrong. “Grandson, what is making you so sad?”
Karanja told his grandfather how the boys teased him because he was not like them. His grandfather told him to go and play. He told him to come back in the evening with his cousins so that he could tell them a story.
In the evening Karanja went to see his grandfather. His grandfather was sitting outside his hut with a fire warming his weary bones. His grandfather then told him the story.
A long time ago in the village of Rikira there lived a boy called Kinyanjui. When he was very young he had fallen into a hole and hurt his foot. His leg had not healed properly and so he had a limp.
The other children in the village always played together but did not play with him. They told him that he was as slow as a tortoise. They also asked why they should play with him when he couldn’t even run and climb trees.
Kinyanjui used to sit and watch the other children play as he made bows and arrows for the children to use for hunting. it is not that the children hated him but because he was crippled and slow they did not want to play with him.
One day the children decided to go play in the forest. They were not allowed to play there because there was a big ugly ogre that lived there. The Ogre loved to eat human meat especially children’s meat.
On this day the children wanted to pick some juicy mangoes and berries that grew wild in the forest. They were the sweetest, juiciest fruits to be found anywhere in the land. Kinyanjui heard what they were planning and followed them slowly as he usually did. They were walking fast and soon they had left Kinyanjui limping behind as he was trying to catch up with them.
When Kinyanjui reached the bushes just before the path that led to the mango trees, he stopped to rest. His legs were aching from walking, his crippled leg especially. He decided to stop and rest because anyway he could not climb the trees to get the fruit. He would have to wait for the other children to give him some of their fruits in exchange for his arrows and bows.
Kinyanjui looked out to see whether the other children had climbed the trees. What he saw shocked him. The Ogre was coming. The Ogre reached the trees before Kinyanjui could shout to the other children. The Ogre started shaking the trees so that the children would fall out and he would eat them. Kinyanjui could hear the children screaming as they tried to hold onto the branches in the trees where they were.
The Ogre started singing. “I am going to have me some delicious food today. I will bake them, steam them, make them into a soup. Am going to have some meat today. Yum yum children’s meat. Come little children fall off the trees!”
Kinyanjui was scared. He didn’t know what to do. He was too small so he could not make the Ogre leave the children. He wondered whether he should go back to the village to call the villagers but he knew it would take too long. Anyway, his leg could not take any more walking. Then he remembered his bow and arrows. They were in a pouch, which was on his back.
Kinyanjui removed the pouch and then took out a smaller pouch that was tied to his waist. It contained a poison collected from some berries found near the village. He strung his bow and aimed an arrow at the Ogre. He let go of the arrow and it flew in the air and missed. It hit the tree near the Ogre. The Ogre turned and looked for the source of the attack. He started moving towards the bushes where Kinyanjui was.
Kinyanjui started sweating. He had fitted an arrow in the bow but he did not know whether he would hit the Ogre. His hands were shaking and his bad leg was aching.
The Ogre had almost reached the bushes. Kinyanjui aimed the arrow and let it go. It went and struck the Ogre in the eye. The Ogre was still moving towards him. He strung another arrow and it hit the Ogre’s other eye. The Ogre became so angry when it was hit that it gave such a loud roar that could be heard even in the village.
The Ogre started shouting and striking the bushes trying to find him. The Ogre was uprooting bushes as it tried to find Kinyanjui. It could not see because both of its eyes had been blinded by the arrows. Kinyanjui kept firing arrows at the Ogre. The Ogre was bleeding and losing a lot of blood as it thrashed around looking for Kinyanjui.
Kinyanjui was so scared. He knew that if the Ogre caught him he would suffer but he could not move. Just when the Ogre was about to get to where Kinyanjui had hidden, the Ogre fell and died. Kinyanjui let out a sigh of relief.
The other children climbed down from the mango trees quickly. They came to Kinyanjui, hugged him and thanked him. They walked home with Kinyanjui not leaving him behind as they usually did. On the way home, they met the villagers who were coming armed to find out what was going on in the forest when they had seen that the children were missing from their normal playing field.
When the villagers heard what Kinyanjui had done they held a feast in his honour to celebrate his bravery. There was singing and dancing and lots of food. Kinyanjui became a hero and the other children now treated him like one of them. They always waited for Kinyanjui and made sure that they played games that he could participate in.” His grandfather said as he ended the story.
Then he told Karanja, “grandson, do not be ashamed of who you are. It is from the rural areas where the people in the city get their food. It is also not a bad thing to have an accent of your mother tongue. Be proud of who you are and where you’re from. Be proud of your heritage.?”
Karanja was cheered up after hearing this. He resolved not to let the children in his school make him feel bad for talking with an accent. It was not something he could change just as Kinyanjui could not change his bad leg. The children in his new school would have to accept him as he was. The rest of his visit to his grandfather’s home was filled with joy and laughter as he played with his old friends and his cousins.
On Monday he went back to school. In class, the students were told to tell the class what had happened during the weekend. Karanja told the children the story of Kinyanjui that his grandfather had told him. His classmates cheered when they heard how Kinyanjui had overcome. They were also ashamed at the way they had been treating Karanja.
At break time, the three boys were back to bully Karanja. Karanja was surprised when a boy who sat next to him in class told the bullies to leave him alone. The other children also stood up for him and they told the bullies to go away.
The other children came up to Karanja and asked him if he wanted to play with them. Karanja was happy and he smiled. The children had accepted him for who he was.
Copyright Rayhab Gachango 2002
Featured image via antibullyingpro.com.