More Than Just Bundles

*Alan Shadowrine*

It is six o’clock, another long day of the week has just come unwelcomed. Or maybe I am the one who intruded the day without its permission. Either way, I know I have to live through it because apparently, I don’t get to decide. It is cold outside these blankets and I really hate walking out of them. Sometimes, I just wish that time can stop moments before dawn so I can sleep in a little bit more. I normally don’t set an alarm to wake me up. Not because I don’t have to be in an office by 8, but because my mother was raised up by a mother who would not wake you up after 7. A bucket of water or even a piece of burning firewood would make you jump out of the bed without a word.

My mother usually leaves a quarter to 8. Her philosophy dictates that she can not wake up early because she will spend her day working unlike her kids. That automatically assigns me the duty to wake up and prepare breakfast. Which I don’t complain too much because once in a while, I cook myself an egg and wash the pan before the scent of burning eggs wakes up my little sister.

A month ago, I found an old radio in the store. It is the type with semi-circular ends, can play cassettes, and has a plastic handle so you can carry it like a briefcase. I hear it was the most valuable asset a family could own back when people would queue behind whoever they wanted to vote in. When I plugged it in to power, it snored a few days before it discovered I was not going to take it to Juma; the guy who doctors broken radios. So now I listen to Rose Muhando’s cassette before waking up.

My mother too has an old stereo system that she barely lets anyone touch. However, unlike me, she tunes in to some local radio station before waking up and listens to whatever is going on; whether it’s a political debate or a religious sermon. Waking up six days consecutively to make breakfast is just as much fun as it is to be a democrat at Trump’s rally.

When I don’t want to wake up, I usually change from Rose Muhando to Jose Chameleon and raise the volume to a staggering 57 – which turns off mum and makes her comes around my door threatening to cut off electricity in my room. It’s partly good because she goes ahead and makes breakfast because she insists once you get out to the cold, there is no going back. But that doesn’t always happen. Mostly, she turns the stereo’s volume higher than mine. That’s when I know my charm doesn’t work and gets up to cook myself an egg I never laid.

Before my mum leaves, she pulls out a master list of the things she needs done before the end of the day. The chicks are to be fed a certain amount of food and water. Some medicine is to be diluted in the water with certain specifications. The medicine itself is usually somewhere in the store, somewhere hard to describe in a few words. Naomi the sheep and her baby ram Kaishu are to be pegged somewhere where the grass doesn’t grow and so I will have to find some Napier or weed for them if questions are to be evaded in the evening. Like why the abdomen of the sheep is too hollow. Luckily, we sold our cow or otherwise I would be cleaning it’s house or the dung it shitted inside the water drum before lunch time.

There is also a house to clean now that my baby sister makes cars from mud and madly rides them in the house. When she rides them outside the house, an accident always happens. A chicken escapes with a blind eye or a broken leg. Like yesterday, she rode on the ram screaming something like she was having fun on some SGR before they all collapsed on the kennel’s door. She bruised her forehead (it is not that big) and the baby ram run to suckle right away. This means that fixing the door will be part of today’s work, and of course looking after a sibling with boiling blood and adventurous spirits. Sometimes when she plays, a water trough is burnt and/or a shoe is flashed down the toilet. She drinks a drop of tea with three cups which adds up to the utensils I need to clean before it is said that I am lazy and patronizing.

Sadly, two elephants thought our farm with its pumpkins is a good tourist attraction site and paid a visit last night. I will be fixing the fence they walked over too, of course, it is what a responsible kid does.

Mum’s list often comes with A.O.Bs. For today, she asked me to go get some charcoal so we can roast some maize before I sleep to wake up to another of her master lists. I will not mention what I have to do to the deep trails left behind by the elephants, apparently the biggest mammals. Or the ready beans that needs to be harvested before they dry up. Or the water tap that is blocked and needs to be fixed. Or the bananas that need to be propped. I will not mention the kales that need to be weeded for, the seedbed I am to prepare, the lunch I have to cook for myself and a separate one for my baby sister.

But then I still have my online classes to attend even though they did not appear in my chores’ master list. There is one class at 11 and its brother at 3 p.m. I have a cat in a day and the e-learning failed to respond to my email when I notified them my portal was not working. When I am lucky to have my Itel loaded with charge, I bump into the class even when all I see are just stars and pdfs. It doesn’t last long before a chicken loses its eyesight and my baby sister is crying like the rich man in Hades. Or before I remember I have not done a quarter of the master list and the familiar whistle of my mother’s homecoming rings in my mind.

Once, long before I could be assigned any duties, my father told me that a real man never abandons responsibility. So, I guess I will do what I got to and online classes can attend themselves.

Don’t take it wrongly, I mean, it is a good initiative for a school that embraces technology. Yet, even with 10 GB resting in my phone, it needs more than that to attend the class and concentrate. Especially when you are in the village, in charge, and with parents who take you for a genius because you don’t go around impregnating teenage girls. And that is my case, we all have our cases. Maybe your cellphone has many buttons but no browser. Or your dad teaches you how to hold a jembe the whole day. Maybe you are working with the Kazi Mitaani Initiative. Or maybe soccer kidnapped all the interest you ever had for online classes.

For some, to make the best of this online schooling, we will need more than a miracle. Same way some churches will need a miracle to survive the virus. In the meantime, through a text from the secretary circulated to whatsapp groups, classes should continue taking place as usual even when data bundles have not been recharged.

The school is perhaps taking a train to Safaricom’s headquarter to secure students the second batch. I hear the secretary to the student’s body asked class reps not to send links to online classes in the whats app groups. Maybe he is not aware that the school asked for individual emails to each student can’t get the links sent to them individually. Or when was divide and rule better?

Anyway, I already hear sounds of some breaking dishes. I guess my baby sister is learning engineering materials with them. Or maybe, she misses playing at school with other kids. Can the school fix this? I guess not, after all, you cannot fix what you don’t think is broken. Can you?


Author Allan

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