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BY: Juma Hemedi

The announcement was made, that we shall be going to the ACK Church for prayers and reflection as we prepared to get our minds ready for the task ahead. A task of studying hard and passing KCPE with "flying colours" (who came up with this statement? The only colours I have ever seen that seemed to pass was the rainbow during the rainy season).

Earlier than that our parents had been called to school to be briefed on what it takes for their children to succeed, and that they should allow us time and space for us to study. We were under pressure to outperform the class eight of the previous year. They had been ranked position three in the district ranking and so many Thika Muslim students had been called to Top ranked high schools, in Nyeri, Kiambu, Nakuru and Nairobi. We had students admitted in Alliance, Starehe boys, Mary hill, Mangu, among others. The tactics of Mr. Kabuka had magical effects and now even Ghetto children were attending top schools and outperforming themselves.

"To be a winner you must be disciplined"
"To be a winner you must be Focused"
"To be a winner you must be Confident"

The authoritative voice of the speaker at the ACK church near Munene Industries continued to drive information in our heads. The man spoke confidently and made us begin to imagine what those words meant.

As he continued speaking my mind drifted to a few months earlier when Mr. Kabuka had combined the class 8Y and 8X and told us that he had dreamt the previous night and wanted to share the dream with us. Okay I must say that all of us looked at each other wondering what kind of dream the headmaster could have had.

You see we also used to dream, most of our dreams were action oriented and featured 'Bud Spencer and Terence hill" the cowboy movies actors of our years as we watched "watoto Kaa chini" at St. Patricks Primary School before the venue moved to "Buutu" (Starehe grounds). If it was not bud Spencer in our dreams it was "Bolo Yeng" the karate guy who once stopped a bullet with his teeth.

We rode horses in our dreams and had cowboy hats as we shot the bad guys and used our "Fist of Fury" and "Tiger Claws" to pull out the heart of the bad guys out of their chest as it continue to beat.

The bad guy would then look at his heart in our hand and make a speech and say some few words to the effect that he has decided to die.

Now what could Mr. Kabukas'dream be about? We silently wondered.

"I had a dream last night" he started. "How many of you want to know what the dream was about?”

For fear of being left behind we all robotically raised our hands and wore our interested and curious faces. A piece of chalk was thrown by the headmaster and landed on Ndungus' face. He quickly opened his eyes he was apparently sleeping. Ndungu was the only guy I knew who would sleep with his eyes open while sitting upright, how he used to do that still remains a wonder to me. Someone needs to study this aspect of human beings.

"I saw in my dream buses that had come to pick students for their destinations," The headmaster continued.

“These buses were to various schools. I saw a bus written Starehe Boys, Mang'u High, Thika High, Alliance high. I saw a bus written Tumutumu Girls, Kahuhia Girls, Loreto Girls. These buses have come to pick students from Thika Muslim. How many of you will be boarding these busses?” He asked.

We all had our hands up.

Then he continued. "But then something sad happened in the dream and I saw faces I could not recognise crying, all buses had picked their passengers and left and these students hadn't been picked. They had not achieved the required marks to board the buses".

"Then I asked myself,  how can we help these students? And I have the answer. We will help each other to work hard and make sure we all board the buses and no one is left behind,” he concluded.

It was the first time we were asked to form study groups. The groups were to help each other in the areas we were weak in.

My group had Lawrence Ochieng, Joel Maina, Benjamin Mungai, Moses Muia, David Kisiaky, Odhiambo and Joseph Kioko.

Kisiaky and kioko were our mathematics guys. Joel and Ochieng were our science guys, Moses, Ochieng, Benjamin Mungai and myself were the languages, arts, business, history and Geography gurus.

The study group would meet daily at 5am Sharp. Most of us would be in class by 4:45am, to study before the other guys come from 6:30am. We would then continue with our group studies from 4pm till 7pm and on Saturdays too. The countdown to KCPE had begun and we had the numbers at the corner of the blackboard to remind us (300 Days to KCPE etc).

"To win you must be decided that you want to win"
"To win you must first win over your mind"

The authoritative and confidence filled voice of the speaker, disrupted my thoughts as I shifted my eyes from the ceiling, a nicely dressed guy wearing a Chinese collar shirt whispered something to the reverend. The reverend nodded and a few minutes later he led the prayers and wished us well in the exams. We were ready to face what KCPE had in store for us.

We were busy that week with "mucaca" sand paper as we cleaned our desks and remove any markings and receiving the success cards with formulas of success. Some read "hard work + determination + Confidence Minus panic = SUCCESS.

Our index numbers were to be visible on the desk and I carefully drew mine .....026.

The police had been deployed to guard us and the exams (we were not sure what they guarded most. Us or the exams). We received briefing during the rehearsal and it was three days of exams that would define which busses we would be boarding as seen in Mr. Kabukas dream.

Zimbo suggested that we treat ourselves to chips at "Kwa Ngishu" that Thursday evening, but the tension for our results had just begun.

It was almost three months of waiting for the results. I returned the cardboard that I had been given by Abdikadir Bashir who had done his KCPE the previous year and had joined Chania High school. He was also my next plot neighbour and friend. The family owned Bismillahi hotel near the mosque.

Juma Hemedi

.... The waiting and the life as a mono...

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