A couple weeks ago, social media in Kenya was abuzz with a video circulating. It showed an outdoor school assembly setting and a teacher (probably the headmaster) calling out the names of undisciplined children. There were various categories of indiscipline and as the names were read out, the students were to step forward and kneel down on the ground where they were pointed to.
A smart, confident nine-year-old girl seemed to be called out in every list of offenders so we watched in amusement as she went (with a bounce in her step) from one side of the ‘kneeling area’ (if I may) to the next. The kids were to kneel in their designated categories and Bridget Bema’s name was announced each time.
By the end of the video, I think all of us managed to laugh. Many, like myself, identified with her, even. I recall being in trouble in high school for all sorts of reasons. The stupidest, pettiest things would land me into trouble, and now that I look back, I often think that I got picked on for no good reason at all.
I have never hidden the fact how high school was a horrid experience for me where the headmistress and many of the teachers were concerned. I left that school with a bond to only a handful of teachers whom I’m delighted to meet even today and attribute my success to them. The rest can jump off cliffs without parachutes if that’s their calling. I’m not interested.
I used to bite my nails until I was in college. I’d be stopped in assembly for that. As if I was the only nail-biter in the whole school. Then, it would be my skirt. It’s too short, they would say. A box-pleat skirt reaching mid-shin was considered long while many fashionistas of the school got away with tight-fitted skirts that had inappropriate slits at the back.
If I laughed too loudly, I was shushed. If the head girl’s exercise books went missing, it was me who was called to the office and thoroughly searched and humiliated. Oh, I know very well who took those books but I’ve kept quiet all these years. Then, I get called on assembly stage to be told off in front of the whole school because I giggled once, and then to make a point, that headmistress slapped me in front of the entire school. I hated high school because of that horrid woman.
There was never any counselling offered, and her solution to everything was to call my parents each time. I am SO GLAD that my mother always took the time to listen to me. She would also make sure I was given a chance to say my piece in front of the wicked woman and then would ask the logic in being called in over and again over petty matters. Once the headmistress figured out that my mother wasn’t going to be humiliated by her, and neither was my mother going to slap me or tell me off, she changed tactics. She would ensure I was constantly in detention. I didn’t mind. It gave me enough time to finish my homework in school.
When this ‘punishment’ didn’t kill my spirit, she personally asked for my third form exam papers and deducted marks from them so that I would have to repeat a class and not be promoted to Form 4. Whom could we have reported to or complained to all those years back? No one ever listened. You had to be extremely rich or influential to have a voice.
My parents did what they felt was best at that time and packed me off to the United Kingdom where I thrived in studies and did way above average. Her parting words to me were that she was sure I’d get married at eighteen and have three kids by the time I was twenty-one because I would never amount to anything. Turns out I wasn’t stupid after all. She was just a sad, vindictive woman who took her anger issues out on not just me but a whole lot of other students too.
I know for sure that if a teacher has it in for you for whatever darn reason, you’re going to be made to suffer for as long as you are in that school. I’m so glad that these days schools and management are more open with parental communication, they encourage the parents to be a part of their child’s processes and are always duly informed and kept in the know. Communication is so beautiful these days!
So, coming back to Bridget, I really identified with her. We all have a bit of Bridget Bema in us. Let us be. We mean no harm. It’s who we are. Don’t punish us for being expressive, fun-loving or outgoing.
You can check out Bridget’s Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/bridgetbema_ke/
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