FRANCIS THE YOUNG

I AM BORN

Looking back, this is the best time to tell a story. Let me begin my life with the beginning of my life.  I record that I was born (as I am told and believe) on Saturday 18th January, the year of the Lord, 1992 AD, as vaguely recorded by the chief midwife, Nyina Njeri wa Jehova, as she was popularly known, with some sage women from the neighborhood who had taken a lively interest in me way before my birth.

However, this date is highly contested with my mother [who I believe more than anyone else] saying that it was the early night of Friday 17th. Maybe the women present to rescue her from the cruel test ahead were so much occupied in merry making and ululating and had only remembered to record my birth when the clock had stricken into Saturday or were not good enough to estimate, or they rounded off to the nearest day.  I need say nothing here. After all I am just told.

My dad, who was away on duty, did not see me at child birth as there were no phones those days. My mother did not have a way out to call him home when she realized that she was low in spirit and heavy with me. He only saw me when I had seen the light of the third day.

Francis Profile

Francis the young

Much was said about my life, with most people predicting all sort of achievements under the face of the earth. Whether their predictions were verified or falsified, my history has it that I am still on track. The few who did not say anything in relation to my future had their own reasons not to. And maybe to date they haven’t.

Before I meander more into my present, let me go back to my birth. The blank days of my infancy when it all begun.

I was born in Raya village, the former Laikipia district of Rift Valley, or there by. The district was so much torn with the onslaught of man by man outside. This was during the quest for multi-party democracy. Frequent gunshots were the order of the day with decibels of women screams from a distance as they fought aimlessly with the police and bandits, or militia, who were so determined to take away their husbands to unknown locations. A few who resisted would be butchered mercilessly and be left on the roadside. Cattle rustling was, it still is, the main economic activity.

Frequent visits at night were so rare those days apart from two men, who I remember very well. They were not afraid of the dark, insecurity or wild animals that co-existed well with us during the day and turned wild at night. People said that the two had escaped several attacks and had developed some immunity over it. The two would narrate to us what had happened during the day with much passion and zeal. We would laugh all along as they analyzed what ‘Nyayo’, the then president, had said. They were so gifted in storytelling that today I wish we would retreat to the good old days and sit round the fire to tap the unmatched wisdom from them. I would enjoy it most when they came visiting a little tipsy.


I was named Karua at childbirth. The name I am called even today back in the village. The name is borrowed from my father’s uncle, and consequently a great uncle of me, whose full name is Francis Karua. Since there was a consistent pattern of naming children with their names borrowed from their line of descent, I was baptized Francis and thus my full name. At home, I am commonly referred to as Karua with few calling me Bύranjί as in Phra-jay while others call me Bύranjίthi as in Phra-Jay-Thee.

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Francis the young in Laikipia

Am the third born in my family and though things are no longer the same, I was the most reserved member of the family at childhood. While my brothers, and a sister, would enjoy visiting my grands’ to spend time with my first cousins, I would remain behind and tend my father’s orchard and do some art works in my small gallery [it is no longer there]. If the two were not happening, then I would be lost into another world reading some fairly tales.

 

I GET A CHANCE

I was not privileged to attend a group of school as you can currently find everywhere. In fact, I went to a school that never was. I started my schooling in what I later came to know was an AIC Church hall. Since the benches were too high for us, or we were too short to reach them, we would kneel on the floor while writing.

After successfully graduating from nursery school I joined Raya Primary school under the ‘tender’ care of Madam Jacinta. Here I learn the skills of making a cooking stick which was used to thoroughly beat us. Though one of the brightest pupil in the class, I was one of the most disadvantaged. I was unfortunate to have both the vices of the school boy by being among the shortest and the youngest. This meant that I would not win in most boy’s fights which were the lifestyle. It also meant that I would not participate in most games since I would always be the first to be removed whenever the team was in excess. That might have been the reason why I sadly lost interest if soccer and I have to really force myself follow a 90 min. game which I rarely follow.

 

Though this is where my foundation began, it is also the place that played the role of messing up with the queen’s language with a double measure. I have only come to learn of differences in pronunciations when it was too late to fix the mess that had so much eaten into my stock of the language. In particular, I have come to learn of the difference in sound in ‘l and r’, ‘sh vs ch’, and ‘z vs th’ when the damage had already happened. Though I am slowly being repaid whatever was lost in those days, I have a long way to go.

Birthday celebrations were alien. I only came to hear about them when I joined a private school in class seven. How on earth one would one celebrate days that we had so long left behind and moved on? More important were the days ahead. Nevertheless, I have come to understand the importance of celebrating a birthday. More so when it’s a child’s birthday. I would start adding years using my fingers when asked my age. I had lost an opportunity that would have kept reminding me of my age. Sadly, some of us had to be sent home every beginning of the term to ask our parents when we were born. Not that the schools didn’t have records, but the teachers never bothered or they too were products of the same age.


I joined Nyandarua High school on the 11th of Feb 2008. Unlike in my Primary school where I happen to have been among the youngest and shortest, I was among the first half of relatively tall guys. This is not to mean that I had all the reasons to avenge in reference to my historical injustices. Zero! Brutality, forced unnecessary labor and military rituals, all of us were on the receiving end. Night time turned to be a battle field. Evening came and morning came and the four years came.

I will not dwell much on high school experiences for one reason. It is the place I suffered most in my lifetime. I had to work in hotel involuntarily. Story for another day. In simpler terms, I joined, studied, revised and passed.

EXODUS, THE COLLEGE LIFE

When I joined college in 2013, I had only 154 Kenyan shilling in my pocket. Though I had settled my school fees and had already checked into the dormitory, I still had some deficit to meet. To begin with, I didn’t have bedding and food. I had only carried with me my backpack which only contained my handful clothes, a counter book and some pens. Also with me were three dysfunctional phones [a G-Tide, Tecno and a Nokia].

When HELB loans were released, I was ‘fortunate’ enough to be awarded a zero loan. I became a regular visitor to anniversary towers. I did several reviews but were all rejected. I gave up. I had to begin the hard way.  And God saw me through.

I remember my early campus days with nostalgia. This were the days, together with my other two friends, we would carry sacks of maize from the students residential area to Gikomba market literally looking for millers. Sometimes we were unlucky and would return with our maize to the hostels very disoriented. We were to later discover a miller at Nyamakima area which became our frequent destination. We would carry maize from home and mill it at intervals. Our main diet was Ugali and strong tea. I got used to it and loathed it at the same time to a point that today I can’t stand a cup of strong tea, not with my digestion. In fact, with an alternative, I do not also take Ugali.

I had no option but to study hard and change the narrative. I must thank all my friends and members of my discussion groups for the collegiality of support that they indirectly offered. I owe you big time!

Due to my great performance, a lecturer from my alma mater called one day and told me that I had been nominated to participate in a University Partnership Exchange Program. I had no time to debate within myself. I did not even flesh out any argument on how she knew me and yet she had not taught me. Her offer seemed to be a ready-made alternative to both taking a tour break and studying in a different environment. From visiting Nyamakima to flying. From running away from campus goons to running on the snow. From taking a stogy Ugali and strong tea to taking a round pizza in a square box when I felt like taking it.

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2016

The nine months exchange program at Kalamazoo College, I must say, was both inspirational and a lifetime experience. More in one academic year, more in a lifetime.

I consider myself a lucky kid. I am an extreme example of social mobility that you can find all over the world.  Whether I have achieved what I am meant to achieve or whether that position will be taken by someone else, which I must not allow, I have been able to exorcise the demons of hopelessness. I have surged high and overcame the tides and turbulent of life thus far.

EPILOGUE

I would like to thank all the many folks who have so far made this life meaningful. Special thanks to my family. I salute you! Many thanks to friends, James who is always there to challenge my thinking, the entire Integrity and Decency Forum members for your creativity, wisdom and discipline. Yes! You heard it right, discipline. And to my Koobi Fora companions, Luciey and Liz Kamau, we must at least find where it is this year. We have to see the Lake in the North and the Gabbra people there by.  To my friends who we ride horses together, they say that in riding a horse we borrow freedom, they must trot, canter and ultimately gallop. To John, the other brother that I didn’t have, I must write my history with you at a zero alternative. Finally to as many as these words shall reach, apologies for forgetting what you have specifically done to me. It is a mixture of both coffee and age that has resulted to this.

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Francis the young at the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, Ohio.

Ends….. {This story is extracted from my diary which is growing bigger every day. It will soon spit some content. Some are just snippets. I would have loved to put it all down here but I do not intend to bore more}

 


2018 – 2019

Allow me say that I rarely work with resolutions neither do I evaluate my year in December. However, I have decided to lay down some resolutions this year.

  • I will stick to the 1 book per week commitment and attend the monthly book club
  • Increase the four movies I watched last year to at least six. Hahaha!
  • I will sky dive before the end of the year.
  • Do more games
  • Add some more friends, real friends

……. don‘t ask me about my mistress. I also don’t know her…..

 

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Ending Global Poverty; The Economic freedoms of the other half

As a new day dawn in Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia, people throughout these continents wake up under very different circumstances. Some live in more comfortable homes with more than enough food to eat, at least a car to drive to work and drop kids to schools, imported entertainment gadgets and will in most cases have a higher degree of financial freedom. The other half, which constitutes the majority of the world’s 7.5 billion people, are by far less fortunate. Some live on an average of less than $1 per day with little, or just the required minimum, food for survival to feed on.

In Africa for instance, about 15 million people die every year because of preventable diseases such as malaria, typhoid, malnutrition, etc. Others will die simply because less than a half dollar worth inoculations are too expensive for them.

Majority of the poor from these three continents live in poorly constructed houses with each house being shared by extended family with an average of eight to ten members with every adults required to work for long hours to place food on the table. This might not always be possible.

A good number of children from these regions will not attend school. They will be forced into hard labour to help their parents in acquiring basic necessities. If they do, they do it irregularly and will hardly find any teacher in class. These schools will in most cases lack the basic necessities such as desks and books.

This half will not enjoy economic freedoms which include the ability to make informed choices, ability to appear in public without shame, freedom from servitude, access to quality basic education, access to reliable health clinics, be informed and be able to participate in dialogues and so on…….. They may not have a say or may not even know what they really want.

ARE WE DOING IT RIGHT?

In 1930, John Maynard Keynes, a world known economist wrote a book titled The Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren which was looking into the future of the world economic stability. Keynes suggested that the future of his grandchildren would only be made possible through investment in technology. He was more concerned that throughout history there was no really great change in the standards of living of the average man living in the civilized centre of the earth. Ups and downs, visitation of plagues, famine and war, golden intervals , but no progressive violent change.

It’s eighty seven years down the line and we are left with no option but to question our whole commitment and preparedness to ending global poverty in a world of plenty, we cannot afford not to do it.

We have either chosen to ignore it, run away from it and pretended that all is well when we well know that it isn’t, or we have altogether chosen to move forward and forget about the other half. What we have forgotten is that the destinies of the haves are intrisically linked to the fate of the haves-nothing-at-all.

Every financial year, huge budgets are set aside to fight terrorism and finance our military. Well, while I am not here to suggest otherwise, we should keep in mind that some of the world’s terrorism activities are contributed by the very same condition we are running from, absolute poverty. Aren’t most terrorism attacks done by individuals who have found succor and sanctuary in the most neglected parts of the world? There is rigor to the logic!

POSSIBILITIES FOR OUR TIME

While this column will not suggest what we should do because we all know it, we will continue looking at economic freedoms that the other half does not enjoy and give possible suggestion of what might happen, or has happened.

In so doing, we must think about the future of the other half and ending absolute poverty as our priority. We must think about improving the economic freedoms that majority of the world’s poor lack. We must think about thousands dying daily because they were too poor to survive. We must also think where we are going in a world of abundance and where technology determines who your neighbour is.

Remember as noted earlier in this column, the future of this world will not be solved in boardrooms where delegates coin acronyms with huge paper works towering on the desks. It is smart just to do it now.

 

…….to be continued.