Editor’s Choice

Old Boy’s Reunion: The 12 surprising types of former school mates

Those dying to attend Reunions are mostly out to preen their success in life, desire genuine bonding or are curious how others turned out  

The Prince: President Uhuru Kenyatta tours his old school, St Mary’s Nairobi, during its 80th anniversary in October 2019. ‘Saints’ produced many illustrious sons including television anchor Jeff Koinange (far right). Uhuru appointed former school mates into key positions. Like Njee Muturi, former Solicitor General and the late Bruce Odhiambo, chair of the Youth Fund.

By GW Ngari

Editor-at-Large

@UndercoverKe

You must have once hooked up with former school mates for an Old Boy’s Reunion starring assorted roast goat ribs, drinks and that venue which took ages for all to agree on. You might have noticed that several things precede such events. First, a WhatsApp group is formed. Some old boys-mostly those perceiving themselves as doing badly in life- quickly ‘left’ in the dead of night.

Those who remain choose a chairperson, mostly the guy who formed the group with majority of members being his former classmates in Form 4 C for ‘Conquerors’.

 You will also notice there are fewer members from Form 4 B for ‘Bulldozers’ and no one knows where ‘Sodium’, the school bully disappeared to a dozen years after clearing high school.

Boys from Form 4 S for ‘Sky Rider’ don’t seem to have a say and get lost in “the spiral of silence” in the group. But those from Form 4 T for ‘Terror’ always appear to derail the Reunion agenda with forwards, silly sexual jokes and memories of which boys bedded the school nurse who had to later treat them for kaswende. But most former students seem to have kept yellowing pictures from school trips which fire the group with banter of how the Head Boy who used to comb his afro for 30 minutes now has a shiny kipara.

Finally, the Reunion is set with a tentative budget and venue. Some avoid attendance. Mostly the divorced, the separated and the bachelors still holing up at the SQ next to their mother’s bedroom. Those who lost jobs, whose biashara’s collapsed or were jailed following highly publicized crimes also avoid Reunions for obvious reasons. Then there those who will never make it from their current positions at the cemetery. Like the one who was stabbed over a campus girl. Or the other whose wife left and he drunk his liver to the grave.

The dear departed and those doing badly make others feel strangely better. Those doing better force others into deeper reconstruction of choices already made.

Old Boy’s dying to attend a Reunion are mostly either, out to preen their success in life, desire genuine bonding, but majority are curious for updates on how others turned out in comparison.

  Old Boy’s Reunions are about renewing friendships, recapturing old trust and reliving memories good or bad. But are the four years spent together in high school that important to keep in touch?

There is fear of being judged, but give or take, Reunions can be eye-opening, besides their capacity to harness the power of networking

Well, for starters you can’t create fake former school mates so you’re stuck with the ones you schooled with. High school is a coming of age turning point in one’s life. You shade off the tabula rasa of callow youth into early adulthood, culling off the age of innocence.

But for some, there is emotional ambivalence of meeting that stone hearted prefect who almost earned you a suspension. There is fear of being judged, but give or take, Reunions can be eye-opening. They can open doors to available opportunities all along lost on you, besides their capacity to harness the power of networking.

Old Boy’s Reunions are popular five years after high school when most are clearing college. They dip after 10 years when most are adjusting to the vagaries of marriage, children, relatives, cutthroat workplaces and the business world.

 Silver Jubilees are the most popular. Most former students have then made their mark in their careers and business. Most are more settled, more financially stable and don’t give a hoot about many things. Most are over 40, playing in the ‘second-half’ on the pitch of life and desire to grow old together with boys they once knew.

 Here are the 12 types of former school mates you will come across during Old Boy’s Reunions which have been made easier by social media platforms:

Pedigree: Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo. He attended Alliance High which also produced another Attorney General, Amos Wako. Half the Ministers in Kenya’s first cabinet and subsequent technocrats were alumni of ‘Bush’. Famed headmaster Carey Francis was known to float his students names for appointment by President Jomo Kenyatta.

1.     The guka

They appear older, greying heads and all. They can be mistaken for your paternal uncle or like they were 10 classes ahead. There is shock if you introduce them as former class mates for the crowfeet around their eyes. They have some missing teeth and talk in terms of “Jerry is now in Form Four” in reference to their last born. They appear weighed down by the baggage of marriage, life and anything in between which turned them into philosophers.

2.     The tagger

They tag along the wife in an all-boy’s bonding session. The wife is usually more beautiful than expected. These ones rarely had girlfriends in high school. The wife floats over jokes and end up forcing the hubby to leave just when the party is starting. The tagger can also bring a mpango who ends up sitting at the bar counter from where she runs the Reunion budget down with expensive wines.

3.     The memory card

These ones remember minute details long lost on everyone: They day a boy nicknamed ‘Rufefe’ from Form 4 E for ‘Elite’ slapped the Discipline Master during a blackout but lights came back just as he was bolting away. Or the geography teacher who impregnated the widowed school nurse. They remember, 20 years later, all students who were ahead and behind by their three names with some index numbers. They know who died when, where, how and why. Of course, they will remind you of the former student who is now so loaded “huyo hamuwezi patana!”  

4.     The loaded

They were not the brightest in class and didn’t seem destined for anything, but somehow in the contours of life found themselves wining lucrative government tenders, supplying water dispensers to the Ministry of Water. If Reunion budget is set at Sh1, 000 per head they dish out Sh20, 000 for two mbuzis and order for four Sh20, 000 a bottle of 20 year old single malt whiskies arguing “Kenya hakuna pesa but celebration lazima!”

5.     Hard knocks

No one knows what happened to the student teachers often referred to as  “university material” as the once top boy is now a prison warder begging lift from The Loaded to whom they explain “uki ni drop tu hapo stage ya Umoja nitakua sawa, bro!”  

Tunawesmake: When politician Peter Kenneth (inset) ran for the Presidency in 2013, he picked a former student at Starehe Boys’ Centre, Ronald Osumba after hearing him speak at an alumni dinner. Starehe students control corporate Kenya through the Old Starehean Society.

6.     The lucky gaskets

Their lives are planned by the gods. They not only scored good grades without much effort, the wife they married was the first girl they spoke to when St George’s Girls came over for a debating session. Twenty years and four equally bright children later, they appear to be falling in love all over again. These ones also rarely tarmacked for jobs. They were head hunted for six figure salaries for which they literally live in planes shuttling from country to country. They change jobs like disposable wipes. They were happy go lucky in high school and are happy go luckier now. You look at them and wonder who bewitched you.

7.     The show-off

In school, they spoke in terms of “us guys” and little has changed. They post photos of whichever airport they’re waiting for connecting flights. They post receipts of that Sh50, 000 rubber shoe they are buying at Saville Row. They insist on designations during Reunion introductions and go to great lengths to explain why being a software system engineers has forced them to live in planes “yet I never represented high school in Science Congress.”

8.     The self-made

They blend well with the furniture until they give you their business card reading ‘Vice President, Bank of East Asia & the Middle East’ where they were honoured by Sheikh al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. This breed is mostly self-made. They rose with odds against; short on school fee, bereavement, lack of connections, but recently bought 100 acres in Kisaju but never breathed a word!

 

Shaping destinies: Mang’u High School produced retired President Mwai Kibaki (top), nationalist Tom Mboya and Catholic arcbishop Ndingi Mwana a’ Nzeki. As President, Kibaki was comfortable with former alumni like aggressive Minister the late John Michuki.

9.     Vindu vichenjanga

They turned out different. The head of the Christian Union who is now wrestling with a bottle of very harsh whiskey and cracking off-colour jokes about his time at the Rehab.  On the other hand, there is also the school crackpot ever on suspension but who  mended his crooked ways and is now on his fifth year at the Seminary on his way to the priesthood.

10.    The prince

He never woke up early or stayed late studying algorithms. He was okay with his C Plain and scraped through Business School in India, but shortly joined his folks distributing sindano, but you later learn he meant medical syringes for which the family business controls 40 percent of the Kenyan market. His side hustle is matchbox distribution in Kenya and the Comesa region and you realize it pays off big time choosing the right ancestors.

11.   The Summer Bunny

They return home from overseas to the shocking reality that those they left behind are doing equally good if not better. Domestically life in the Diaspora is such that most are either still single or divorced.  Most went abroad to study but hardly cleared and the reason they’re stuck in aged care or nursing jobs when not gassing long-distance trucks. They often ask whether there are Sh250k parcels of land in Kitengela, but that was the price when they left in 2000. They also have Diaspora 411 from whose updates you learn Larry Mjomba “Kaka-Brasa” the noise maker from 4 E is a Celebrity Chef in Hollywood while Tiberius Jalang’o the one always caught napping in Form 4 P for ‘Pacesetter’ operates a car dealership in Detroit. ‘Ammonia’ so nickname for bed-wetting was deported and not necessarily for the same reason!

12.  The joker

They opened their mouths and the who class just laughed. They were funny, had humorous one-liners. They now make fun of missing front teeth, graying hair and potbellies during the Reunion’s vote of thanks. It is not clear whether they attended college. Or what they do. Most never miss Reunion meetings where they get busy, issuing directions how best to boil the kichwa for that “soup ya kutoa lock!” They don’t seem to have settled down to anything but notice and mouth to no one in particular “na miaka imeenda mtu wangu!”

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