I was faffing around on the internets when I came across this article, and as I read it, I felt an odd emotion welling up in my bosom; a sort of mild anger at seeing my alma mater painted in such unflattering colours. On reading the comments, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Of the 41 comments, almost all are alumni of the school pointing out the inconsistencies in the fellow’s writing and proudly defending their school with the fervor of a lioness defending her cubs.
I rarely tell people that I went to the Alliance High School. Oftentimes, when asked, I ask the questioner to guess and based on their answer, immediately take the conversation on a different tangent, away from the question of schools and what not. It’s not that I am ashamed that I went there; no, far, far from it, as this post illustrates. While I do not bear Mugo Kibati-esque devotion to the school, I am as proud as the next fellow that I went there, and that I got in by dint of my merit. What is it, then? Modesty, or inverted pride, to quote Achebe? Maybe.
Back to the post that started all this. Ignoring all the inconsistencies in the lad’s story, there are some basic truths in his post. The fellow writes:
When you first enter Alliance high school you diminish, Alliance high school inculcates a hopeless feeling of insignificance. In Alliance high school you mean nothing and you don’t matter, you are nobody; you are just another inmate, another victim of merit. These were my impressions before I even got out of my father’s car.
I’ll not deny that, on joining the school, you felt diminished and insignificant. Anyone joining a high school felt the same way. While in primary school, in Class 8, you were the biggest and ‘most important people’ in the school. You were mollycoddled and treated like royalty, just so that you could pass KCPE, and make it to the Alliance High School. This would more so for the kind of fellow that ended up at Bush. As the top performers, you would get even more cosseted than the rest of the pupils in the class.
Imagine coming this; from being, physically,the biggest, most significant folks in the school, to being the smallest and the lowest in the hierarchy, the rubble, the (to quote a popular song some time back) usilesi, hopulesi, kifagio ya kutumiwa na kila mtu. To make matters worse, your all time refuge – you brains, you superior intellect – was also insignificant. You would retreat into your cave only to find it crowded, with some ‘well-brained’ bloke taking up the intellectual superiority seat in front of the TV, holding onto the remote, his feet propped up on a pile of Abbots. The entire class of 200 or so students that joined the school with you were of a similar if not greater mental acuity, as that which you possessed, and had been lauded all your life for. You were, for all intents an purposes, just another rabboli, and for those that had been day scholars, the fact that Mummy would only be seen once every month and a half was shocking and traumatizing.
This shock had different effects on different people. There were those that got crushed by it, intellectually, and slid to the bottom of the class. Others rebelled, almost violently, and from the first year, were constantly and consistently in trouble. There were those that decided there was no life outside the classroom, and sat so long in the classroom that their chairs knew them by name. There were those that decided there was more to life than reading and threw themselves into games, dramatic society, choir and other extra-curricular activities.
This is when the defining strength of the Alliance High School revealed itself. The school prayer went as follows:
Have in thy keeping O lord, this school;
That its work may be thorough and its work joyful;
That from it may go out,
Strong in body, mind and character, men who
In Thy name and Thy power,
Will serve their fellows faithfully.
The last part of the school prayer, the last four lines, in bold, capture the spirit that has guided the school its entire life. It reminded one that there was more to life that being the brainiest in the bunch. As the school has most likely proven to you , by the time you had memorised the prayer, there were other brainier fellows, and thus the only way to grow and thrive in the school, would be to build one’s character.
The school provided opportunities to reward those that did well in building their characters. From captain-ships in games, to house committees and, ultimately, prefecture, Alliance provided one with the opportunity to build themselves and their characters., to learn service to others as embodied in the schools motto ‘Strong To Serve’
I, on my part, quickly learnt how the system worked, and just as quickly, worked out how to beat it where it needed beating, and how to take advantage of it where I could. Within my first two weeks at the school, I had managed to get out of all the Form One duties that I found distasteful, such as mopping the dorms in the mornings and wiping tables after meals, and found myself a cushier role, as a librarian. I got myself permission to wear trousers during the week, rather than the ‘wooden’ shorts that Bush is famous for – shorts so stiff that when you took them off, they didn’t crumple to the floor, rather, they stood upright waiting for you to climb back into them – and struck deals with the cops in my house so that if I was out of school, I’d never be marked as absent. I went through four years of school without ever getting onto the punishment parade; an almost impossible feat for anyone who had any form of life in the school. The only time I did get punished by a prefect was when a fellow who had it in for me, on hearing that I was to be made a prefect as he was, decided to write me a gating slip*, expecting that I would not do it, and thus scuttle my chances of being a prefect. I did become one, but spent my fourth form, as a prefect, in the deputy principal’s office on discipline issues, forwarded by other prefects, that never quite stuck. I guess it was the entrepreneur in me in application.
Reminiscing aside, no other school, I will say confidently, has an alumni that is active in the school as that of The Alliance High School. Every first Sunday of March, these Old Boys gather at the school for the Founders’s Day Service, the school’s birthday, and they come from far and wide, and as from far back in time as old boys that were at the school in the 30s, ’40s and ’50s. About 5 years after I graduated, I went back for the school’s annual Founders’ Day Service, the school’s birthday, and at the end of the event, a friend I was with commented that she understood why Old Boys of Alliance were so committed to the school. It was because the school made us a part of a legacy that knew no match. This legacy is embodied in movers and shakers in all walks of life; technology, business, education, business. One would not have far to look to find a Busherian in the cream of whatever society.
Old Boys that meet outside the school share an immediate kinship and bond, one that transcends time, culture, tribe and class. I was invited to sit on the board of an organisation, and during introductions, I met an Old Boy that had been at the School 50 years before me, and we immediately struck a rapport, a young man in his 20s and an old man in 70s brought together by a school that had definitely evolved and changed, and yet, somehow, remained the same through its 85 year history. Between the time he left and the time I joined, boys had been born, attended the Alliance High School, become men, and made history in the world.
As someone building a business, I try to distill the principle on which Alliance is built, and not only live by them, but apply them in the way I do business. I pray that I build something that will out last me.
And now, for the Busherians reading this:
Lord, while for all mankind we pray,
Of every clime and coast,
Oh hear us for our native school,
the school we love the most.
Most of the girls I meet that had a chance to interact with Busherians claim that they were haughty and never wanted to interact. Someone pointed something out; Busherians were geeks. Geeks are not particularly known for their Casanova skills.