Few people would admit that they were their school’s chief clown-cum-comedian. After all, these were the students who made the Noise Makers’ List every single day and who carried the infamous title of Trouble Makers. But I was one. That student who went for prep early to entertain or who stood in front of the class in between lessons to tell a silly joke. I got in trouble several times when a teacher would make an unexpected entry and whole class would bust out in laughter.
In Form One and Two, we read the late Barbara Kimenye’s book series on Moses. For those not familiar with the series, the setting is a boys’ boarding school in Uganda known as Mukumbi Institute for Sons of African Gentlemen. Moses, the main character, is one of the students in the school. In spite of the head teacher being a disciplinarian, the boys were always involved in all kind of mischief including sneaking out of school to trade and imbibe in Waragi, an illicit local brew. One of the books titled Moses and the Ghost featured a school worker who, for some crazy reason, decided to scare the boys at night by walking around draped in white sheets and carrying a garden hoe. And for a while, all the students believed that the school was haunted by a ghost and agitated to have it closed down.
One night during prep time, my best friend and fellow trouble maker, Winnie Ong’are and I decided to reenact the ghost scene in the book. We left prep 15 minutes before everyone, went to the dormitories, and donned on white bed sheets. Next we got blooms from the ablution block.
The path leading from the classrooms to the dormitories was not well lit. We chose the darkest corner and waited. The bell signalling end of prep time rang. As soon as the first few students appeared around the corner, we jumped out of darkness. Two ghosts bearing long blooms! Two grim reapers- in white.
There are no words to describe the mayhem that ensued. The whole school was thrown into utter chaos. About three hundred girls running in all directions screaming. Most had no idea what they were running from. The screams from the few who had come face to face with the ghosts was all they needed.
Winnie and I quickly realized that the situation was getting out of hand. This was not in the script. We meant to scare a few students then reveal our true identity and get some laughs. Time for damage control: we run after the students calling their names to let them know that it was a just a joke. As you can imagine, it only made a bad situation worse. It is one thing for a ghost to chase you, but to call your name?!
The confusion lasted over an hour. When it was over, we had students with all kinds of injuries. Some girls had climbed on top of the school bus to escape the wrath of the ghosts. In the classrooms, desks were strewn all over and some students pinned between desks. Other students were hiding in the dining hall under the tables. It is a wonder there was no one with a broken bone; most of the injuries were bruises and cuts but I recall a couple of girls having to go to the hospital for treatment the following day. Needless to say, our Headmistress was M.A.D. We not only got the canning (legal in those days) but also carried fencing posts from the school farm for the next 3 days as punishment.
That night marked the death of my would-be acting career-sadly.2