“Before we start, I need you to know that I was very small and I was scared,” he says as he looks at me. It’s not often that people decide to open up about their trauma, so when they do, you must pay attention and give them space. “Our high school was a mess, the violence that went on was beyond what you would expect of teenagers and no one was willing to address the issue until it was too late,” he continues.
We were somewhat used to people being beaten every once in a while, and things being stolen, but we were not prepared for what happened that Saturday night. See, to us, it was normal to hear screams coincide with the booming of the loudspeakers in the dining hall during entertainment. It was always best to stay away from those ugly noises since poking around would leave you wounded. That night, as we danced along to the music, I heard a sharp cry and then silence. In my mind, I knew there was no way someone who had been hurt so bad that they produced such a squeal would suddenly end their protest and stop calling for help.”
I allowed curiosity to get the better of me, and while I am glad that I went to check what was happening, a part of me wishes I had just paid close attention to the ‘bubble-gum riddim’ instead. Tiptoeing to the dorm was the best decision I made that night. In the first cube on the left side of the door was the prefect’s room and that was the origin of the commotion. A few big boys were laughing and mocking; they dared the school captain, who I later came to realize was the victim of their assault, to stand up and fight. To them, he needed to use the power he thought he had. It didn’t sit right with the abusers that he just curled up on the floor in a fetal position without moving or making a sound.
By this time, one of them started recounting how the mighty had fallen, how the boy who had given them a difficult time for sneaking out of school had turned into a meek little mouse who wouldn’t even defend himself. More people had started leaving the dining hall and this scared the abusers. They started strategizing how they would use a different route and join those headed to the dormitory; that way, if the prefect were to report the incident, they would have witnesses that they only came into the dorms with others. Before they left the cubicle, one of them grinned as he sent the final blow, his grin turned into shock and concern as the prefect remained still.
I think he has lost consciousness, one of them said.
Hiyo ni kufaint, (he must have fainted), another one expressed.
Anajifanya, (He is pretending),
Nyi wasee, na kama amededi? (What if he is dead?), that question from one of the gang members caught the attention of those two boys who were walking into the dorms and the abusers who were leaving the cubicle.
The gang grabbed the two and shoved them into the cube; it was essential to contain the damage. But first, they needed to handle the mess they had just made. I don’t know if they were on drugs because the things that they did were beyond anything a normal high school student would do. The next twenty minutes were filled with bangs and cries of mercy. The two boys who had walked into the dormitory stared at the prefect’s body and clung to each other for comfort. There was no telling whether they would not suffer the same fate.
After walking up and down the entire dorm looking for something that would help them cover up their actions, they came back with one of those sanduku’s (boxes) that could fit a person if they were flexible enough. They carried the prefect and put him in the box, they got two padlocks and closed the box. They then carried it like it was a metallic coffin and matched towards the edge of the cliff that marked the school boundary. The confidence with which they tossed the box and that to watch as it hit every rock and every tree that stood in its way is beyond me.
The next day, as was custom, we had roll-call, and the teacher on duty noticed a gap. Knowing that the missing student was not prone to sneaking out, the alarm was raised, and an investigation started. First, a call was made to the parents and then questioning began. If I told you I was bold in naming the culprits or recounting the incident, I’d be lying. I was shaken beyond words; I was shocked into cowardice. I am not sure what drove me to speak up, maybe it was the hope that if they got to the box fast enough, they might find the boy hanging on to life.
As I named the gang members, my parents stood outside the principal’s door, waiting to get me out of that school. Soon after I was done, the two boys who had been in the room were called in. Someone had identified them as missing in action during the entertainment session. Although they had received death threats, they had to choose between being culprits or informants. They, too walked out of the school gate as soon as they were done with the interrogation. A couple of other boys who had been in the next room conformed hearing the commotion but being too scared to say anything or intervene. Arrests were made and legal action was taken. I am still shaken by that incident despite it happening seven years ago.”