How Boiled Green Maize Presence of Beautiful Girls Helped Avert a School Strike


By Mukurima X Muriuki

Sometime back in the mid 90’s, Daniel Karaba, an unknown name in the administration of secondary schools was transferred from Njega secondary, a wee school East of Baricho, as per the locals, to the then giant and might of education in Kirinyaga , Kianyaga Boys High school. This transfer became the talk of a district which by then boasted only three constituencies: Mwea, Ndia, and Gichugu. Today, you can add Kerugoya/Kutus as the fourth constituency. People wondered if Karaba would be a good fit, more so in instilling good discipline in a school which in spite of its remarkable performance had a poor reputation-discipline wise.

At Kianyaga, Karaba would encounter boys with egos bigger than my ears. The school’s dominance in Kirinyaga had made out of the boys little demi-gods. Their countenance and demeanor illustrated a rebellious attitude and this, most of the time, affected the way the boys treated teachers! Stories are told of teachers who had to first ask the boys for permission before designating an assignment.

Mr. Karaba however, did not settle for what he found. His mission was to make Kianyaga not only a school dominating education, but also a place where future honest leaders would be molded. To this end, he began to introduce changes that as your guess may have it, did not go down well with the majority! Their alternative, as is the narrative with our society, was to rebel in the form of a strike. This was around the month of June and as most of you know, at that time the cold weather pierces all the way to the intestines. In addition, it was foggy and misty. Nothing was visible, not even common sense.

When word reached Karaba on a Thursday morning students were planning to go on a strike that Friday evening, he smiled, knowing too well what Socrates said when addressing the Greek congress: “Muthuri aikareire jungwa onaga baraya gukira kibîî kibaicete mûti igûrû” (an old man sitting on a stool has a better vision than a young boy perched on a tree). He summoned the school matron and asked her to prepare green boiled maize (mitungo). He also got in touch with his Kabare girls counterpart and challenged the school to a ‘debate’ to be held the next day from midday. The challenge was accepted

This was tempting fate. For those who may not know, whenever Kianyaga boys would sight Kabare girls, where common sense was lacking, miraculously, reason would prevail! No wonder Shaggy in his song ‘Strength of a woman’ wonders who created women! It would not be a surprise to find a form four boy with beards from here to kingdom come lost for words on meeting a girl from Kabare. Those girls, I am told, were beautiful. Hence the beginning of reference to beautiful girls as “tumacau.” (I am told the bilateral talks with Kabare girls would a few years later collapse after the emergence of hard-line negotiators in the north-west called Ngiriambu girls).

The next day, Friday, at around mid-day, two buses arrived at Kianyaga high school’s compound carrying these special guests. They were directed to the school’s dining room where the ‘debate’ was to take place. Karaba then went to the form three and form four classes and alerted the lads there was a bilateral negotiation taking place between Kianyaga and Kabare and that the boys should go witness this auspicious occasion in the dining room! There was a commotion as every boy wanted to be the first to reach the dining hall. With girls, you have to take every chance. Even being the first to show up.

My friend, I am told there are two things to help defeat shaitani! A beautiful woman, and boiled green maize. No sooner did the boys sight Kabare girls, and green maize, than they forgot their evil plans for that night! The boys and the girls interacted and exchanged notes, perhaps about nothing, for close to four hours. The strike was aborted. Jomo Kenyatta, in his book Facing Mount Kenya, calls this the power of “Urugare wa nyondo.” (the booby trap).

See, Karaba did not tell the boys “Don’t strike.” What he told the boys was: “Do this instead.” Sometimes the problems bedeviling our society only require a creative solution. We have the change the hard line stance of “don’t” and as leaders shows the way with “Do this instead.” My professor would call this conflict transformation at its best.

This man Karaba would go on to head Kagumo high school through its finest hour. Today, the honorable Karaba is an elected Kirinyaga senator. He is also the chair, senate committee on education.