I hope this finds you well and busy with your books in order to attain good grades that will enable you to be admitted to good high schools. Work hard my dear sisters. The fruits of your labor are usually very sweet.

It is very exciting and fulfilling for any parent when a child secures a position in one of the prestigious high schools in the country. It not just about the social class attached to the school, there is so much more to that package.

For some unknown reason to me, any student who obtains good grades to earn her a place in a prestigious school has a natural way of acting and looking like all the alumni of that school. It might be the food they eat there, the air that surrounds the school, or even the washrooms that they go to. It does not matter what it is, but the truth it there is always a similarity in behavior for students who attend particular schools.

Anyone who earns formal education from a reputable high school is better placed to have an objective view of life matters. It is not just about the academic gain, but also what the environment offers. Everyone in that environment is subjected to behave in a particular manner and this will remain to be the school’s trademark for all the alumni.

A good high school also is of great advantage to future job-seeking opportunities of any child. This is because there are certain traits related to alumni students of specific schools that some employers look for in job seekers. They believe that some environments are able to instill specific attributes to individuals. This is not my personal view, it happens.

Although I attended a village day primary school, I proudly managed to get good grades that earned me a chance in one of the prestigious high schools in the province. Maybe I am just a bright student because I am not very sure I am a hard worker. I would have gone to a national school but my school never gave us that opportunity. We never applied for chances to national school. I am not sure if this was ignorance on the part of the school’s administration, or whether the former students gave them no reason to bother competing nationally with other students. In fact so many pupils in that school were not aware of the existence of such a thing as national schools. My children should thank God that I now know that national schools exist in my country.

My mum was a struggling mother financially. She had no money to give us all that we needed, but she tried. For sure she lived at the edge of life just to make sure that we could smile. She was always in-debt with the bank because of our school fees. Polygamy had got the best of her and she did all she could to ensure that she had the best children in the family.

On our part we tried too. Being ‘stupid’ was not what my mum could stand. She insulted all the daftness out of our heads, and sometimes broke down into her own tears as if she herself had made it to university with very outstanding grades (do not tell that to your parents). These insults usually came after a good and sometimes, well-deserved whacking which we learned to get used to. I am glad my head was, and still is, light. Otherwise I would have collapsed in those books because I am simply not a self-motivated student, and I frankly admit that I know it.

When I got the chance to join that great high school, of course it became the talk of the village and the neighboring communities. The green eyes of my step mothers and their children did not escape our notice, but that must have made mum very happy. Do we blame her for being nasty at that? No. It happens with polygamy, and in most cases it is the success of the children that creates the battlefield for the co-wives. Thanks to papa for creating a strong battlefield of seven ‘buffaloes’.

Daddy had no interest in how the education is attained, he just existed physically. Ironically he was always the loudest and most busy one in spreading the good news of the success of his children. In the drinking club at the ‘Mama Pima’ he was reputed to make all the other members present to go silent and listen to him talk about how well behaved and educated his children are. The funny part is that most people knew what kind of family he had, but they still listened to him in silence and with visible great respect. Sometimes the success of his children earned him so much alcohol from his ‘stwats’ (regular drink-mates). All the same, we did not care; neither did mum give a damn about his un-earned bragging.

Even with the loan, mum could not afford enough money for school fees as well as the long list of shopping items that was mandatory upon admission to form one. Luckily she had a great harvest of maize and beans the previous year and she therefore sold a large portion of it and spared just enough to last the family a couple of months. I shed a tear when I recall this! It hurts so much to think of the kind of sacrifices that parents go through in order to ensure that their children are able to get education. Papa was not bothered with how we got to retain our chances in those schools.

High school is here. Most of us believed we had all it takes to be defined as beautiful. Wow! Those firm teats, the protruding things and butts, and the silent knowledge of the existence of monthly periods just made us proud young women. The pimples did not seem to bother some of us, unless you were the type that is obsessed by what we considered to be small things. In fact the pimples gave us an opportunity to test the latest beauty products that were available on the market. If they insisted on being on a face, we gladly hid them under some heavy foundation or baby powder. The sight of those powdered faces was rather messy when one eventually sweats or gets rained on, but who cared?

The high school years were not the smoothest for me. I hated them then and I still dislike their memory. There were just way too many rules for human consumption. It was more of a zero-grazing unit for humans. Some schools have relaxed rules while others are more of ‘rehabs’ for unwarranted humans. I hated the thought of being on holiday and then you meet this former primary school classmate of yours and she is there going on about how their school just ‘ticks’. Some would exaggerate the whole experience just to hurt me because it was common knowledge that my school ‘sucked’.

Okay, let me break this experience down for you into pieces that are digestible. I begin with the morning prep. This is the personal morning studies that were mandatory for every student. Imagine the bell rings at 4:00 AM waking us up from the most amazing of all dreams (and this was a daily routine). We do the rushed shower and some crazy personal preparation within 30 minutes. This includes ensuring that you have packed all the stuff you will need for the whole day because these damn dormitories will not be open again till 9:30 PM. When I think back, I feel they ripped us off our accommodation fee.

Another bell rings at 4:25 AM announcing that you have five short minutes to be sited on your desk and very quiet consuming the contents of the glorified books. 4:30 AM means that no one is supposed to be seen outside the classrooms and that any kind of noise is liable to some strange punishment.

There were so many times that I extended my bedtime romantic dreams to these morning prep sessions. I would sit there, face down into some open page of a book, and decide to dream with my eyes half open. When I thought I have had enough of those dreams and the bell has not sounded, I would write those feelings. Oh my God! I wrote those letters. I wrote them with so much passion, love, and creativity. I wrote them because I was sincere about what I felt. I wrote because I believed I was loved. I wrote them because I just wanted him to know that I sleep and wake with him in mind. I wrote because I knew I could write and write and write some more. I was, and still am, gifted in turning him on with my pen. I was blessed in making him see my facial expression in each sentence on that paper.

Unlike my friends who barely wrote two lines of their copied love letters, then decorated them with many big red and blue hearts that had an arrow through; I just wrote more pages of carefully arranged passionate narrations. Oh my! You should have seen the choice of adjectives that described those boys. The interesting bit of it is that there were so many recipients of my letters, and I had no apologies for getting a male representative to my heart from each of boys’ high school in the province. It is called the fun of girlhood, isn’t it?

The story goes on my fellow women, but I have to handle motherly issues here first.

There is quite a lot in the life of a high school girl that can and should be celebrated and ridiculed.

With lots of love,

Joyce Kafu

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.


Joyce, Thank you for sharing your personal stories of growing up. I'm so glad you found a passion in writing. I can see you're very good at it. Keep up the good work!


There are many subtle stories within your larger story, about your mother, your father, polygamy, growing up, and so forth.

Thank you for this self reflection. You provide a light into your insights and have given me space to reflect on my own education. Kim


Thank-you for sharing your personal experience, both the good and the bad. One thing that strikes me is that despite all of the barriers unique to your situation and your culture, so much of your experience is shared with high school girls all over the world. I'm glad you had a mother who pushed you and that you were given the opportunity to stay in school. Keep writing!