If you walk into The Alliance High School (AHS) today, in the heart of Kikuyu, you might not know the story behind Mr. Kagina’s canteen (I hear it’s now called ‘Mwaka Kiosk’), standing defiantly on its own like a symbol of anti-establishment, a breaker of rules, and a major economic hub in the institution. You might not know the story behind the breathtaking scenery comprising of manicured lawns complemented by carefully trimmed hedges. You might not know the story behind the basketball courts and the soccer field, where sports talents are nurtured and scholarships are earned.
You might not know the story behind the science block which is home to the Physics, Chemistry and Biology Labs. Here, curious minds with a taste for science come to be satiated. These labs are like portals to medical school and other noble professions. You might not know the story behind the Art Room, where artists are made.
You might not know the story behind the administration block as it stands imposingly like a power wielding prefect, a place filled with ‘SILENCE’ signs, perhaps because this is where some of the brilliant minds in this part of the globe are busy learning and getting indoctrinated and in the process changing the future. You might not know the story behind the Carey Francis Memorial Lecture Theater, a building that seems to hang precariously on one side (Look closely though and you might notice the irony of the fact that that side that seems to hang off the ground can support a disproportionately higher number of students than the side touching the ground. Or am I over thinking this?)
You might not know the story behind the School Hall, a theater for drama plays. And Principal’s talks on Monday and Saturday mornings. This hall is aging gracefully.
And the Chapel, a sight for sore eyes, an architectural marvel, and a spiritual centre where talented organists and pianists have sat and given tunes to hymns every morning on weekdays and Sundays.
But if you have been following current events, as portrayed by the media, you might have heard about the parade ground. It is a multipurpose ground where students stand during parade every morning on weekdays.
You might know that the parade ground faces a raised podium with a flag post, but you might not know that journalists from reputable media houses have stood on that podium every time K.C.S.E results have been announced, to capture stories of academic excellence and success.
You might know that these stories have now turned into horror stories, probably captured by the same same journalists who wrote good stories about our academic achievements.
You might not know that as you walk down towards Old Smith and Sellwood, on your right hand side, opposite the Grieve Library, is a graveyard where the souls of the institution’s founders, people like Carey Edward Francis, rest. This graveyard has now become infamous, and Carey Francis is probably turning in his grave, shocked by the tragic turn events. Will he ever rest in peace again?
I might know the stories behind all these places, because I was in Alliance High School for four years. And if the hands of time were to turn back, I would happily pack my green metallic box with my belongings and my innocence and allow myself to be escorted by my parents into the gates of that institution once again.
I write with the understanding that the allegations made against the institution may be true in part or in whole. I am yet to know the truth.
I understand that bullying is a barbaric and disgusting act that probably shouldn’t be whispered even in the darkest corridors of our homes, our schools or in any of our institutions.
But then here is a paradox of sorts.
What if the systems that run our institutions are merely mirrors of the systems that run our governments, our corporations, and to put it more directly, our very own lives?
Systems that are sometimes out of touch with reality. Systems that make a mockery of their creators, their masters and their subjects. Systems that give too much power to a few individuals hoping that this power will be used for good. Systems that are in denial of the fact that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In our society today, we always come face to face with abuse of power stories sometimes to outrageous extents. And every time we hear these stories, we are shocked out of our wits, but we soon forget, up to the time the next story surfaces like a body buried in still waters.
More often than not, we hear about corrupt individuals walking scot-free while other less powerful ones are severely punished for much lesser crimes. Or the horror stories about extrajudicial killings perpetrated against the poor.
The rich are innocent for their crimes and even when everything else proves that they are guilty, their riches make them innocent again. The poor, well, the poor are always guilty of something, even when they are innocent. Actually, a poor person is never innocent but a criminal in waiting. Sad but true.
Lest we forget, it’s a man eat man society out here, and we all hold different positions in the food chain.
Either we have probably found a way to live with this disturbing fact that some men are more equal than others, or we are collectively living in denial.
In either case, should we be perturbed when allegations, proved to be true or otherwise, are made about abuse of power in an institution that has merely tried to mirror the true nature of our society?
If this excerpt from the school prayer is anything to go by; ‘That from it may go out, strong in body, mind and character, men in thy will and power, will serve their fellow men’ shouldn’t we respect AHS for what it has always aspired to be?
And after all is said and done, why should we live under the guise that everything is fine when even our finest institutions are being put to the test of time and character?
Someone needs to tell the king that he is naked.