School Sports Day

Having finished exams, the last couple of days of term are spent in games – both intellectual and physical.  So on Wednesday when I turned up to teach, I was actually confronted with the whole school sat outside with a huge pub quiz type game going on.

The school was divided into four teams, with each round calling upon a different representative from each group.  For example:  pick a year 4 from your team, and send them up to the stage.  I did my best to avoid the teachers’ rounds, as they were clearly completely biased in a way that no white  person would be able to answer the questions.  One round involved a big sheet covered in photos of black people, the question being:  name the people.  They were all provincial county councillors and the like…

The only points I actually managed to win for my team were based on the questions:  “Who is the founder of facebook?”  and, “Who is the founder of Windows?”

To my amazement, the whole school immediately recognised the flag of South Sudan, and knew what the acronym UNHCR stands for…

After quiz time, was sports day… so we all trudged out onto the nearby playing field (used as a grazing spot for cows).  Little did I expect what was in store for me.

The kids ran their races against children of the same class in the other teams.  Boy can Kenyan kids run.  And more to the point, the sheer excitement and commitment to the activity was awesome.  I don’t think in the UK you could ever hear such loud cheering and absolute intense excitement over running races.  On an amusing  side note:  there was also a race for the fattest kids in each group- “because they need to be encouraged to do exercise”.  Mincing their words is something that Kenyans do not do.

Much to my horror, they then announced the race for female teachers.  I felt the blood drain from my face.  Me, the only mzungu, running against all the Kenyans???  This was going to be humiliating.  I protested as much as I could, but at the end of the day, you can’t be a spoil sport can you?  So I walked up to the starting line, to much giggling and clapping from the school united.

All the other ladies kicked off their shoes – apparently its much easier to run bare foot.  I could see this was going to be a serious race.  And, GO, we were off.  Immediately I watched many of the teachers shoot off ahead – this humiliation was going to be worse than I thought.  But going round the first bend I noticed that I was by no means actually last!

We were running along, having to dodge grazing cows – and I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.  All of a sudden it came to my attention that the whole school was chanting one name:  TEA-CHER-GA-BI TEA-CHER-GA-BI!!  Bless them.  Clearly a mzungu running was causing more amusement than I imagined.  And what was more, rounding the next corner, I noticed that along the fence- loads of passers by on the street had stopped, and as I passed, everyone was shouting “Run Mzungu, Run!!”

I can’t explain the atmosphere of this sports day.  I just think it’s nothing you will ever experience in Europe.  It also probably explains why Kenyans are such good runners:  from a young age, it forms one of the most exciting aspects of school life.  The sheer support and participation of the “crowd” was amazing.

Reaching the finish line, it turned out I was third.  Numbers 1 and 2 walked off, while the whole school ran up and mobbed me – hugging me, high-fiving me, and cheering. (Felt a bit bad for the ignored winners).  The teachers all ran up to me and said  “Wow, Gabi- you tried.  That’s all we wanted.  You really tried” .  And I have to say, it was all one of the most touching experiences of my life.



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