Mama

1976, The once little Prep School that began thanks to a first date that could have ended tragically (more on that story later) and a prayer is 45 years old. St Andrew’s Prep School, Turi has survived infernos, world wars, food shortages, neighbourly feuds (this is the year that Kenya and Uganda fell out after Uganda accused Kenya of playing a role in the Entebbe Airport raid) they later made up – thankfully because the Entebbe Airport sees off a significant number of Turians as they head to school.

1976 is also the year, a young Veronica , barely out of her teens joined the Turi Family. Veronica Maina is a native Turian (if you remember from Mwangi’s story), Turi is a ward in Molo constituency and not simply the name of our school.

Her mother was an employee at the school and Veronica having completed her studies at Turi Sulgwita Secondary School, was offered a job as well. At this point we acknowledge that in a different light and perhaps literally so, this would be considered nepotism. However, family legacies are an enormous part of St Andrew’s success this far. This is especially true about Turi (the location) natives.

Young Veronica joins Turi (the school) as a cleaner. She is content, even happy with her situation. The school has designated a space for  to  call her own together with the school nurses and for a young twenty something she is thriving.

The headmaster then, Mr.  Julian Parker, sees beyond Veronica’s youthful contentment. Based on how she carries out her tasks, engages with the children and how she carries herself in general, he is confident that Veronica has the capacity to do more.

He is not the only one; parents have also taken note of this diligent, humble lass from Turi from their limited interactions with her.  Mr. Parker one day summons Veronica to his office and informs her that the decision has been made to “promote” her to the position of Matron. Promotion is said here in quotes because she does not view it that way. For the second time in a few paragraphs the element of context comes up.

“Where will her Mother sleep when she comes to visit?” this is one of Veronica’s first thoughts as Matrons “live” in dorms with the pupils and do not have the privacy privilege that her current occupation at Turi affords her. She rejects the offer.

She is not the only stubborn one in this; Mr. Parker believing (and telling her as much) that her limited capacity for foresight at this age does not allow her to contemplate beyond  a certain point “forces” her to sign a contract and become the matron of Junior Boys (Junior Boys has been home to many respected men in society today who have gone on to make their mark years after passing through the caring arms of Veronica).

Veronica is passionate about the boy child, she has raised many; unfortunately she and her dearly departed husband did not have any children of their own so her children so to speak have been the pupils she has cared for at Turi. Some of the boys she has seen through home-sickness, fights, bed-wetting and other struggles of growing up have gone on to have their own little boys who have passed through her hands as well. Essentially, she is the grand matron (read mother) at the Prep School. Today, she is the head of the Matrons and a motherly figure to not just the pupils but the adults as well.

“Every morning before I leave the house I ask God to go before me!” says Veronica who has since gone on to have her very own private space (a house she built) just outside the school compound. She credits the stubborn headmaster for her long successful career and God for all the blessings it has bestowed upon her.

Mama boys

Years later her “sons” who live all over the world don’t just remember her but check on her personally. When news of an alleged Covid outbreak at the school broke, she received calls from concerned former residents of Junior Boys who wanted to know if she was fine.  Experiences like these are the reasons why in the evenings as she walks back home, she can’t help but be grateful for the days she had no space of her own; the days when she would sleep with the door (and one eye) open so that she wouldn’t miss anything during the night.

We together recall Joshua an Old Turian who left the school in 2019. After sitting his last A-Level exam and before saying good bye to Turi for good, he had to make a very important stop; Junior boys. He came to say goodbye to Ms. Veronica who thirteen years before this day took him in; at five years old, a far cry from the confident young man he had grown to be. The tears shed on that day by these two (and those who witnessed it) cannot be explained adequately in writing but are telling of the impact Veronica has had on not just the pupils at Turi but the institution as whole!

The role of boarding schools is often downplayed, perhaps even undermined in a society where it is the norm rather than the exception to meet someone who attended one. The minute the state-recognized parent/ guardian drops off their child and waves goodbye, someone steps in to play that role for the 12 weeks of that term. This means that beyond making sure they attend class, take on a sport and do their homework (prep) in the evening the child has people ensuring their growth and wellbeing. There are days they will need reassurance, guidance, discipline and even cuddles.

Unlike at home where the responsibility lies on one or two individuals, there’s a whole clan of people to give a telling off, wipe runny noses, cheer on through a struggle and all the responsibilities of raising little boys…and girls! House parents, class teachers, tutors; this lot do not go to sleep before they have and after they do, the Matrons take over and some nights barely get any sleep for one reason or another.

We all know the popular saying “It takes a village” but at Turi we know it also takes a Veronica! More than 40 years later, hindsight and the wisdom that comes with age allows her to see that the role she has played (and rather diligently might we add) was not forced but rather was a God-ordained appointment.

With retirement looming, she continues to take on her duties with the diligence and heart still often seen giving her now arthritis-laden knees to the children to lean on as they speak of their day’s troubles and triumphs.

In the corporate world it is said that no one is indispensable but in the Turi family we have found this not to be entirely true.

Ms. Veronica and her boys

Veronica, we speak for the little boys at Turi and the big boys all over the world when we say Thank you Mama! Please join us in celebrating this mother figure and true servant of God!

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