Back to School Shopping

Preparing one child for their first year of high school is one thing. Preparing eight children for their first year at a boarding high school, at different schools with very specific requirements, takes back to school shopping to another level. At the end of our six hour shopping expedition, Henry reviews his school’s requirements for boarding supplies and textbooks, while Bihaji continues to pack her trunk, as Mama Chiro listens to the list of items we forgot to purchase (which turned out to be a little bit longer than expected).

Bihaji, Hesbon, and Henry are the first of our students to have their schools finalized and they report on Monday. Each boarding school has its own requirements for what their incoming students should bring. What color bed sheets? It turned out to be blue for all three of them. Mosquito net needed? Only Bihaji needed one since she’ll be staying in Coast Province, while the boys are headed west. Bring your uniform to school or purchase it there? The boys will buy their uniforms at their schools, but we had to stop by the uniform shop to buy Bihaji’s uniform (which are slightly different depending on if you’re a Muslim student or a Christian student).

Besides keeping the details straight, physically acquiring all these things took a lot of effort. Hesbon remained at the school, while Mama Chiro, Bihaji, Henry, and I took a matatu to the Biashara District (several intersecting streets where everything is sold at negotiable prices). At the school uniform shop, we squeezed ourselves between fifty other women shopping for the children. Young girls slipped skirts over their heads in the middle of the shop to test their waist size and length. We visited several fabric stores to price compare their woolen blankets and blue bedsheets. We wound our way in-between tuk-tuks, cars, push-carts, other shoppers, and hawkers to the bookshops to buy their textbooks. Then we sprinted across the street to a supermarket (where prices are fixed) to buy their toiletries.

As you can see in Henry’s half-packed trunk, all the students must bring rolls of toilet paper with them. Our day ended at a mattress wholesale shop, where we bought Bihaji’s mattress, since her school requires her to bring one with her.

Hesbon laces up the sneakers that Henry picked out for him from one of the street vendors. He packed the quickest out of the three of them, probably from saving his energy all day. But, Mama Chiro and I also pulled him out of a soccer game to pack his things. He was very anxious to return to the game.

As exhausting as the day was, it’s wonderful getting these kids prepared for school. None of them ever expected to make it this far in their education. But now they have the opportunity to go! I had to use so much self-control to not adjust and play with Bihaji’s school uniform as she was trying on the different pieces.

Tomorrow looks like another tiring day in town. I’ll be joining Mukeku, the school’s accountant, to visit several banks to deposit their school fees into their schools’ accounts. Then I’ll be joining Mama Chiro once more to finish up the school supply shopping.

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