The last time I walked out of those green steel gates, I was a 17-year-old girl eager to discover what the world had in store for me. That was 10 years ago.
On Saturday afternoon, when I walked out of those green gates of Moi Girls School Nairobi, I was traumatised by what I had witnessed. Raw grief of heartbroken parents who had just received the worst news any parent should ever receive.
Their young daughters — barely into their first year of high school — had been consumed by a mysterious fire.
The feeling of watching frustrated parents whose daughters had not been accounted for scream in unfathomable grief with some disappearing into the empty classes weeping silently cannot be captured in a story.
As an old girl of the school, imagining what those helpless teenagers sleeping in that Kabarnet Dormitory — popularly known as ‘Kaba” — could have gone through was tear-jerking. Anyone who has passed through Moi Girls will tell you that Kabarnet was the dormitory exclusively for Form One students and a few prefects to chaperone them. The hostel was also the unofficial “headquarters” of the St John’s Ambulance First Aid crew.
It has for decades held the memories of so many great women who have passed through Moi Girls; the first day of high school and, for many, their first difficult days in a boarding school.
As I watched parents and other relatives lose their cool and demand to see their daughters through the barricades set by police, my heart broke into a million pieces.
I could not help but think it could have been me as a clueless Form One.
Fondly known for its interesting moniker “Quabbz”, a corruption of “Cabbages” owing to the huge plantation of cabbages back in the day, Moi Girls School Nairobi has stood the test of time and nurtured many great Kenyans.
It was in Quabbz that many learnt the value of being aggressive in life, thanks to the break time scramble for doughnuts and cheese and onion crisps during break time.
It was in Moi Girls that they internalised a saying, popularised by the current Principal, Mrs Jael Mureithi, “who are you?”. We found it amusing that she would dwell on such an obvious and simple question — but “Who am I?” has remained a strong guiding light in my life.
Never has there been a tragedy so painful as this to the Moi Girls Nairobi community. But, in the face of tragedy, the boldness and the spirit of Moi Girls comes alive; from tales of girls jumping from first floor to escape the fire, to some fiercely loyal friends returning to save their friends, the “Quabberian” spirit is indefatigable.
We celebrate the fallen Quabberians who died so painfully young. They will never be forgotten. In that never-say-die spirit, I pray that “Quabbz” will, like a phoenix, rise up from the ashes and rebuild to be better and stronger.
Disaster report recommends that schools should have fire fighting equipment.