Back to School: How I Secured Half a Million For School Fees

  • A photo of people walking along a Nairobi street.
    A photo of people walking along a Nairobi street.
  • It all started in a town-bound matatu.

    Were it not for the sky-blue mask strewn crookedly across my face, the driver would have definitely realized that something was terribly wrong.

    Monday morning matatu rides are meant to be silent. Reflective. Only ‘rekegwere Maina’ is allowed to cut through the silence.

    However, the driver on this particular morning was feeling extra chatty, his face mask making funny shapes as he shared his expert analysis of the current political situation in the country.

    Matatus pictured at a terminus.
    Matatus pictured at a terminus.

    “Hii siasa hii,” he exclaimed as he brought the 14-seater to a halt at the UN Avenue & Limuru road intersection.

    His head shakes told me a recent by-election did not turn out the way he envisioned.

    I really wanted to chip in with expert opinions of my own but my state of mind wouldn’t allow it.

    The tiny cloth on my face was masking a lot.

    The driver gave me the ‘aren’t you going to respond’ look.

    I turned and stared at the neat row of fuel guzzlers exiting UN Avenue. 

    I then turned my attention to the traffic lights. Rather symbolic considering my current predicament. 

    My trip to town had 3 possible outcomes.

    Success, which in my case meant a happy child, success which in my case meant a happy child, and success which in my case meant a happy child.

    I don’t know how other parents have been coping, but the marathon of school reopenings occasioned by the pandemic has me on the very edge.

    Couple it with the fact that pay cuts were introduced at work and you’d understand why I wasn’t in the mood for by-election talks.

    The light turned green and down we rolled.

    “Kids are going back to school and boy do we have an offer for you,” a voice on the radio blurted out.

    That immediately grabbed my attention.

    The driver must have been a spook in some other lifetime as he was very quick to notice my sudden movement.

    “Hii serikali hii. How do they expect us to educate our children at this rate,” he chimed in.

    “My little one is only going back to school because his mother managed to get a salary advance ile ya Coop bank,”

    “Kama si hiyo who knows, labda I’d have been forced to use him kama makanga wangu,” he overshared. 

    Not that it was awkward for me.

    “Mimi sijui nianze wapi. If I don’t secure my kid’s fees leo…”

    “Hakuna option, I just have to,” I responded, half to him and the other a sort of statement to myself.

    Failure wasn’t an option.

    His Coop deal gave me a plan B. I wasn’t sure I’d qualify but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

    I’ll make a trip to the bank during lunch, I wrote down in my mental notebook.

    We went on to have a detailed conversation on what was ailing our country, going as far as ideating what we thought were genius solutions to everything.

    As was the case every morning, I alighted at the Ngara stage and walked the rest of the way into the CBD.

    Sitting in the matatu for 30 or so minutes just to get through traffic has never made sense to me.

    There’s also the small partner of my Kenyan-Indian employer who owns a string of African textile shops spread out across the country...with the one along Kirinyaga road my place of work for 4 and a half years now.

    We had what can be described as a roller-coaster kind of relationship. 

    One minute we’d be best friends and the next the best of ‘enemies’. This was what led to my quick trip up the ladder to becoming store manager.

    This was also why I was confident that he’d help me out of my current predicament.

    As it turned out, the Kenyan saying ‘kila mtu ana shida zake’ was true after all.

    With his 4 kids enrolled at those schools where fees to cover a single term could secure half an acre in Kamulu, Sanjiv was in a tougher spot.

    One look at his sweaty forehead this July winter was all I needed to switch to plan B.

    That was how I ended up seated across my banker where I got to learn about a host of services available to me.

    Call me naive, ignorant or untrusting but I had never had such a meeting ever since I set up my account.

    To me, Coop Bank was where my salary was funnelled through and that was the end of it.

    When I was thinking of how I’d get Mwende (my 7-year-old) back to school, it never hit me that my all-time reliable bank could help.

    Were it not for that chatty matatu driver, who knows what would have happened considering my only option Sanjiv was still sweating in the middle of winter.

    It’s funny how life serves up solutions from the most unexpected places.You too can pay your child's school fess, start the journey here!

    An image of a bus
    Commercial Officer Co-op Bank Fleet Africa Leasing Anthony Mbau, Co-op Bank’s Director Corporate & Institutional Banking Jacquelyn Waithaka, Finance Director DT Dobie Srinivas Cherevu and Mercedes Benz Project Manager Mathew Mbuko after the signing of the Co-op Bank - DT Dobie Mercedes bus deal.