Boarding School and Collective Trauma

Let me preface this by saying I hated my boarding experience in high school. I do not have fond memories, don’t even care to be part of that school and quite frankly I told my mum after the fact that they should have transferred me when I asked in Form 1.

Anyway, recently, there was a conversation on twitter about the trauma of boarding schools that started by someone tweeting a memory of not being visited.

And it morphed into an interesting “conversation” and what became abundantly clear is that we have collective trauma and have chosen to deal with it in different ways.

My friend Dot often says that we (Kenyans) believe we don’t deserve good things, we lack the imagination that life could be better (is this trauma from the Moi era passed down generations?). And this is what I deduced from those who believe that it was what was (is) expected from Boarding Schools, that we are “whiners” and that they are “okay”, that we should all be “okay”. But are you really okay bro? sis?

While twitter is not the place to expect a nuanced conversation, it still confuses me slightly that many do not hold space for people with differing experiences. As if them describing their experiences negates others’ experiences.

Suffering is not the price you pay for being alive. Suffering does not a life make. Suffering does not give your life purpose. Furthermore, just because one suffered and believe they turned out alright doesn’t mean the outcome was the same for everyone else. And let me reiterate, people are justified to feel the way they do about their experiences. So yes, you feel you are okay and those for whom it was traumatic? That’s valid too.

Frankly, I believe that people who want to seem nonchalant about the boarding school experience fall in to a couple of categories (this is not comprehensive):

  • They actually are okay.
  • Have never spent time thinking about the experience, an unexamined life and whatnot.
  • Others parrot what those around them say, latching onto the false idea that their experiences must be the same.
  • Some have thought about it but would rather stick their head in the sand than admit they carry trauma.
  • Do not want to admit that their parents did wrong by them and would rather ignore any evidence to the fact.

We cannot heal from trauma if we refuse to admit that we are traumatised, and in this case, collectively traumatised. I’m not even sure we can effect the change needed if we continue as we Kenyans do – accepting and moving on.

Think of every thing that has happened, outside even of personal experience, in boarding schools in this country. How can you normalise that surely?


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