Media personality and former Kiss FM presenter Kalekye Mumo is an alumnus of Mbooni Girls’ High School which is situated in Makueni County.
Recalling her high school experience to this writer, Kalekye Mumo terms it “tough yet exposing.”
The fourth born in a family of five grew up in Westlands area of Nairobi – and says despite being raised by well-to-do parents in the comfortable surbaban setting, her mother wanted her to experience the “other side of life”.
“I attended Loreto Convent Msongari to Form One. My mother thereafter felt that I needed to get some grounding; that I needed to be serious; she thought I had done enough plays and music. She did not know that would be my life anyway. And so, I went to Mbooni Girls’ High School from Form Two to Form Four,” she exclusively told eDaily.
“There is where I got to learn Sheng’. I had to survive. Where I grew up, we did not communicate in Sheng’. We’d rather speak in Kiswahili sanifu, Kamba or English,” recounts Kalekye.
And about her experience at Mbooni Girls’: “It made me tough! It was quite the experience. The schools in Ukambani are hardship! When they say there are water problems, it is real! I ate githeri every lunch time of my life,” she says, adding: “Unlike schools in other sides of the country such as Meru where they have great soil and great learning environment, there are no such favourable conditions in Ukambani; huko ni vumbi na jua ndiyo utakula!”
Away from being brilliant and full of life, Kalekye Mumo had the other side of her – seriousness – which many of his schoolmates became too familiar with when she was appointed dining hall captain.
“I had options of being the head girl or the DH captain. My best friend was appointed as head girl. I adopt a serious character when doing my job. People know Kalekye to be lively, cheerful and sociable. However in my work, I am a different person altogether. I don’t mess around with work. It is important. I’d have a balance of a person who is fun but I know when not to mess up because when I do, it would be tough,” she says.
However too much work without play makes Kalekye a dull girl. She recounts: “I did entertainment in all clubs and societies that I was a member of. Actually I was the chairlady of most clubs. I dandiad nearly all school functions. Though I was majorly going out as member of drama and music clubs – things that made sense to me as sports was not my thing. I would do music and drama passionately because I loved them.”
It is when she was a student at Mbooni Girls’ that she was christened the name Catherine Kasavuli. Reason being…? She explains: “Coming from Loreto where English was taught in an exquisite manner… first of all, I had to deal with people at the time Catherine Kasavuli was the biggest thing. So in class, the English teacher loved me because he loved my English. And so when the teacher would call on me, my classmates would go like: ‘Mschew, mwangalie huyo Catherine Kasavuli…mmh, anajidai…”
“I would be like: ‘what have I done?’ Mpaka I am like: ‘should I shut up? Should I adopt a Kamba accent?’ But the only thing that made me survive it, is because they could not sengenya me in Kao. They were shocked that I knew my Kamba so well. That kind of made them go like: ‘okay, we can’t mess with her, we don’t know what she knows; maybe she is pretending that she doesn’t know this one.’”
Being the quick learner that she is, Kalekye Mumo went ahead to learn the infamous Sheng’ language that was being widely used by students.
However, she faced some challenges after mastering the lingo: “When I’d go home for holiday and I speak like that, my neighbours and family would look at me like: ‘what are you saying?’ Then I’d be like: ‘Oh crap I am home!’ Then I’d switch back to English. When I’d go back to school, in the first week I would speak so much English and the guys would go like: ‘nini huyu…?’ Then I’d be like: ‘oh crap!…I had to keep switching.”
And one thing she approves of about her secondary school? Kalekye says: “I experienced people from different walks of life – from Ukambani, Meru and Embu; and I am happy for the exposure Mbooni Girls’ High School gave me.”
Asked to describe her personality in just one adjective, without thinking much, Kalekye Mumo says: “I think of myself as an adaptable person. Put me in any setting, and I would learn the people and I would fit in and I would work!”