High school lesson number one: You don’t need to eat bread at every tea break

In a lot of ways, the plot in Barbara Kimenye’s popular book series – Moses – could have been set in my school. No wonder we loved those books so much.

High school in those days dished out much more than academic certificates – it was an all inclusive holistic life shaping – and how to survive in the harsh outside world.

First off, high school gave us a chance to venture outside the suffocating confines of our village and exposed us to other cultures.

He who doesn’t travel thinks his mother is the best cook.

We got used to weevil-ridden fare in smoky kitchens with sweaty, scowling cooks. In some occasions, we’d catch a whiff of kerosene in the githeri!

The village had embraced us in a loving embrace – then high school ripped us from that comforting embrace to the cruelty of sadistic bullies.

You learn that people can be unkind for no reason.

You learn the world doesn’t owe you a soft landing.

The basics of the social system – elite class, the middle class and the peasants – are first made apparent in high school. One learns there will always be people richer and wealthier, but not necessarily smarter. The grades in class is what mattered.

On money, lessons were served fast and harshly.

What may seem exorbitant to one may turn out to be mere chicken feed to another. In those days, I’d feel rich if my folks and relatives in the village sent me back to school with 500 bob as pocket money – shopping inclusive. Then I’d meet urban kids living like kings with unlimited funding!

High school taught us restraint – one doesn’t need to eat bread with margarine on every break.

The ingenious village kids would often come up with tricks to earn extra income.

I know a lad who cleaned the 4K club rabbit hutches for a fee. Most of the club’s members were averse to the tedious chores. He made a tidy sum after classes.

Another lad made a name as a data entry expert – copy writing notes and long assignments over the weekends. He’d also write fancy, wordy, perfumed letters to pen pals in neighbouring schools for a fee.

The harshest lesson was dished out in form one, second term. I lost a tidy sum of money to con artists at the bus terminus in town on the way to school.

It was the school fees – stashed in my socks. To date, it amazes me how they had realised I had money on me.

Nowadays, luckily, school kids do not have to expose themselves to con artists and pick pockets.

There are a million cashless ways to pay school fees safely and conveniently, from home, office or in between activities on the farm.

Co-op Bank clients have a myriad of options available to easily and safely pay school fees for their kids.

Parents can easily pay school fees through Co-op M-Pesa Paybill 400200, MCo-op Cash, PesaLink or at a Co-op Kwa Jirani agent at the local grocery, pharmacy or supermarket. All one needs is to fill in details of the school’s Co-op Bank account number and the money goes straight to the school’s account.

There’s no need to expose pupils and students to the perils of carrying hard cash.

ALSO READ: https://www.ghafla.com/ke/the-choices-one-makes-on-the-first-week-in-high-school-makes-or-breaks-all-future-prospects/

An interesting account of the tense moments at the Nairobi County lockdown barrier on Thika Road

Have you travelled to Nairobi City from other counties, lately?

Well, the lockdown road blocks are a thing – to stem the rapidly spreading Covid-19 pandemic. The tension, the uncertainty as one waits for clearance to leave or enter the city is almost tangible.

The Thika Road block, for instance.

This road block has been mounted off Thika Town, at the Del Monte Factory point. It’s meant to stem the flow of humanity to and from Eastern and Central region. Its perhaps one of the busiest, round the clock.

This is where I am, on a cool Wednesday afternoon seeking to re-enter the city after a few weeks working from the rural home.

A mile or so to the actual block, we join the queue of cars. There are a smattering of armed police officers on foot patrol, holding brief conversations here and there. Presently, a smiling officer asks passengers in our van to alight and walk towards the front of the queue.

The policy is that only the driver stays in a vehicle, to the road block. It’s a work staff van, and everyone has permits. But, still, everyone is silent and nervous.

We alight and start the walk.

The slow mile to the check point feels weird. It’s laden with dreadful feelings. Will I pass the test once again? Have I interacted with a risky person of late?

Dear Lord, I know I’ve sinned and fallen short …. You get it, right? It’s ok to be prayerful.

The walk to the road block testing point reminds one of the 999 steps to the famous Heaven’s Gate. No, not that heaven. We talking of one of the world’s most spectacular locations – a stunning tourist attraction in Hunan, China.

The 999-step stairway to Heaven’s Gate is an architectural wonder, winding up a stunning piece of landscape around Tianmen Mountain. Global tourists have made iconic challenges climbing, hiking and even driving up the steps. It commands a Mecca-kind of reverence for wanderlusts.

Well, the testing tents have a long queue.

It’s easy to ignore the happenings in the tension leading up to the tests, but there’s a lot happening – especially on the business level.

While the pandemic has slowed down and closed up lots of businesses, it has also spawned a couple. At the Thika Road check-point, there’s a lot of personnel around the clock – and this has attracted entrepreneurs.

The road block has security officers, medical officers, charity organizations’ staff and elements of administration. This obviously needs welfare planning from refreshments, feeding and other essential services.

On our queue as we await our turn on the test, a lady in a smart orange apron comes along. She’s balancing colorful, blended juice in tumblers on a tray, selling at Kes. 50/- a piece. They seem tantalizing.

Anything to make us release the tension of the looming tests.

“Have some juice, brother. You are sweating”, she tells me.

“Ok, what’s in it?” I ask, pointing to a reddish-yellow tumbler on her tray.

“Oh, that’s mango juice blended with guava…Its delicious” She says, handing it to me.

“Sina cash, tutalipa vipi?” I ask.

I also want to treat my colleagues. The bill comes to Kes.200.

“I prefer cashless payments. Cash ni risky sana kwa hii road block”. She says. Her name is Naomi.

Naomi visibly lights up. She’s well spoken.

She informs us that she has a Co-op Bank account, and the bank recently assisted her get a till number at no cost on which clients can send money straight to her account. Alternatively, we could also pay through Coop Bank’s M-Pesa pay bill number 400200 straight to the account.

In my case, though, I opted to pay via M-Coop Cash app on my phone. It was easy and convenient – to send money from my Coop Bank account straight to hers – via M-Coop Cash app.

For a minute, we forgot the tension leading up to the test.

For startups or established business owners, learn more on E-commerce Business Solutions or visit the nearest Co-op Bank branch. The bank shall also assist you acquire M-Pesa till numbers to facilitate cashless payments at no cost.


Does your neighborhood have that oddly-paired, yet popular couple that would break your heart if they moved away?

Every apartment block, or neighborhood has that one couple. That one couple that defines the life of that settlement. It’s usually a couple of seemingly mismatching partners – either in temperament or physical parameters.

The husband may be a dark, menacing, unsightly beast, while the wife comes off as fragile, beautiful and comely. The Beauty and the Beast fairy tale scenario. In other instances, the wife may be a landmine always waiting to explode, often in cross-balcony angry altercations – perhaps, even physical tussles. The hubby, though, contrasts as a living teddy bear, hard to irritate and always smiling.

Yet, they live happily.

I have been a Ruaka resident ever since I landed in Nairobi. Everyone knows everyone in my neighborhood – akin to an Ujamaa Village in pre-independence Tanzania.

Presently, I live in an apartment block off the main street, Munyeki Street. This section is hailed as Ruaka’s main artery in grocery and cereals.

This neighborhood has that one interesting couple.

Nyawira is a pleasant, bubbly, middle-aged light-skinned lady with a ground floor shop selling cereals and general household goods. She is always smiling and her infectious laughter rings along the busy street all day long. As expected, her shop is always ringed with customers – some haggling just for haggling’s sake.

Directly across the street, there’s Nyawira’s husband with a wholesale and retail charcoal outlet. He’s not a man of many words. He’s fondly known amongst resident college students as Mr. Grumpy. Stacked along his shop’s veranda, there are rows and rows of metallic tins brimming with charcoal. Unlike his chatty wife across the street, Mr. Grumpy’s premises is a No-Haggling Zone.

“Nipe makaa ya fifty”, a client says. Mr. Grumpy points at the relevant metallic tin.

The regulars know Mr. Grumpy’s work ethics. No one offers cash. There’s a colored poster on his door with a Lipa Na Mpesa Till Number 400200. All clients pay via the number, and Mr. Grumpy checks his battered phone. The number allows direct deposits to their Co-op Bank account.

Across the street, it sounds like a fun fair. Nyawira is juggling business with a couple of women and a little bit of good-natured banter.

“Mi staki mniletee Corona hapa!” Nyawira shrieks. “Keep distance. I still have a husband to look after!”

They entirely turn to look at Mr. Grumpy lounging in his seat across the street. Mr. Grumpy adds a new brow line to his usual scowl, for effects.

“Na staki pesa cash hapa.” Nyawira is at it again. “If pesa zenu ziko kwa bank account, piga transfer direct to my Co-op Bank account.”

“What if I don’t bank with them?” Asks Lucy, new at the shop.

“Usijali mamaa,” Nyawira soothingly assures her. “Co-op Bank iko na solution noma sana. Wana accept payments even from other banks. Ama vipi bwanangu?” She teases her husband scowling across the street.

“Inaitwa the e-Commerce solution by Co-op Bank.” Mr. Grumpy growls. “Ata ukiwa na Dollars ama Pounds wako sawa”.

Legend has it that Mr. Grumpy has a definite number of daily words, and perhaps such a statement may have exhausted it. No worry, his cheery wife will make up for it.

Real comedy comes when a customer wants items form both shops. They pick a tin of charcoal from Mr. Grumpy and cross the street to pick groceries from Nyawira. Since it’s the same till number, there’s a comical exchange between them as they confirm the bills and payments.

If this couple ever decides to move from this street, a lot of us shall weep, and grieve in sack cloth. That unlikely couple is the life of our neighborhood.


Why the local barber shop is a favorite daily stop for your man, though he takes a monthly shave!

There’s a common myth that’s taken root around us.

Has you heard someone say men do not engage in gossip? Well, let this myth be put to death by public stoning, just because it’s a lot of paperwork getting the largely conservative government to approve and provide a suitable firing squad.

Men gossip, and generally spread slander and hearsay to a great extent.

The only difference from women – accepted as ‘genetically programmed’ for gossip – is that the male gender is tactical while at it. Also, men hardly gossip out of spite or indignation but rather as a form of mild entertainment.

The male gender also rarely keep grudges. Out of sight, Out of mind.

Perhaps, the main reason that fuels the myth, is that men have a singular respect for their audience, and venue of this gossip. No self-respecting man will blurt information to a random neighbor they only meet on the stair landing.

Men have a circle of friends, and, most importantly, a purely masculine ‘gossip’ space devoid of the other gender that Biblically shaved Samson.

The Barber Shop. That neighborhood Kinyozi.

In the pre-Covid-19 days, the local barber shop was always packed. It was a typical man cave. Men would meet every evening after work to swap war stories. Modern war stories? Well, exaggerated versions of work and love conquests, EPL probable winners and definite losers…….list is endless.

In between, someone remembers that some flashy foreigner living on 2nd floor in his apartment block ships in mysterious bulky boxes every Tuesday at midnight. That juicy gem doesn’t leave the hallowed man cave.

A casual stroll to my Kinyozi gets me disappointed. I needed a trim, and stories. Its open, but none of the usual crowd. The seasoned barber/owner – Ricaldo – is also not at the premise, and his apprentice tells me he’s doing a house call.

In the face of the pandemic, Ricaldo has had to re-think tactics to keep his business afloat. He no longer allows a crowd at the premises. He offers new clients sanitization fluids and a surgical face masks free of charges. For regular clients, he does house calls – a client calls and makes an appointment for home services.

I know, not much for macho war stories in the house with the missus and kids around, neh? Can this pandemic end already!

Ricardo charges a small fee above the service fees, depending on the client’s home address to manage the overheads shuttling all over the estate.

He further embraced cashless payments for obvious reasons – liquid cash increases the risk of Covid-19 infection, and security concerns.

Ricaldo has a Co-op Bank account which allows clients to send money directly into the account using the Lipa Na M-Pesa Paybill number 400200 (at no cost). He’d also visited the local Co-op Bank branch whose staff assisted him acquire a Till Number for his barber shop – any payments are sent to his account. He monitors his apprentice’s payments in real time.

Ricaldo leans towards me. Like, someone with a huge secret.

“Well, I visited Kioko’s apartment block and got called to a door on 2nd floor. Turns out its full of some flashy foreigners….” He trails off.

“And? Come on, man!”

“Never mind. Just know they paid me very well – in US dollars and Sterling pounds. Directly to my Co-op Bank account – na si unapenda mushene jamaa!”

That’s how I first learnt of Co-op Bank’s iconic E-commerce solution for business owners.

Contact the nearest Co-op Bank branch for more details.


How a flashy pair of Fourth Formers easily rip off an entire batch of newcomers (monos) of their prized pocket money

Nkubu Town is a mid-tier business and residential township in Meru County. While previously ranked ‘sleepy’, the town’s in hot pursuit of the county’s major administrative sibling – Meru town, just a couple of miles north. High rise business projects are slowly changing the town’s skyline, and I had a dream to be part of this new tide.

I chose to invest into the hardware business field – supply building materials. While I had majored in business in college, my folks (who were the principal financiers) had little faith in this venture. The ravaging Covid-19 virus situation also didn’t help. I had to be different.

I was also informed that the construction field was filled with fraudsters. Conniving contractors are a dime a dozen. I didn’t say lest I gave off a cocky vibe, but I’ve had encounters with fraudsters that had weaned me off.

The first was an experience in my first week in high school.

A day or two after reporting day, we had settled in class in the evening. An innocent bunch of ‘green monos’ – freshly issued uniforms crisp and fitting. We still hadn’t started lessons, as belated reporting was ongoing. We hadn’t met all the teachers, yet.

Presently, a pair of smartly dressed gents in fitting blazers and blue jeans (and, white sneakers) enter our class. They introduce themselves as Biology and Chemistry teachers. They are well-informed, and pleasantly casual. While one intimates that he’s wishing for an administrative allocation as our class teacher, the other says he’s keen on drama – wants to know if there are any acting enthusiasts in our lot.

The entire class instantly wanted to be the ‘Next Break-out Star’ in Drama Club!

After a while, they tell of their purpose to visit. They express regret that they welcoming us with bad news. The bad news? One of their colleagues – a Physics teacher – had passed on just a day earlier. The school tradition is that students and teachers contribute to some welfare fund for the bereaved family.

Long story cut short, a pair of flashy, smart-talking Fourth Formers ripped us off our pocket money, after a tall story. They were so good – they successfully repeated that charade in four streams. Of course, they couldn’t be traced.

I lost Kes.500 on that evening’s preps.

For my business, I decided to learn from one of the town’s most established hardware merchants – The Kinoti G.K Hardware. The business is located in an iconic building along the highway that splits the town.

Meeting the gentleman took a while, but I learnt a lot as I waited at the premises. One, he rarely worked there. He ran the business from home. Two, the customers rarely came to the premises. All day long, I’d see pick-up trucks getting loaded for deliveries to construction sites.

When we met, the pleasant gentleman was keen to share his business strengths, on a mentorship role.

He had opted for cashless payments, and its success to the E-commerce solution offered by his banking partner, Co-op Bank.

E-commerce afforded him a variety of advantages.

Customers do not need to be physically present. Payments can be transacted at any time from any location in the world and delivery is done. For instance, Kenyans in the diaspora with construction projects in their rural homes would pay make payments directly to his Co-op Bank account. Delivery of materials to the site is then made.

With an outstanding real-time processing speed with average authorisation response times typically below 2 seconds, such clients would find it very convenient, and safe.

There’s more sales, too, as E-commerce allows flexibility for multiple currencies – Kes, USD, GBP and Euro.

Besides, a customer enjoys a variety of cards: International VISA credit and debit cards, pre-paid cards.

While I’d like to serve clients even in the diaspora, I said that am targeting local customers. The merchant advises me to visit Co-op Bank. They’d assist me get a Lipa Na MPesa till number for my business.

In the face of danger with the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s safer to go cashless with the E-commerce solution from Co-op Bank.

#StaySafe #StayHome



For a business owner, how does using the E-commerce solution from Co-op Bank help grow a business?

The ravaging Covid-19 pandemic has dictated a rather drastic change to our livelihoods if we have to check its spread.

The business owners have had to embrace cashless means of payments, to lower their risk levels presented by use of hard cash. There’s need, therefore, for a reliable E-commerce platform.

To address that concern, The Co-operative Bank has heavily invested in E-commerce to guarantee safety and quick flow of payments to their clients – Merchants and their customers.

Here’s a preview of various advantages a merchant enjoys:

  1. Convenience to their customers consequently an increase in sales: Customers do not need to be physically present. Payments can be transacted at any time from any location in the world and delivery is done.
  2. Outstanding real-time processing speed with average authorisation response times typically below 2 seconds: quicker service delivery as payments reflect instantly.
  3. A customer enjoys a variety of card: International VISA credit and debit cards, pre-paid cards – which doubles safety and convenience on both ends.
  4. There’s more sales, as E-commerce allows flexibility for multiple currencies – Kes, USD, GBP and Euro
  5. The E-commerce solution gives unparalleled processing scalability and security – as it’s instant, and avoids the risks fraught with using hard cash.
  6. The merchants and their customers enjoy exceptional service reliability that’s backed by 24/07 operations support. In case of any hitch, there’s real-time assistance.
  7. E-commerce allows advanced fraud prevention solutions, on both the merchants’ and customers’ end.
  8. The ease of integration. A merchant using the E-commerce has accounting and book balancing cut out, as opposed to tedious paperwork occasioned by hard cash sales.
  9. Real-time reporting on payments and account statuses for trading partners.

Most importantly, with the E-commerce solution, merchants are now be able to receive payments not only from Co-op Bank card holders but also card holders from other banks.

Co-op Bank also offers other Cashless solutions to merchants. For instance:

  1. Lipa Na M-Pesa: The bank assists you get a till number so payments can be directly deposited into your Co-op bank account.
  2. POS/PDQ terminals: Customers do not need to handle hard cash. They can use their cards to make payments, and money is deposited directly into the merchant’s account.
  3. MCo-op Cash: Co-op bank customers with the mobile banking solution can conveniently transfer money directly from their Co-op account into the merchant’s Co-op account using the USSD number *667# or via the MCo-op Cash app.
  4. Lipa Na M-Pesa Paybill number 400200: Customers can use their phones to send money directly into the merchant’s Co-op bank account using the M-Pesa Paybill number 400200.

Merchants are encouraged to contact Co-op Bank for details and assistance.