The report form conundrum

Childhood mischief emerges as schools reopen in Jiji Ndogo

In Summary

• Charlie's days of faking his dismal academic results were numbered

I’m about to close the office for the day when a young boy crashes in.

“Charlie!” I say. “I remember you. You captured our snake.”

“Yes, Sgt Makini!”


“You’re not afraid of snakes, so what are you running away from?”

He takes a minute to catch his breath.

“My father.”

“Why? Are you in trouble?”

“I will be when he comes home.”

Myriad circumstances by which Charlie might be in trouble circle through my head. I was a mischievous kid myself and got in trouble more times than I care to remember. In one incident, my mother left me in charge of our cow, Matu, and the githeri left boiling on the stove.

I went to play and lost track of both. Knowing mother was about to return, I spent half the afternoon looking for the cow unsuccessfully.


Upon arrival, my mother was livid. We searched the entire village but couldn’t find Matu. So mother suggested we go home and wait for word if anyone found her.

She opened the door to our kitchen and there was Matu and no githeri. Matu had feasted on it but unfortunately, she had locked herself in the kitchen in the process. The hiding I received woke up the dead three villages over.

“Are you okay, Sergeant?” Charlie asks.

“Sorry, Charlie. Flashbacks. What did you do? Let one of your snakes loose?”

Charlie looks down. Embarrassed.

“It’s worse than that.”

Worse? More memories come crashing back. One day I…

“No more flashbacks, Sergeant!” Charlie pleads. “Or my father will come and kill us both.”

“I’m listening.”

“Well, you see, I hate school. They teach stuff I don’t like. I’d like to study snakes only. Since I don’t perform well, I’ve been faking the report forms I hand in to my father.”

“Oh, boy. That’s not good.”

“It’s worse. Since schools are about to open, the school sent last year’s end-of-year report form directly to him.”

“Lemme guess. It’s different from the ones you’d been giving him?”

“Exactly! Today my father went to school to find out what’s going on.”

“And when he gets back, you’ll be singing through your buttocks.” I shake my head. “I understand your dilemma, but how can I help you?”

“You’re the police. You can protect me.”

“Not when you’ve been lying to your parents.”

Charlie thinks for a second.

“Then I want to report that my father is about to kill me.”

“I can’t arrest your father for something he hasn’t done.”

“Then… then arrest me for something worse. Say I killed someone.”

“And that will help how?”

“It’ll make him forget about the report forms. Worry about me instead.”

I got to hand it to the boy. He’s smart. But before I can advise him on the folly of his plan, his father comes to the station.

“I’m so mad right now I could strangle someone,” he barks.

“Mr Maneno,” I plead, “maybe we should discuss this before you do something rash. There is no need to strangle Charlie. If there’s another way to solve this…”

“Who said anything about strangling Charlie?” Maneno hugs his son. “I’m proud of my boy.”

“You are?” Charlie and I ask in tandem.

“Of course! See, I went to school to find out why the end-of-year report showed him doing poorer than the other report forms. Only to find that during the Covid school closure, they lost all records of the actual exams, so we had to go by the old report forms.”

Maneno grabs his son’s hand. “Let’s go home son. We have to celebrate.”