My heart breaks each time I walk past the eternally-leaning, wooden gate to our local coffee factory. The place is deserted. The coffee bean drying terraces are overgrown with weeds, the sorting sheds have leaking roofs. The only thing that works is the gigantic, trusty coffee-weighing machine, albeit dusty and a little rusty around the edges.
But it works just fine. Weight, check your weight!
There’s not even a drowsy watchman in sight. This is a community-owned relic, alright.
What breaks the heart is the change of times. Way back, coffee would revolve around our lives. No, that’s too modest. Coffee used to be life. We’d eternally slave, toil and break our backs for this produce. The family would bond over coffee labor – the folks may fight all night, but unite in the morning for the cherry picking.
If you wanted to find favor in the eyes of your father, learn the basics of coffee farming. The tedious, extremely draining pruning season. Immediately after, break your back hauling sacks of manure for each stem. Oh, the pains of this love stretches from here to Timbuktu!
However, we didn’t have to wait till December – for the annual coffee bonus – to see the fruits of our labor.
School Opening Days.
We didn’t report to school on opening days. We’d spend the first day at the local coffee factory. We’d make a line, almost a mile long, from the clerk’s office. We had to line up to get factory chits to pay our school fees. Somehow, schools then had a fees check off system with the coffee society – based on individual coffee yields – and number of kids in school.
The factory clerk then (now mercifully retired), had heavy horn-rimmed glasses and a mean sense of humor. She enjoyed emotional torture, measured out in painful little doses.
Hii mwaka mliweka mbolea kwa shamba?
Why should I pay your school fees and you always come last in class?
(At this point, you are tempted to remind her it’s your coffee, not hers). But, of course, you do not.
The clerk would punch in numbers on a huge calculator, and lean back on her chair. You’d hold in your breath and wait, a little like Judgment Day – heaven or hell?
“Kwenu mko wangapi primary school?” She’d ask.
Your mind is adrift. You are wondering if the tight bun on her hair doesn’t cause some considerable level of pain and discomfort. No worry, she doesn’t need your answer, anyways.
She punches off some more numbers in that huge calculator, then tears off a sheet from her ledger, and hands it over. That’s the chit that pays your school fees. Thou shall not lose, soil, tear, fray or wet it – there wasn’t any back up – save for a faded carbon copy at the mean clerk’s office!
Modern times, things have turned out better, especially for Co-op Bank customers. Paying school fees doesn’t have to be so tedious and, in some cases, traumatizing – not every family had huge tracts of land dedicated to the coffee crop.
Co-op Bank clients get to easily pay school fees direct to a school’s Co-op Bank account, via M-Pesa.
This is the simple process:
- Go to the M-Pesa menu, go to Paybill.
- Select business number and fill in 400222
- For Account prompt, write ‘schoolcode#studentnumber’
- Confirm details, and send.
Paying school fees doesn’t have to include lining up at the coffee factory clerk’s office to get produce chits. Pay through Co-op Bank’s M-Pesa Paybill number – faster, safer and more convenient.