BOOK REVIEW: Reminiscing Wonderland

Reminiscing Wonderland. PHOTO/Courtesy.

AUTHOR: Dr Mong’are Bw’Onyancha

REVIEWER: Nyang’au Araka

PUBLISHER: Nsemia Incorporated Publishers


PRICE: Ksh 928 = Ksh 800 plus 16% tax (Ksh 128)

Dr. Bw’Onyancha paints a clear picture of his student life at his alma mater, Kisii High School dubbed Wonderland, in the late 1980s in this 170 pages Book titled Reminiscing Wonderland. Dr. Bw’Onyancha tells of a snapshot in time of the lives of students at Wonderland. He includes tales of the school backyard, Greenland (Arcadia), where a few rogue students used to drink alcohol, smoke bhang, and cigarettes, all smuggled from the neighbourhood. He also shows how some mischievous boys could dress in school uniforms borrowed from a neighbouringgirls boarding school. The idea is to access the girls’ school at night for an encounter with their girlfriends. The girls boarding school administration learns of the nocturnal activities, sets up a trap, and captures a couple of the mischievous students. Life lessons are learned.

Dr. Bw’Onyancha also narrates his encounter with a bully at Wonderland whom he nicknames Molo. He first encounters the bully when he is admitted to Wonderland and is assigned to reside in dorm Ruri. It is here we see Molo making other students’ life experiences, including his, challenging.

Molo is a well-known bully who harasses the author and other students. Bw’Onyancha brings to life an incident in which Molo hands him a pile of melamine plates to clean. Tactfully, Bw’Onyancha lets the pile drop on a gravel sink and break. The bully bays for the author’s blood. Following this incident, the duo play hide and seek for some time. A consequence of these unintended games is that Bw’Onyancha hides in a friend’s bed. He avoids being a sitting duck for Molo who has vowed to teach him a lesson about respecting seniors. He says, “I spread my bed in a way one would imagine me sleeping in it that night. At around midnight, while taking refuge in another bed at the far corner of the dorm, Molo approached my bedside. Armed with a metallic pipe, he struck hard where he assumed my head lay…”

Dr. Bw’Onyancha takes us through Molo’s social transformation. The bully’s masked-past reveals his vulnerabilities. While at home on holidays, Molo is arrested and taken to a police cell on the orders of a senior police officer, Luanda. Molo narrates to the author the story behind his transformation. The bully found himself in the cell because Achila, Luanda’s son, implores his father to take action against him because he regularly harasses many students in Wonderland. Molo also seems to always get away with bullying. Molo decides to change for the better after a stern warning from senior police officer, Luanda. The officer promises Molo stiffer punishment if he continues with bullying tendencies.

Later, Dr. Bw’Onyancha learns that Molo has a troubled past. The bully is a product of incest. His mother, Awiti, an orphan herself, is under the care of her uncle at his city home. It is here her uncle defiles her. Awiti runs away and becomes a street child. Against all odds, she makes it to her rural home. When she tells her unfortunate encounter with her uncle, nobody believes her. Awiti’s life becomes unbearable, and she relocates to a distant friendly home. When Awiti gives birth to Molo, she passes away from birth complications. Orphaned, Molo endures social isolation and challenging childhood. In the end, Molo crawls into Bw’Onyancha’s sympathetic heart, the duo reconciles and eventually become friends. The bigger lesson Molo teaches us is that bullying could be a sign of a troubled past and the bully, consciously or otherwise, could be acting out that past. In such a situation, professional attention to bullies would be handy.
The author also vividly captures President Daniel ArapMoi’s visit to Wonderland in December 1986. This tour excites the entire student population who gathers at the school assembly. It is here we see a clash of youth culture and the expected colonial etiquette. Dr. Bw’Onyancha recalls the moment President Moi emerged from the office of the principal. In his right hand was his usual gold-tipped club, a cultural insignia of status in his Kalenjin community. Attached to his left jacket collar was a pin for the governing party, KANU.

At the end of his tour, President Moi buys enough loaves of bread for students to last two weeks, and a bull slaughtered to commemorate his visit. Such are the promises that keep students looking forward to similar future presidential visits. We still see these from politicians, especially his mentees, today. It is at the parade that the symbolism, such as the school motto, the flag, the National anthem spring to life, and Bw’Onyancha is inspired to actualized his academic dreams.

The author reminds us of the successful Kisii School graduates such as Chief Justice David Maraga, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i; Governors James Ongwae (Kisii), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), John Nyagarama (Nyamira), and Cornel Rasanga ( Siaya); Former Finance Minister Simeon Nyachae, Planning and National Development Minister Henry Obwocha (late), Minister for Energy Henry Okwany (late), and Environment Minister Andrew Omanga (late) are also old boys of Kisii School.

Other successful old boys include Labour Minister James Nyamweya (late), Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Samuel Ayodo (late), Transport Chief Administrative Secretary Chris Obure, and Public Service Minister DalmasOtieno.

Kisii School has also produced academicians of high repute. Among them are Vice-Chancellors Prof. RatemoMichieka (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology), Prof. Douglas Odhiambo (Moi University), and Prof. Fredrick Onyango (Maseno University). Dr. Bw’Onyancha notes that such men epitomize the excellent social and academic products on mountain tops before, during, and after his time at Wonderland. From Bw’Onyancha’s book, we appreciate the challenges here and there and the space for exploration and discovery. Into these spaces, students enter wet behind their ears, roam free as though in Wonderland to discover self and forge a career path. From these spaces, grown-ups leave ready for the next station in life, one of molding into societal gemstones equipped to turn developmental wheels locally and abroad. It is in Wonderland that memories of youth are made and archived. In his Book, Reminiscing Wonderland, Bw’Onyancha remembers this magical space.

Dr. Bw’Onyancha’s other tales invite the reader into Wonderland. Through his stories, Bw’Onyancha captures the beauty of Kisii High School. As I read Reminiscing Wonderland, images of my schooling experiences elsewhere jumped off the pages into windows to my soul. Wonderland inspired me to imagine similar works, and I am no longer the same again.   


– Dr. Mong’are Bw’Onyancha, his wife, and three children live in East Lansing, Michigan, United States of America.
– Dr. Bw’Onyancha grew up in rural Kenya.  After his father, Benson Onyancha passed away before he was 18, his mother, Josephine Bwari, raised him.
– Veronica Kwamboka, his elder sister, passed on barely one year after their father passed away in the early 1990s. Following these unfortunate events, his larger family life turned from bad to worse.
– Determined to change his circumstances, he set eyes on university education. He first joined Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology for his undergraduate degree.
– Next, he joined Egerton University for his postgraduate studies. Then, he earned his Masters and Doctorate Degrees from Michigan State University in the United States of America.
– He always nursed a spark to authorship that he fanned to life after his doctoral studies. When Bw’Onyancha sent excerpts of his stories to the Kisii High School Alumni WhatsApp group, he received, latched onto the positive feedback, and weaved Reminiscing Wonderland into existence.

The Reviewer is the Managing Editor at The Scholar Media Africa. His contact:

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Mr. Araka is the pioneer reporter and editor at The Scholar. His satirical segment, The Idler's Corner is very popular with our readers. He is also a published novelist and biographer.


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