During the colonial period in Kenya, there were three
Gikuyu men Kioi, Githogori and Kaminju who wanted to further their education.
They decided to enroll in adult education classes to learn English. When they
went to the school they carried with them books and pencils and put them on a
table. When the tutor came he asked them, "Who put these items here?" They said
in the Gikuyu language ni ithuii atatu. The tutor told them that to say this in
English they should say, "We three". They learned these words and went home.
The following day the tutor found they had sharpened their
pencils very badly, like the way one peels sugarcane, and asked them, "What did
you use to sharpen your pencils?" They said in Gikuyu, na banga. He told them
that to say this in English they should say, "with a panga or knife." They went
home and came back the following day. This time the tutor told them that he
would not teach them until they paid tuition, that the classes were not free.
They tried to plead with the tutor to allow them to pay later because they were
having financial problems. This was to no avail. He sent them away and told them
if they were asked why they were sent away they should say it was “because of
money” (tondu wa mbeca in Gikuyu).
As they walked home they feared that they might forget the phrases they had
learned so they decided that Kioi should be in charge of "we three"; Githogori
of "with a panga"; and Kaminju of "because of money". As they were going home
they came upon the body of a man who had just been killed so they stopped and
started looking around the scene. As they were doing so, a colonial policeman
arrived in a Landrover, saw the dead man, and came out of the vehicle. He then
asked, "Who killed him?" Kioi replied, "We three." The policeman went on and
asked, "With what?" Githogori proudly replied, "With a panga". The policeman
further asked, "Why?" Kaminju hastened to reply, "Because of money."
The three men thought that they knew English quite well
and were happy and proud to have had an exchange with a white man. Unfortunately
the white policeman immediately handcuffed them. The following day the three
were taken to court where they were tried for murder and found guilty. They were
then jailed. This is an example of the English proverb, A little knowledge is a