St Bakhita Chuka Girls' play carries the day

St Bakhita Chuka Girls High School

St Bakhita Chuka Girls High School performs a modern dance during the unveiling of the school's new name on May 31, 2024.

Photo credit: Anthony Njagi | Nation Media Group

A play about resilience, hard work, humility and love dominated the unveiling of St Bakhita Chuka Girls High School in Tharaka-Nithi County on Sunday, June 9.

The play entitled Saint Bakhita, directed by Joan Muchina, was performed during the dedication of the new name for the institution.

It told the moving and memorable story of Catholic Saint Josephine Bakhita, a girl kidnapped from Sudan, who rose from slavery to become a Catholic sister and serve God diligently for the rest of her life.

The new name of the school, which includes the saint's name, was chosen by the students of the school, who had expressed a desire to change from the old name of the school to a new one that reflected the virtues that the students wished to emulate.

The school has been at the forefront of both academic and drama at both regional and national levels. The production of Saint Bakhita was just another feather in their cap, having featured prominently in the Eastern Region Drama Festival and the Kenya National Drama Festival this year.

Colourful ceremony

The new name was unveiled in a colourful ceremony led by the Rt Reverend Salesius Mugambi, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Meru, St Bakhita Chuka Girls Principal Joan Muchina and BOM Chairperson Jennifer Mugambi.

The play imaginatively and creatively tells the true story of Bhakita, a girl who was sold into slavery during the later years of the notorious slave trade in the second half of the 19th century.

The audience was taken through the eventful life of Bhakita, who was born in Darfur in 1869 and kidnapped at the age of nine. After being bought and resold five times, the girl was renamed Bhakita by her last buyers, the family of the Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan.

The consul released her and took her to Italy, where she was baptised in 1890 and joined the Charity Sisters. Her life, as depicted in the play, was dramatic and full of events beyond her control, yet she survived to become a leading servant of the community. She was canonised in 2000 and is the patron saint of Sudan and of survivors of human trafficking.

Rev Mugambi said Africans today suffer from slavery in various forms and guises, from neo-colonialism to the agonising ordeals of Kenyans who travel to the Middle East and other countries in the hope of greener pastures, only to be forced to work in appalling conditions. He urged young people to avoid the lure of easy money as it can lead them into slavery.

"I urge all students as well as teachers, parents and society to emulate the humility of Saint Bhakita who overcame numerous challenges with patience and faith and triumphed in the end," the cleric said.

A giant mural

Saint Bhakita in the play was memorably portrayed by Glory Gacheri. Others in the cast were Glory Mueni who played Bhakita's Arabic master, Linn Pendo (Turkish Master), Roxanne Ntingari, Queen Wawira, Joy Nlirote and Blessy Kinya. The cast was directed by Joan Muchina, who is also the school's principal. She revealed that her students chose the name "Saint Bakhita" after being inspired by her story.

The ceremony also saw the unveiling of a giant mural of Saint Bakhita on the front wall of the school fence. This year, the school performed a choral verse in the National Drama Festival of Kenya and also excelled in the modern dance category.

The school's chairperson, Jennifer Mugambi, described the school as an embodiment of the new Competency-Based Curriculum, which allows students to excel in academics as well as other areas such as arts and sports.