BY JOSIAH ODANGA
The road from Owalo at the Homa Bay-Kisii border was bumpy and bushy, but the annoyingly eroded trenches, the disorganised stones and the carelessly overlapping lantana camara finally smooched our car into a totally beautiful scenery.
We were at the Atemo Youth Polytechnic in Kojwach Ward, Kabondo Kasipul Constituency, Homa Bay County. The polytechnic is best known as Abong’odhoga – contextually translating to mean I’m clueless.
The scenery is not just a perfect display of how well human work can blend with nature but also the exact face of a white elephant.
Eucalyptus and cypress trees in the compound stand tall. Unkempt grass lawn extends to the south. More than twenty majestic permanent houses are scattered all over the tree shades – all in good condition, save for the aging paint. At the same time, thickets of Lantana camara is unrelentingly chocking the very peace of the place.
So, how did it happen that trees, buildings and a stubborn bush appear in a single panorama? We are clueless, who knows…? Better we get the facts right from those in the know.
Between 1986 and 2000, Engineer Jerim Obonyo worked as a tutor in the institution, serving one time as manager for 2 years.
He explains that, during the good old days, the polytechnic offered three courses: Building and Construction, Motor Vehicle Mechanic and Welding.
“We produced persons who, to date, are still outstanding in the industry. There is Clement Ratila of Ratila Constructions – based in Migori and Patrick Omolo of Boris Constructions Company – based in Molo and Malaba,” Eng Obonyo told the 47 Reporters, adding that “another is Joseph Bati who is a tutor at Rukongo Youth Polytechnic in Sindo, Homa Bay county.”
The polytechnic which was started by Finish nationals under the Lutheran mission in 1977 closed shop in 2000; transforming from a polytechnic to a Bible Training College.
“But the Bible College also collapsed 3 years later; because not very many people were willing to become evangelists,” he says.
Reverends Martin Shikuku and Oliver Ojwang’ are some of the men of God who emerged, thanks to the Bible college.
Maurice Juma, 66, a neighbour to Abong’odhoga recalls that, in the beginning, their forebears contributed the vast polytechnic land. The result, thanks to the Lutherans, was a perfect institution they had not gathered a clue about, any time before.
Escola Norma, Batel Lingard and Alf William are some of the missionaries whom Samuel Andoke, 71, remember their stint at the facility with great amusement.
According to Mr Juma, the last misungu on sight was Christian Schebaker in 2008. “He took pictures and went forever.”
Abong’odhoga land stretches yonder. Some of the things that cannot escape a visitor’s eyes include a vandalized tractor at a garage; a majestic workshop building, rotting files, computers at a basement and bibles shelved in a room.
There also exists a robust water and electricity supply system: a mighty solar panel that was used to pump borehole water into tanks, which are now decaying in the compound.
Mr Obonyo elucidates that the missionaries had abandoned the institution but continue to cling to the land’s Title Deed. This makes it impossible for anyone interested in making the institution productive.
A stone throw away from Abong’odhoga emanates the throbbing sound of the Atemo waterfalls, also referred to as Abururu.
We hastily arrived at the Abururu and before us roared two breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls of river Awach.
The voice of Mr Andoke then came frightening: “This place has the mother of all snakes. A man once saw it and died, because he rattled it and failed to offer chicken to the Omieri!”
“It is not just the snake,” he continued, “rainbow lives here. When it rains, it dips her head at the deepest part. Those who love colours can always observe it from Abong’odhoga.
“Also, thunder lives here. “When it rains, the roaring of thunder has always been exceptionally louder in this village. Such sounds are good for a person’s heart.”
According to the Mr Juma and Mr Andoke, initially before technology, people ground maize flour at Abururu. The machine was made of stones and gave fine product.
It operated between 1948 and 1990, thanks to the great skills of wazees Joel Omer, Nyang’inja Oguok, Jairo Ondiegi and Nyangira Mita, who have since passed on.
The operation of the grinder attracted customers from as far as Kegogi, Nyakoe and Miruka in Gusii highlands; Oyugis, Kabondo and Kokwanyo in Homabay county. All very far places today, fact that customers visited on foot notwithstanding.
A pre-feasibility study by Oslo based Multiconsult Engineering company in 2016 revealed that Atemo Water Falls has a potential of being a site of a run-of-river Hydropower Project, producing up to 1.9 MW.
The villagers have called on Homa Bay county government to revive Abong’odhoga.
“The polytechnic is decaying under our watch. I think government should not sit pretty just because somebody is clinging on its ownership,” Daniel Obillo, a youth leader told the 47 Reporters.
“Our taxes should be used to pump life into Abongo’odhoga and not constructing new training centers which is very expensive.
“Alternatively, Abururu should be known as a tourist destination so that Abong’odhoga becomes the finest hotel facility. This is a dumbfounding scenery that any tourist need to visit,” Eng Obonyo said.