As Form One students settle into a new life in secondary school, this has also been a period of reflection. We have read tear-jerking and heart-warming stories of determined students who overcame many odds to get an education and how well-wishers came together in their aid.
First, there was the story of Marisela Muthoni, a needy 15-year-old girl from Tharaka-Nithi County who walked 50 kilometres from her home in Gaceuni village to Marimanti Girls High School. Muthoni, who arrived at the school tired and hungry, told the school administration that her sickly mother and relatives could not raise school fees, prompting a story in Nation.Africa that inspired well-wishers to contribute to her school fees.
Then there was Geoffrey Omollo, a 15-year-old boy who did not allow his lack of money to hamper his dreams of joining Kanga High School in Migori. The orphan surprised many when he reported to school with an empty box – save for a pair of sports shoes, a kamusi and a dictionary, all of which were borrowed. Omollo has since been awarded a full scholarship by the KCB bank after his story was highlighted in Nation.Africa.
Lastly, we all saw the viral photo of a boy sandwiched between his parents who were dressed in traditional attire standing outside the administration block of Kapsabet High School. We later came to learn that the young man in the photo is Fred Ekiru Amario, a Form One student who travelled 744 kilometres from Lokwiii village in Turkana to Kapsabet High School. The young man took the two-day trip with his parents after well-wishers came together to support Ekiru through his secondary education.
A great equaliser
These stories are not only touching and uplifting because they remind us of the kindness of Kenyans, but also because they remind us of a fundamental truth; education “is a great equaliser of the conditions of men”, to quote Horace Mann, who stated this in 1848.
Today, Muthoni, Omollo and Ekiru will sit in class alongside children from privileged backgrounds and in four years, these three youngsters will take the same national examination alongside children of Cabinet secretaries, MPs, governors, CEOs and successful entrepreneurs.
These children may come from varying backgrounds, from abject poverty and lack to incredible multigenerational wealth, but it is one thing, education, that will put them all on the same pedestal and give them an equal opportunity to do something great with their lives.
This is why we must go beyond relying on well-wishers and continue enacting policies to ensure that every child, irrespective of their circumstances, is given an equal shot at a good education.
For some of these children, they are the only ones from their families who have come this far in education and are the only hope to get their families out of poverty.
I believe every Kenyan who has benefited from a good education can play a part – no matter how small– to pay it forward and ensure that every Kenyan child has access to quality education.
The writer is the director, Innovation Centre, at Aga Khan University; [email protected]