Boy who went to school with just a box and soap gets sponsorship for dream career

Levis Otieno

Levis Otieno at his parents' home in Kanjira, Rachuonyo North Sub-county, Homa Bay County on January 18, 2024. 

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

Four years ago, when Levis Otieno made headlines for walking into Kanga High School in Migori County for Form One with only two bars of soap in his metal box, he had little hope for a bright future.

Wearing his brother's oversized jumper, the bright boy from a humble background went to school in January 2020 with his mother Monica Atieno, who was carrying his five-month-old sibling.

Desperate and afraid of being turned away by the school authorities, but determined to try, they waited for their turn.

Now, four years later, Levis has a reason to smile and has no regrets about their decision to go to the school, despite having no fees or requirements.

Levis, who has since become an inspiration to many underprivileged children, scored a B+ out of 70 in the 2023 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams, which will give him direct access to university in Kenya.

Best of all, his ambition to become a software engineer is likely to come true after Nairobi's Moringa School offered him a full scholarship to study computer software engineering while he waits to enter university.

Officials from the school, led by Head of Partnership Steve Biko Ochieng, visited his home to prepare him for the next stage of his educational journey.

Kenyans help boy who went to Kanga High School with only 2 bar soaps

"We deemed it fit to offer Levis a full scholarship. This is possible through our partnership with MasterCard Foundation," Ochieng said.

The Moringa School offers similar support to students from disadvantaged families.

Ochieng says they are seeking more help from other organisations to help Levis pursue his dream of becoming a software engineer. This includes seeking funding for a laptop, smartphone and internet connection.

"He has the option of either studying remotely through online classes or attending physical classes in Nairobi. We, however, call for more support from other organisations to ensure he achieves his dream," Ochieng said.

If Levi wants to study remotely, he will have to find a local school in his village where he can get space to attend online classes.

He is expected to take accelerated classes for six months and build his engineering portfolio.

The course originally took four years, but Moringa School has compressed it into a six-month period, with classes expected to start on February 26.

This will be an advantage for Levis, who will study while waiting to start university in September.

Ochieng said that after the training, Levis will be enrolled in a paid internship programme to enhance his skills. The money will help him pay for part of his university education.

"We have other partners who we will engage to absorb him after the internship," Ochieng said.

Levis has always had an interest in computer and software engineering, and his performance in Computer Studies, as well as an A grade in his KCSE exam, has further motivated him to pursue a career in the field.

Needy boy reports to Kanga High School with 2 bars of soap and an empty box

“I have always loved technology because it changes every day and people are in need of technological advances that help them make tasks simple,” he says.

Levis has already come up with some ideas for technological solutions that he would like to try out after the training.

He said he was looking forward to developing software that will guide farmers on best farming practices, adding that he wanted to help farmers in his village who depend mainly on rain to grow crops. Agriculture in his village has been affected by climate change, which has made it difficult to predict weather patterns. Levis said he wanted to solve this challenge.

"My vision is to see all farmers getting profit from what they plant. It saddens me when I see crops fail because of delayed rain or prolonged sunshine," he said.

Levis' future looks bright, a far cry from the bleak situation of the needy student whose photos went almost viral in 2020 when he desperately needed financial help to enrol in school.

Those viral photos turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the boy, who was able to secure sponsorship after his story was published. It gave him a new lease of life and has opened more doors for him.

But his mother is still struggling financially. Three other children at home cannot go to school because they cannot afford the fees.

Atieno says one of her daughters is at the University of Nairobi and the other has graduated from Masinde Muliro University, where she was studying health records management, but she has yet to get a job.

“I currently support my family by doing manual labour in neighbours' homes. I dropped out of school in Class Eight and have no stable income,” she said.