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Triumph over adversity: Samburu girl reports to Form One with just a bag and pencil

Akuwam Arupe, 15, with her aunt Mary Ebenyo after receiving school uniforms from AIC Moi Girls School. Arupe travelled from Suguta Valley to apply for admission to the school.

Photo credit: Geoffrey Ondieki | Nation Media Group

Fifteen-year-old Akuwan Arupe arrived at AIC Moi Girls School in Maralal, Samburu County on Monday exhausted and covered in dust.

She stood out in the crowd given that she did not don a new school uniform as is the norm for reporting students. She wore her former DEB Maralal Primary School uniform and worn-out slippers, bearing the hallmarks of a challenging journey and an insatiable thirst for education.

Arupe joined the line of new students accompanied by her guardian carrying her only essentials – an admission letter and the result slip from her 2023 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations.

Despite not meeting all the requirements for admission and lacking necessities such as a metal box, books, school fees and other personal effects, Arupe still turned up for admission.

She tightly clutched a borrowed bag and a pen.

When it was Arupe's turn to seek clearance, teachers were astonished to find her with nothing to register, prompting her to explain her predicament.

"My journey here is driven by hope. I really hope they will not send me away, because if they do, I am finished," an emotional Arupe told

Scored 329 marks out of 500

Arupe, who scored 329 marks out of 500 in the 2023 KCPE exams embarked on a journey from the volatile Suguta Valley in Samburu North to Maralal with her guardian covering 173 kilometres.

Arupe said she left home on an empty stomach, expressing concern about insecurity back home where she could be forced into marriage if she did not go to school.

"I have just come and I hope I'll secure admission to learn here," she told teachers.

Her guardian, who is also her aunt, Mary Ebenyo, emphasised Arupe's thirst for education despite the challenges.

Student in Samburu reports to school with only a pen

Ms Ebenyo revealed Arupe's pivotal role in the change in beliefs and perceptions within Suguta.

The girl's determination and academic performance in the face of adversity, Ms Ebenyo explained, makes her a beacon of hope for the impoverished region.

"She is the only girl and only hope who can change the beliefs and perceptions of villagers in Suguta Valley," Ms Ebenyo said, laying bare the harsh economic realities that define their background.

"She has been staying with me since she left Suguta Valley. I have accompanied her today empty-handed. We are really poor, her parents are extremely poor back in Suguta Valley. I hope she gets admitted," she added.

Waived the required fees

She acknowledged that there were proposals from a section of their family for Arupe to seek employment as a house help in a more affluent Samburu family “because there was no way she could continue with her studies.”

To their relief, Arupe's admission to AIC Moi Girls School was facilitated by the school principal Alice Gituro who waived the required fees and provided school uniform, a mattress and other essentials with the hope that a good Samaritan would come to her aid.

"We have admitted her with the hope that she gets a well-wisher to help her. She looks like a determined girl seeking to change the situation at home," said Ms Gituro.

Living in unsanitary conditions, Suguta Valley faces numerous challenges including hunger, poverty, ill health, poor nutrition, and rampant conflict.

Basic amenities such as schools are scarce making education a formidable challenge for children in the region.

Arupe says her wish is to change her home where staying alive takes precedence over education.