Religious, hard-working and generous: The Ruto Kamagut villagers knew

Kamagut Primary School

The old nursery building at Kamagut Primary School in Kamagut village, Uasin Gishu County, on September 12,2022. President-elect William Ruto spent his formative years at the institution in the early 1970s.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

To residents of Kamagut, his home village, President-elect William Ruto has ascended to the presidency through hard work, courage and sacrifice.

Born 55 years ago and raised in Kamagut village, Uasin Gishu County, Dr Ruto was described by many as a man of courage whose actions have inspired others to chase their dreams.

He was the first pupil in his locality to score 33 out of the 36 points in Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) examination 44 years ago and is now on the precipice of becoming the first Deputy President in Kenya’s history to succeed his boss in his first stab at the presidency.

“We would walk barefoot for two kilometres to Kamagut nursery and, though he was the youngest among us, he was extremely diligent. At no time was he punished for misconduct like the rest of us,” recalls Mr Clement Kosgei, his classmate at Kamagut Primary in 1971.

“We would and sit on logs and stones while attending lessons, besides playing childhood games, but what astounded us most was his punctuality and mindfulness. When it was time to take back home the animals he was herding, he did not need to be reminded.”

Described as selfless and wise by his childhood friends, Dr Ruto’s oratory skills and coherence in the written and spoken word began to manifest while he was in class five when he joined the debating club.

“He was a great debater during inter-class competitions and was always ready to learn and do more. That is what has driven him to become the leader that he is,” Mr Kosgei added. According to Mr Kosgei, 56, the President-elect was born and bred under strict African Inland Church (AIC) doctrines.

His sentiments were echoed by Ms Esther Cherobon, another of Dr Ruto’s desk mates at Kamagut Primary who described him as a fast learner.

“He loved mathematics and science. He was also a class prefect with unmatched generosity. He would share what he had w4th his classmates without bias,” she said.

His generosity, she added, was exemplified when he was elected the Uasin Gishu District Kanu leader.

“He had a car that he had converted into a village ambulance. He used it to ferry expectant mothers to maternity in Eldoret, some 25 kilometres away. He did not ask for any money and this endeared him to locals,” she said. She recalled how Dr Ruto was instrumental in replacing mud-walled schools and churches with permanent ones.

“Just like his late father, Mzee Daniel Kipruto Samoei Cheruiyot, who loved education, his generosity saw him educate children from poor backgrounds. As MP, he established more schools in the larger Kamagut location,” she said. At Kamagut Primary, the imposing 60-year-old nursery where Dr Ruto studied is now a relic with rusted iron sheets and dilapidated mud walls.

“We wanted to demolish it, but the school administration said it was part of history and had to be preserved. We no longer use it but now Dr Ruto is one of our outstanding alumni. We are optimistic the school will receive the much needed facelift,” said Kamagut Primary head teacher Nicholas Chopong.

Dr Ruto was born on December 21, 1966 to Mzee Cheruiyot and Mrs Sarah Cheruiyot in Kamagut village.

He was barely six years old when he enrolled in the nursery school in 1971. He later joined Kerotet Primary School before returning to Kamagut, where he sat his CPE in 1980 and passed with 33 points out of 36.

He proceeded to Wareng Secondary School for Ordinary Level before joining the prestigious Kapsabet Boys High School for his Advanced Level. He then joined the University of Nairobi, where he studied zoology and botany. Ms Teresa Rono, Dr Ruto’s class three teacher at Kerotet Primary in 1977, described him as a polite student who worked hard.

His peers at Wareng High School described him as religious and dedicated to his studies.

Mr Isaac Maiyo, who was a class ahead of him, said Dr Ruto always completed his assignments on time.

“He was also a motivational speaker of sorts and he was regularly surrounded by the other students, whom he coached about life,” he said.

As MP for Eldoret North, Dr Ruto appointed Mr Maiyo as CDF chairman and championed the “Ondoa shule ya matope”initiative in the constituency.

“During his tenure, Eldoret North was ranked among the top four constituencies that prudently utilised the CDF funds and I am convinced that he will use the same zeal to govern the country.”

On the Eldoret-Malaba highway at Kambi Kuku, the spot where Dr Ruto sold chickens in the late 1980s, Mr Amos Arap Kebenei recollected how they used to rush with their chickens to motorists trying to persuade them to purchase the birds.

“He was the youngest among us but worked with great passion and vigour. He used to join us during the school holidays but became a chicken seller full time after finishing his secondary education in 1987,” said Arap Kebenei, 70.

Ms Devinah Jepkoech, another chicken seller, said Dr Ruto was honest in his work and whenever a customer forgot his change, he would ensure he got it back.

“He was diligent in his work and we are happy for the strides he has made. We want him to fulfil his election manifesto and make Kenyans proud,” she said.

Locals were united in urging him to govern impartially and stick to the dictates of the Constitution to ensure there is peace, stability, development and unity across the country.

“We do not want a scenario where political sycophants or even friends are rewarded,” said Mr Lawrance Tarus. “We want experts to be given plum state jobs to ensure the ailing economy is revived, jobs are created and the cost of living brought down. We will not celebrate when other Kenyans are languishing.”

AIC Bishop Emeritus Silas Yego said Dr Ruto was pious from a young age.

“There was a time we were coming back from an evangelical mission in Turkana and, at Lokichar, we met a pastor who was wearing sandals. After exchanging pleasantries, Dr Ruto took off his shoes and handed them over to the pastor. He wore slippers on his journey back and bought another pair of shoes when he arrived in Kitale,” he said.