We deferred our dreams and have no regrets!

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What you need to know:

  • Despite several measures taken by the government to keep learners in school, the 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools remains an elusive dream.
  • These individuals decided to discontinue their college studies so that their siblings could get basic education

They had dreams, but they also had responsibilities. They wanted to learn, but they also wanted to help.

They sacrificed their own ambitions, but they gained something in return – the formation of strong, unbreakable bonds of love and friendships with their siblings and others who offered support along the way.

The sense of fulfillment that came with this was simply immeasurable.

This week, we had a chat with individuals whose ambitions took a back seat as they prioritised their siblings' education.

Mohammed Said Tawa

Mohammed Said Tawa, a businessman.

Photo credit: Pool

Mohammed Said Tawa, 48
Growing up, I went through a lot of challenges especially in 1994 when my father died. Being the eldest child in my family, I had to quickly fit into his shoes especially because my mother was a housewife. I was in Form Four at Malindi High school by then.

The moment I received that terrible phone call in February 1994, I knew for sure that I would never be able to complete my education. I had four younger brothers and three sisters. One brother was in class seven, while the rest had not started school.

The one who was in class seven had to stop going to school and wait for me to complete my final year in high school.

Circumstances forced me to approach my class teacher for assistance. That teacher later informed the principal that I did not have anyone to pay my fees, and that the only option was for him to either allow me to complete my education without paying school fees, or to discontinue my education altogether.

To my surprise, my class teacher convinced the principal, I was allowed to learn for the remaining months without paying a shilling.

I did my final secondary school exams the same year my dad died, and scored a mean grade of B- (minus). I was called to join Nairobi University to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree, but I chose to defer that dream.

After completing my secondary education, I ventured out and started doing anything I could so that my mother and siblings could have food at the end of the day.

It was at that time that I vowed that, come what may, I would make sure that all my siblings would at least complete high school. I knew that they could go to university or college at any point in their lives, but high school and primary school levels could not wait.

I explained this to my mother who had never been to school, but understood the importance of education.

She never asked me to put my education on hold for my siblings. That was purely my decision. My desire was for all of us get basic education.

After high school, I did not continue with education because by the time our last born did his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, my own children were also in school.

Secondly, I was still unable to raise my school fees. At one point I registered with Kenyatta University to do a school-based programme because I was working as a computer teacher at a primary school, but I was unable to continue because of financial challenges.

Still, I did not give up. When my two brothers completed their secondary school education, I was working during the night at a construction site in Bamburi, so I decided to enrol for a computer course at Technical University of Mombasa, which was by then known as Mombasa Polytechnic. Two years later, I got my diploma.

Currently, I am into business. I sell herbal medicine that I get from the company I work for to make ends meet. I take any job that comes my way to earn a living.

A key lessons I picked from my life journey is that you need not have millions to help or improve the lives of others. When you help you get an inexplicable feeling of joy and fulfilment. I feel so good when I see the people I sacrificed my education for being independent and taking good care of their families.

The three brothers I supported are now employed by the government. One is a primary school teacher, the other works as a military officer and the third, who happens to be the last-born, works with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Given another chance, I would make the same choices. This is because I can’t imagine how my siblings would be without an education. Maybe I would be stable with good job, but my siblings and their children would still be depending on me.

My advice to any one in such situation is, always support your siblings. You gain nothing when you move ahead in life and create wealth if your siblings are languishing in poverty.

I still dream of going go to the university, and I believe that one day, I will get my Bachelor’s degree and later a Master’s degree.

Photo credit: Pool

I was born and raised in Oyugis in Homabay County together with my six siblings.

My parents were not employed, as my father was doing menial jobs to provide for us. He later he got into secondhand clothes business (mitumba) and we relocated to Migori County.

My mother was a peasant farmer, and in some seasons, life was very difficult for us because there was little or no harvest. At times, we would go a day without meals or have only one meal in a day.

My father worked very hard so that we could join school. He was determined to see us through primary school and part of high school.

When he passed on in 2014, life became even tougher. We had to till other people’s farms so that we could earn the daily wage to put food on our table.

Later, my mother also got in the clothes selling business, which she is doing to date.

When I was in secondary school, we would frequently be sent home for nonpayment of school fees, and I would stay home for a month or two before going back.

In school, our chairs would be locked in another room till we paid the fees balance. That was embarrassing.

I remember I once sat on a paint container in class and during lunch time I would eat using other student's meal cards.

This greatly affected my performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.

After Form Four, I did some jobs and secured a place at Rongo University to study a Bachelor of Education degree (English and Literature).

I was a self-sponsored student, and the financial burden was really heavy on me. I found myself skipping meals almost daily just so I could pay my school fees on time.

Life was unbearable and to make matters worse, my younger brothers and sisters had by that time finished their KCPE and were waiting to join high school.

I had no choice but to drop out of school and help my mother in raising school fees for them to join high school. I discontinued my education in my second year of study and joined my mother in selling second hand clothes. 

I later established my own business and life became a little bit easier because we could now pay our bills, buy food and pay fees. 

Currently, my brother and my two sisters are in college and I always thank God for the far he has brought us.

I wish to complete my studies and get employed by the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC).

I love teaching and at times I feel so sad that I haven’t achieved my dream of becoming a teacher.

I remember how my hard my years in high school were, and I really wish I could interact and impact other needy students.

Even though I’m not yet where I wish I would be, I’m proud that all my siblings have been through school, a sign that we shall someday beat poverty!

Photo credit: Pool

Caleb Osindi Ndemo, 25
Growing up in the informal neighborhood of Kayole in Nairobi, I was always getting transferred to various primary schools due to school fees arrears. I did my KCSE in 2015 and thankfully, I attained the minimum university entry grade.

One of the sacrifices I made was to defer my Business Management course at Moi University. On top of that, I had to use my Helb money to pay school fees for my younger brother. My brother is currently in his second year at Mount Kenya University.

Because of the sacrifices I made, my siblings were able to get a good education and they later joined good secondary schools in the country.

Being the first born in a family of four, I have always cultivated a culture of making sacrifices where my younger siblings are involved.

In 2020, before Covid-19 broke out, I juggled between doing my end of semester exams, and helping my siblings, who were at the time in Form Four and Grade Eight respectively, do thorough revision.

At that time, I was not allowed to sit for my exams in the university due to fee arrears. My brother Joshua was also not allowed to sit for KCSE due to a fee balance of Sh50,000.

Out of my own will, I gave my brother my Helb money and since there was no money left, I deferred my studies. 
Our last born managed to sit for his KCPE last year as a result of this sacrifice.

My cohort has since graduated, but I don't regret my decisions.

As the first born in my family, I take great pride in seeing my siblings studying in some of the national schools in the country.

Peter Olang'o, 28
I was born and raised in Homebay County,  Kaluoch village. 

From nursery to high school, I studied in schools around the village. Life wasn’t very easy considering my parents weren’t employed. They depended on menial jobs. My father used to move across various towns in search of work. 

My mother was a farmer, and from her farm, we got our daily meals. My father worked in Nairobi and Thika, and did menial jobs.

I didn’t have any good life as we rarely afforded three meals a day, especially during the dry seasons when there was no harvest from the farm.

My high school fees was entirely paid using the firewood or maize I used to take to the school. This is an initiative my parents took to ensure we remained in school.

I did my KCSE in 2015 and scored C+, but joining university or college wasn’t possible as I had two siblings in high school at the time.

I had to look for a job so that I could support my parents in paying school fees for my siblings.

I got some contract jobs, including one for doing product promotions with Safaricom, which helped me to pay for my last born sister who joined high school in 2017.

Securing a good job was a bit hard considering I didn't have papers or any qualifications. My time to join college came and I joined Kenya Institute of Professionals (KIPS) college to pursue a diploma in IT.

I managed to complete my module (Module 1), amid challenges in paying school fees.

The money I earned wasn't enough to sustain all the responsibilities I had. This forced me to drop out and focus on making ends meet.

I have been out of school for five years now, but I’m still hoping that I will someday go back.

My two siblings are almost done with college. One will be graduating in November this year and the other in July 2024. I am so proud of my sacrifice.