With his back against the wall and aged only 17 then, James Mwangi had experienced life’s upheavals that weighed heavily on him. He was restive and dejected.
He decided to take his own life and attempted suicide three times.
On the second attempt, he took a concentrated herbicide but still did not die.
“I locked myself inside the house, took poison and waited to die. It did not happen,” he opened up.
Tired of a tumultuous short life, the teenager’s preferred option to end his miseries was death.
“In the third attempt, I again locked myself up inside the house, said a silent prayer before tying a rope around my neck. But before I went to the rooftop, a stranger knocked at my door,” he remembers.
His grandmother, who was close to him, had sensed all was not well and decided to send a stranger to her grandchild’s house.
Having survived the three suicide attempts, Mwangi decided to give life a chance. He vowed to be the “CEO of his life.”
Now aged 25 and a Form Four student at Nyamathi Secondary School in Naivasha, Mwangi narrates how he had rocky start in life.
He was orphaned at six when his mother died in 2000.
His only sister died five days after his mother.
His father had died two years earlier, leaving the young boy to face life in solitude with his aging grandmother being his only guardian.
In 2005, he joined his aunt in Zambezi, Kiambu where he schooled up to Class Six before quitting after life became unbearable.
“I was mistreated at home and decided to return to Naivasha. I opted out of school,” he recalls.
Young and naive, Mwangi secured a job as a herder, earning a Sh300 monthly wage as he continued staying with his grandmother.
“She was now aging and relied on me for upkeep. To achieve this, I survived on menial jobs including herding animals and working in hotels,” he said.
In 2010, aged only 14 years and with nothing to look forward to, the youngster started taking drugs.
“I used to be high on bhang and other substances, a move that gave me temporary relief,” said the student.
Always groggy, it was a tough life for the wearily looking teenager as he roamed his native Nyamathi village after his friends who introduced him to the life of drugs abandoned him.
“After three years of miserable life and being hooked to drugs, I was facing a bleak future and I became suicidal,” said the student.
He was bereft of choices but one morning he decided to quit drugs and joined Nyamathi Primary School aged 18-years, resuming classes where he had left off.
“I was the subject of mockery and ridicule from my classmates who felt I was too old to join school. They promptly nicknamed me Kizee (old man),” he said.
After sitting the end term examination, Mwangi managed to score a paltry 179 marks, attracting scorn from his young tormentors.
“But I was determined to make amends and decided not to look back,” he added.
Two years later, he managed to get 314 marks in the KCPE exam. This was despite a fellow pupil having smeared his seat with human waste on the exam day.
He later got a slot in secondary school.
He joined Kinungi Secondary School for two years before shifting to Nyamathi Secondary School where he is now a KCSE candidate.
He hopes to join the military after completing his high school studies this year.
“I refer to myself as sergeant due to my passion for joining the army,” he said.
He is the school’s captain and teachers are betting on him to join university come next year.
“He is one of the most disciplined and humble students we have in school. Also, his chances of joining university next year are very high,” said his class teacher, Mr Francis Kariuki.
The school’s Principal David Mbugua said he decided to admit Mwangi despite his advanced age due to his academic prowess.
“After going through his academic papers, I realised he had the potential to excel and he has not disappointed,” he noted.
To ensure that the student is comfortable, teachers in the school offered to pay for his lunch, which costs Sh10,500 annually.
The student has written several memoirs detailing his past and urges the youth to shun drugs if they are to succeed in life.
The towering leaner is, indeed, the CEO of his life.
He is making amends after years of turbulence.