The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” - Barack Obama
Many people drop out of school due to various reasons and it is never easy to go back; and sometimes some people think it is too late to do so.
But not so for Keziah Wanjiku. When she is not in her home being a wife and a mother, the 29-year-old is most likely in school uniform attending classes as a secondary school student or studying.
A decade ago, Keziah thought her dreams were dead. But today, the wife, mother and secondary school student is sitting her KCSE exam as she looks forward to a brighter future.
Though balancing marriage, motherhood and school is not an easy task, it is a second chance that she dare not squander – she is determined to fulfil her dreams.
When Nation.co.ke visited her at Mzee Wanyama Estate in Nakuru County, she was busy in her kitchen preparing a meal for her family, after which she would make time to study for her exams.
“I come from a very poor background. My dad was a drunkard and in Standard Three, my parents separated and we had no choice but to move in with our grand-mother. At Standard Six, my mother passed away leaving three of my siblings and I under our grandmother’s care,” she says.
Life was difficult and unpredictable, but despite the challenges, Keziah worked hard and she made it to secondary school. She enrolled at Hillcrest Secondary School in Nakuru. And as she was dreaming of being a teacher, her dreams were shattered in Form Three when she had to drop out of school due to lack of fees. She later got married at 18 years.
“I felt bad I had dropped out of school. My dream was to be a teacher and I kept telling my husband I wanted to continue with my education. After seven years of marriage, my husband decided to support me as I seek to complete my secondary school education.
“With my one-year-old child on my back, my husband and I went to Nairobi Road Secondary School to request for admission. The principal, Mr Charles Mwai, saw my determination...He said I should shave my hair, which I gladly did, as I was not ready to lose that opportunity. I told him I wanted to start from Form One,” she says.
Keziah's typical day starts at 4am when she wakes up, makes breakfast for her family, prepares herself, then prepares her 10- and five-year-old children for school. She leaves her house at 6am for a seven kilometre journey to take her older child to his primary school, before rushing to Nairobi Road Secondary School and arriving by 6.30am. She leaves school at 6pm and rushes home to prepare meals for her family, wash school uniforms, help her children with homework and to complete her school assignments. She usually retires to bed at about 11pm.
“I don’t get favoured by the teachers because I am a mother or I am older; I get punished when I am at fault. I do everything other students do and if I fail to complete my assignments or I am late, the punishment is equal for all of us,” Keziah says.
When she first decided to go back to school, other women in her neighbourhood were shocked and many thought she would give up midway. But Keziah has now become a motivation to many women in her neighbourhood who no longer feel that being married and having children prevents them from pursuing their dreams.
The school principal says he is proud of Keziah and admires her determination.
“Bad influence has seen many lose focus...In Keziah's case, the bold step she took has not only motivated others but has proved that nothing is impossible if you put your mind, heart and focus on it.
“At first I thought she will not fit in, but she has been a source of inspiration and a lesson to other students who are not sure about what they want in life. Even we as teachers have learnt a lot from her,” he says.
Keziah hopes to excel. She and her 19-year-old brother are both sitting this year’s KCSE exam.
Above all else, Keziah is grateful for her husband's unwavering support. Being a casual labourer, he single-handedly struggles to pay her school fees as well as for their children, and provide for the family. In addition, he motivates Keziah to work hard.
There were times when Keziah had to miss school when her husband could not pay her fees, but she has never given up. When the situation became desperate, she pleaded with her pastor for financial help. The pastor then formed a committee to raise her fees.
Her passion for education, and especially for girls' education, led her to run an empowerment programme in her church to mentor girls and emphasise the importance of education.
But life as a student has not been entirely rosy for Keziah. And she has also experienced what other students experience in public.
“Matatu touts at times leave me at the stage when they see me in uniform, as they rarely allow students in when there are other people waiting to board the vehicles,” she says. But even these challenges do not dim her light.
Keziah believes education can lead to a bright future. “To educate girls is to reduce poverty and I want to make a difference,” she says, adding that “it is never too late to start anything”.