TALES OF COURAGE: What poverty taught me - Daily Nation

TALES OF COURAGE: What poverty taught me

Thursday December 13 2018

NTV anchor Dan Mule was once a casual labourer. PHOTO| COURTESY

NTV anchor Dan Mule was once a casual labourer. PHOTO| COURTESY 

By WANJIKU MAINA
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There's nothing about Dan Mule, an anchor with NTV, that betrays the fact that he once worked as a casual labourer. Dan speaks proudly of those times and shared with Nation.co.ke the profound life lessons he gained while doing odd jobs in a heartfelt but desperate effort to repay a debt left behind by his father.

“I was born in Nakuru. I'm the second born in a family of three children. My parents were both teachers and were keen to make sure that I did well in school.

Unfortunately, I tailed in class consistently often refusing to go to school because I never used to do my homework.

Dan Mule pictured when he worked as a casual labourer at the National Cereals and Produce Board. PHOTO| COURTESY

Dan Mule pictured when he worked as a casual labourer at the National Cereals and Produce Board. PHOTO| COURTESY

This went on for some time but when I joined Class Two, I began to show an interest in Kiswahili poems—mashairi—and often recited them to my classmates when a teacher was running late to come into class.

Cramming mashairi had a positive impact on my academics and by the time I got to Class Four, I was among the top five pupils in class.

RELOCATED

My family relocated to Machakos where I sat for my KCPE exams and later joined Kabaa High School.

When I was in Form Two, my father passed away. It was a trying time especially because we were a close-knit family, but by God’s grace we pulled through. I scored a B+ mean grade in KCSE which secured me an admission at Kenyatta University.

Back then, government- sponsored students had to wait for two years before joining the university. It was during that wait that auctioneers came to our home with documents showing that my late dad owed them Sh1.8million.

My mother and I prayed about it fervently but I knew that there was more that I could do.

Dan Mule pictured when he worked as a casual labourer at the National Cereals and Produce Board. PHOTO| COURTESY

Dan Mule pictured when he worked as a casual labourer at the National Cereals and Produce Board. PHOTO| COURTESY

I knew that if my mother failed to make the payment, we would lose everything including the house. I told my mother that I would go out and look for a job to help raise the money and she gave me her blessing.

Armed with my certificates, I headed for Nakuru, a town I felt familiar with and which seemed to have better prospects for making money compared to Machakos.

JOB HUNTING

My father used to live in a one-roomed house in Nakuru town some time back and when we relocated to Machakos, he left the house in the care of his younger brother, my uncle.

My uncle lived in the servant’s quarter at his work place and let out the one-roomed house. Fortunately, the tenant was willing to let me share the house and we split the rent which was Sh600.

I knocked many office doors, confident that my good grades would surely get me a decent job but I was in for a rude shock. Apparently my B+ grade was not all that great

The following week, I kept away my certificates and headed to industrial area in Nakuru town. The first company that hired me was Kenya Feeds where I was to load and off-load animal feed sacks that weighed 70kgs.

was supposed to carry bags that weighed much more than I did and it became too much to bear so I quit after two days.

My next stop was Pyrethrum board and here I was tasked with passing magnets through the pyrethrum to rid it of any metal scrapes before it was packed. But these jobs only lasted a week. Every week, hundreds of labourers would mill outside one company and once the supervisors selected the people they needed, the rest would go to the next company for another selection, and the last company would pick out its workers by 10:00am.

After that if you hadn’t been picked, and then there would be no job for you until the coming week.

Average pay was Sh80 per day and main job was packing, loading and offloading.

It was tough for me. I was only 18, working with burly men who swing 90kgs bags as easily as you could lift a bag of feathers.

In fact, most of the times I was picked simply because I was among the last 10 lot of labourers and the supervisor needed all 10 of us.

Fate smiled at me briefly when I got a picked by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

My work was to sweep the silos; they were huge and often took the average worker a week to sweep clean.

I was an exemplary sweeper, and this was not lost on the supervisor who not only picked me consistently for six months but also put me in charge of other sweepers and earned me a cool Sh230 per day.

SHOE-STRING BUDGET

My colleagues and I ate lunch from the local food vendor, who made delicious githeri and chapatis. We would pay her Sh75 at the end of the week.

I quickly learnt how to manage my shoe-string budget and even save up some money.

 Sometimes I would work as a waiter at a popular food joint called Nyama Bite which was quite far from where I lived.

I often walked but whenever I had Sh20 to spare, I would make an offer to the bicycle boda boda riders; instead of paying the standard Sh50, I would bargain to pay Sh20 and in addition, ride the bicycle myself so that he didn’t have to do the cycling.

My stint as a waiter was short-lived because although I was staggeringly broke, I made a horrible waiter-- always furious when customers ordered me around rudely.

My uncle often worked late and I offered to be cooking him supper in exchange for meals. The job at NCPB was getting shaky and I could barely afford food.

He agreed on condition that I should remain invisible while at the quarters because he had a very strict boss.

I would cook a very big ugali, and once my uncle had his fill, I stuffed myself with the remaining food no matter how big the size of the ugali.

This kept me going until the next day when I came to make his dinner. Around that time, I began hawking Celtell(Airtel) which we sold for Sh100 but only got Sh20 per sale.

That was the most difficult job I did. To date, I empathise with hawkers because I know how tough it is to make even one single sale.

I decided to try teaching at local tuition centres but unfortunately, most of them turned out to be cons and after teaching, I never got paid.

I was still going to industrial area and looking for odd jobs here and there but collectively they earned me very little money.

I had nothing to show for the one and a half years I had been working in Nakuru town. It was very depressing but I was not about to give up or worse, to show up at home empty-handed.

SICKNESS

One day as I made my way to industrial area for a shift, a searing pain cut through my stomach. The memory is a bit fuzzy but I recall crawling on all fours into Nakuru Provincial Hospital. I was unable to stand and as I whimpered my symptoms to the doctor, he gave me some medicine that worked instantly easing the pain in my stomach. He then explained that I was suffering from acidity and had stomach ulcers.  I had Sh800 in my pocket which I used to settle the hospital bill that came to about Sh200. Afterwards; I called my mother and told her I was unwell. She urged me to come home right way. I bought some cabbages and potatoes, boarded a matatu and went home without a single cent in my pocket. 

When I got home, I was admitted at the hospital for eight days for monitoring and observation. All this while, my mother and siblings were completely clueless about the kind of life I had lived in Nakuru.

While in hospital, my mother disclosed the miraculous way in which the family debt had been settled. Apparently, the auctioneers took up issue with the bank where my dad had taken the loan and the entire debt was waived.

This happened shortly after I left for Nakuru.

All that time I had toiled for a non-existent debt.

GREATEST LESSON

Was it all for nothing? No.  My faith in God was reinforced; He answered our prayers in his own miraculous way.

But he still allowed me to face insurmountable challenges in Nakuru for a reason; I learnt how to be patient and how to endure tough situations.

NTV anchor and university lecturer Dan Mule was once a casual labourer. PHOTO| COURTESY

NTV anchor and university lecturer Dan Mule was once a casual labourer. PHOTO| COURTESY

As a student at Kenyatta University, I kept submitting mashairi to Taifa Leo and even after I got posted as a teacher, I patiently sent in my unpaid for poems for six years straight while waiting patiently for the opportunity to join Nation Media Group.

I sent my applications and weeks turned into months, I even began teaching but I never gave up on receiving a call from the media house.

It eventually came through and I started off as a correspondent. I multitasked between being a correspondent and a teacher, a skill I acquired while working multiple jobs in Nakuru to make ends meet.

TOUGH PERIOD

What kept me going during that tough period was the thought of how relieved my mother would be if I gave her some money to settle the debt. I never managed to get the money but still, I did not go back home empty handed; I had the cabbages and potatoes. That desire to give even when I had nothing made me see life in a whole new light.

Today, God has blessed me with many opportunities to help others both materially and morale support. I delight in giving guidance to children and young people generally.

I am a lecturer at St Paul’s University and Daystar University. Besides teaching , I give hope to my students to keep pushing their dreams. I aspire to give incessantly and urge others to think beyond themselves. My mantra is: You will never have too little to give.

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