Gloria Omondi has shared a tiny little room with her father since she was five, and now she is dreaming big.
When life in the city became difficult for Fred Omondi and his wife Beatrice Awuor, they agreed that she goes back to their upcountry home in Oyugis, Homa Bay County.
They also decided that Beatrice leaves behind their last born daughter, 10-year-old Gloria, then a Standard Five pupil at Be Sure Early Childhood Center in Satellite, Nairobi.
For the last three years, she has been sharing a tiny single room with her father. A long rectangular table stands just a few steps from her bed. To her father, it is the dining table, but to her it is her study area, her favourite item in the house. When the Nation visited her at home on Tuesday in Woodley, Nairobi, Gloria's study timetable still hung on the wall.
Gloria Royal Otieno, 13, is a girl of a small frame and a few words. She likes to keep her responses guarded, often pausing mid-sentence to find the right words.
She says that when she received her KCPE results on Monday, she didn’t know how to react. “I knew that I would do well, but scoring 431 marks was such huge news to contain. When I got the results, I dashed out of the deputy head teacher’s office to the computer room where the other pupils were. Only when they started celebrating did I join in. I was overwhelmed,” she says.
She is among the 12,273 candidates who managed to score more than 400 marks in the 2018 KCPE examination.
According to her mother, Gloria is a polite, loving and bright girl. Ms Jublia Alubala, the deputy head teacher at Shofco Kibera School for Girls, where Gloria sat her exams, adds that Gloria had good rapport with her classmates, and that she is “good natured”.
But it is Gloria’s father Fred Omondi, who is a cleaner, who has the most to say about the girl he named Royal, suggesting a queenly status.
“When my wife went back to the village, leaving me with her, she matured so fast,” he says. “She used to help with household chores and even prepared meals on the days I was late from work. However, things were not easy for us; there were even days that we slept hungry. When it became too tight for me, because I still pay school fees for her elder siblings, I had to transfer her to Kibera School for Girls. Not a single day did Royal complain. Even on an empty stomach, she still woke up early in the morning to read.”
Her interest in academics, her father explains, started at a young age. She would come home eager to explain what she had learnt in class on any particular day, and always did her homework with enthusiasm.
Gloria’s success certainly did not come easily. When she was as young as 10 years old, she would leave with her father at 5am for school, which was far away, and would stay up studying as late as 10pm. When she transferred to a nearer school, she still used to wake up at 2am to revise.
The girl, who hopes to join Alliance Girls, said she looks up to Ben Carson, the American neurosurgeon and acclaimed author of, among others, Gifted Hands, for inspiration.
“His story encourages me because, despite what he went through growing up, he was able to overcome the challenges and pursue his career,” she says, adding that she attributes her success to her teachers, who always encouraged her to think outside the box, and her parents, who supported her.
She was the top pupil at her former school, with the position two, Melvin Omuyuku, 14, following closely behind her with 423 marks.
Her former school, based in Kibera, admits needy girls on full scholarship and registered 23 girls during the last KCPE. Only one of them scored less than 250 marks.