From school dropout to orphan to streetboy and finally graduate

Alex Mwaura. His family was poor, he lost his mother in 2018 but against all odds is now a graduate. [Courtesy, Standard]

I was born in February 2000 as the fourth child in a family of six.

We were raised by a single mother. Poverty was a constant companion during my formative years, and our life resembled the nomads’ as we moved from place to place.

My educational journey began at Kaharati Primary School, then took me to Wamahiga Primary School, followed by Maragua Primary School, and eventually Swani Primary School.

During my early schooling years, I stood out as a bright student, consistently occupying the top spot in my class. However, in December 2011 when I was in Standard Six, our family faced a significant crisis that forced us to relocate to Juja, Kiambu County.

This upheaval marked a new chapter in our struggle. We moved with no furniture or utensils, and my mother found herself without employment. As a result, my sister, Margaret Muthoni (second born), had to drop out of school in Form Two.

I also abandoned school and found myself living in the streets of Juja. My brother, who was in Standard Three, also quit school. In 2012, we struggled every day to survive; to stay alive. These circumstances were deeply frustrating as I had always dreamed of academic success and a meaningful role in society.

In 2013, our family relocated once again, this time to Kihiu Mwiri in Gatanga, Murang’a County. Life took a slight turn for the better as we secured a rented house for Sh300 per month. My mother also managed to put food on the table with the meagre income she earned from doing casual jobs on nearby farms, which paid her about Sh200 per day. My mother encouraged me to return to school and finish Standard Eight.

She told me: “Go back to school, get the leaving certificate, perhaps you may find work as a watchman with the KCPE certificate.” This was a ray of hope, considering my struggles on the streets. I enrolled at Swani Primary School, with the single-minded goal of completing Standard Eight and securing a job as a watchman. Nevertheless, life was still challenging. I sometimes went without food or had to take plain boiled maize for lunch, an embarrassing contrast to my classmates’ rice and vegetables.

In 2014, I wrote KCPE examination and to my surprise, I scored 297 marks. That was higher than I expected. My mother had already informed me she lacked the means to send me to secondary school. I did not dwell on the matter.

I went to a nearby quarry and began crushing ballast with a hammer. I earned Sh7 for every bucket of ballast. If I managed to crush ten buckets, I would make Sh70, which I would give to my mother to contribute to our dinner. The situation was challenging, and secondary education seemed like an unattainable dream.

In February 2015, I watched other students joining secondary school, clad in their new uniform. I admired them from a distance but lacked the means to follow suit. Around that time, a rule was imposed in the quarries, barring those under 18 from working there. I found ways of sneaking back to the quarries as there were no alternative means of survival.

One day, a friend named Mathew, who had joined secondary school, invited me to accompany him to our primary school so that he could return some books and also take his leaving certificate. During our journey back, we came across a familiar vehicle owned by Ken Stephen Muchoki. We requested him to give us a ride. While in the car, I mustered the courage to share my desire to attend high school with Mr Muchoki, even though he did not know me well. I told him I aspired to join high school, but my mother lacked the means.

He asked me to get an admission form from the school I wished to attend, and he expressed his willingness to assist. However, I faced a significant hurdle, I couldn’t afford the Sh1,000 required to get the admission letter.

A week later, Mr Muchoki, concerned about my silence looked for me. He had already obtained a Swani Secondary School admission form for me. I was overjoyed. The following day, Muchoki bought me a brand new full school uniform and all the other necessities. He accompanied me to school, and with that, my education dream was reignited.

I joined Swani Secondary School just before the end-of-term exams. In a surprising turn of events, I topped those exams, scoring an A-. I developed a deep love for learning, and it marked a turning point in my life.

In 2016, my mother decided to seek better opportunities for our family. However, she left without disclosing where she was headed. Initially, she was supportive, but in 2017, her phone went silent, and we lost contact for nearly a year. Fortunately, in October 2017, I learned that my mother was residing in Kiandutu slums in Thika. I visited her, and to my surprise, she had another baby.

She had temporarily stopped working after giving birth but assured me she would resume her hustle in January 2018 and continue supporting us. True to her word, in January 2018, while I was in Form Four, she began providing for us. However, on April 23, we received devastating news; that she had passed away. 

I reached out to our extended family members for help, but to my shock refused to even provide a place for her burial. Thankfully, the Kihiu Mwiri community, led by Mr Muchoki, showed us immense kindness by allowing us to bury my mother in the community cemetery.

Life grew difficult but through divine provision, the goodwill of the community, and support of my brother and sister, we survived. I owe a debt of gratitude to my teachers, especially Mr Francis Ndungu, who consistently encouraged me to strive for excellence.

To my surprise, when the results were announced, I  scored a C+, guaranteeing me direct entry to university. I was admitted to University of Embu to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Education Arts, focusing on Business Studies and Christian Religious Education. 

I finally graduated on September 15, this year with a Second Class Honours Upper Division degree.



Related Articles