3 March 2016

Kenya: Nyeri Slum Girl On Banks' Wings Scholarship Flies to Excellence

On Wednesday, Warda Noor's grandmother died. A day after, the 18-year-old girl from the Majengo slums in Nyeri got her KCSE results that showed she had scored an A-. The mood in the one-roomed timber house that the family of four share changed.

"We are still in mourning so this news is welcome," said Noor, whose dream is to pursue engineering or medicine.

To get to her home in this poor section of Nyeri, the Nation.co.ke team passed two garbage sites, a mentally ill man and a muddy road.

The path may signify the hard times that the girl has endured to get to where she is currently.

Born to a mother who was unemployed and a father who is a casual labourer, Ms Noor attended Nyamachake Primary School and could not study at night because there was no power.

She also could not use the lantern long enough as her siblings had to sleep, nor was there enough paraffin to keep it lit for long.

"I only read during the day mostly after classes before dark," she recalled.

They could also only eat one meal a day, complicating life even further. Despite the handicaps, she scored 391 marks in KCPE, becoming one of the top students in Nyeri public schools.

"It was a bittersweet victory because we could not raise the fees needed to join Nakuru Girls High School," said Warda's mother Fatma Shaib.

But the family applied for Equity Bank's Wings to Fly scholarship and got it.

The bank paid for her tuition money and gave her pocket money. She would save the cash and share it with her parents over the holiday to enable them to buy food.

"She is my hope of ending our family's cycle of poverty," said Ms Shaib.

For Noor, her inspiration came from the mentorship she got from Equity counsellors, who encouraged her to continue despite the hardships she was facing. Her advice?

"Focus on your goal. And avoid negative people who just remind you of what you cannot do," she says.

By the time the interview is complete, news of her exam success had spread through the mainly Muslim community and women gather outside their house singing Taarab songs.

A befitting response to a girl who has had to fight for everything in her life.

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