19 January 2018

Kenya: Tales of Courage - Why I Chose to Go Back to School At 30

When 34-year-old Samuel Lochwa decided to go back to high school when he was 30, be became a laughing stock. He was picked on, teased and mocked by his schoolmates and teachers alike.

He also met resistance from his friends and family, including his wife.

"I think she was being incited by friends who didn't see the logic of why a 30-year-old man would go back to high school. She tried to beg me to abandon the idea, but I had my mind made up."

He scored a D+ in his KSCSE exam and is hoping to join a teacher's college.

"There's something about the final paper that wasn't right, I had always performed better than a D+ and now, I am not sure if the mark will earn me entry into a teachers training college."

His yearning for education and better grades made the whispers, stares and taunts bearable.

FOCAL POINT

"At school, I became the focal point of everyone. Fellow students called me babu (grandfather) and I happily accepted. I didn't want to appear as if I was fighting back. I had prepared myself psychologically. I was expecting this. I however had my weak moments when I would go back home and stare at myself in the mirror wondering whether it was all worth it," he says of his experience at Morulem Mixed Secondary School in Turkana East.

Samuel later moved to Lenginet Mixed Day Secondary School in Nakuru County where he underwent the same predicament as his initial school.

"I remember a particular incident where we had all failed a Mathematics test. The teacher asked us all to line up outside as he caned us. I was the last one in the line.

I didn't think he would cane me but he went ahead and did it in full glare of my classmates. Later that evening, I called him aside to express my disapproval of his actions. He barked at me asking "Do you see any of your age mates here? What were you doing with your life earlier that you could not study like the rest of us?" That almost broke me, but I persisted."

BACKGROUNDS

Born into a family of nine in Kasarani, Naivasha, the third born did not attend school until the age of eight years when he joined Class One.

His first and second born sisters had to drop out of school for him to stay in school.

His father, a watchman and his mother, a flower farm worker at the time, could not afford to educate him further. Unable to raise their many children in the cosmopolitan town, his parents and siblings left for their ancestral home in Lodwar, Turkana county leaving behind young Samuel.

Left to fend for himself, Samuels days were filled by trips to the lake to fetch water for business owners in the town.

By night, abandoned houses within the town served as his aboard. Within a short time, he got a job in one of the hotels to wash utensils. His pay per month was Sh500.

His dream was to one day attain decent education by at least finishing high school. With his eyes trained on that, he started saving.

An opportunity to increase his salary opened up when the proprietor of the hotel fell sick and had no cook.

"His other staff had quit on him citing small pay. He was left with two choice: either he close down the hotel or hire me as the cook. He bumped my salary to Sh2000."

DID NOT FEEL CONTENT

He however did not feel content and always questioned God on why he had to go through so much.

On two separate occasions, Samuel walked to the lake with the intention of drowning himself. On both occasions, he fell asleep on the banks and when he woke up, the suicidal thoughts were gone.

Samuel found someone to talk to in a pastor friend who was a regular at his place of work. He expressed his desire to go back to school to the pastor. He found him a teaching job at a nursery school in the area where he was paid Sh4000.

"I performed fairly well in primary school so I didn't have a hard time teaching a nursery school."

In 2005, his class topped among the 12 schools within the locality in the interregional exams. Some of his colleagues were not happy with his success and so when the proprietor asked that all teachers bring their academic papers, he knew it was a ploy to kick him out.

The proprietor insisted that the minimum requirement for all teaching staff is either a form four certificate or a diploma certificate. They could not retain him anymore.

His dreams were not crushed for with the help of the area chief and his savings, he opened his own nursery school. He went ahead to marry and had two children.

In 2014, Samuel made the decision that his time to go back to school had come. Samuels dream was eventually realized last year.

"As the first boy in our family, I needed to do this," he explains simply.

But why teaching?

"I don't want to grow old in school," he says, laughing.

Patience is a virtue that he gained in excess while in high school as being ridiculed required truckloads of it.

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