Since Independence, North Eastern Province has generated negative publicity due to droughts, cattle rustling and border conflicts. Also, whenever the results of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary and Primary Education are released, the region always performs poorly.
Images of pupils studying under trees because of lack of classrooms and other facilities, and young boys armed with firearms herding livestock characterise the dry plains.
However, a few people from this area have managed to break the shackles and are determined to wipe off this image.
They include Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Isaak Hassan, Mandera Central Member of Parliament Abdikadir Mohamed, and the publisher of Nairobi Law Monthly Ahmednasir Abdullahi.
There are many other North Easterners who are not as public, but who are equally successful and striving to give back to their deprived community. One such person is Dr Ali Mahamud, a soft-spoken and an unassuming man whose sheer determination and will saw him study in the US.
As soon as Ali set foot in this developed country, the massive disparity between the US and his community struck him. He determined to make a difference to his people.
While in his first year at the University of Minnesota where he was studying Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology, Ali started his organisation, Generation for Change and Growth (GCG). Through the organisation, Ali aggressively recruited teachers, community and health workers from the US, Australia, Canada and even in Africa, all who would leave the comfort of their homes, pay for their air tickets and travel to Kenya.
“The volunteers would land in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera and get hosted by local families for about three months,” says Ali, adding that they would teach in local schools or work at the health centres, depending on their background.
Growing up in Wajir, Ali realised that the government did little to change the education status in North Eastern.
“The non-governmental organisations could not help either, as they only responded to disaster. Only we, the people, who had gone through the system, can help our people,” he says.
Despite having high ambitions while in Mandera Secondary School, Ali remembers how he suffered due to an unfair education system.
“I loved sciences and Mathematics. The facilities were insufficient and we did not have enough Science teachers. Imagine I did not study Mathematics until I reached Form Three!” He exclaims, wondering how he was expected to compete with students from schools such as Alliance and Starehe Boys Centre, no matter how smart he was.
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