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How a literary critic was forced to drink ‘her own poison’

By Amos Kareithi | Published Sat, August 11th 2018 at 00:22, Updated August 11th 2018 at 00:27 GMT +3
Launch of the Autobiography of peter Ole Shompole Dare to defy book launch in Kiserian on 9th august 2018. [David Gichuru, Standard]

In summary

  • Self-made teacher who taught former Vice President George Saitoti pens book on his life 
  • Forced to drink her own poison, renowned literary critic Joyce Nyairo declares that autobiography had broken new grounds

An 18-year-old journey by a teacher who never went to school climaxed on Thursday when he launched a book chronicling his life.

As scholars, clerics and kinsmen -- including those who did not go to school -- showered praises on 83-year-old self-made teacher Peter Shompole ole Leroka in his home in Kiserian, the celebrant just smiled and declared he was happy his story was finally out.

Literary critic Joyce Nyairo, who in 2016 was invited by the teacher’s son, Dr Patrick Sankale, to drink her own poison by breathing life into the manuscript by curing the inadequacies she had pointed out, was equally ecstatic as she dashed about the compound to ensure the celebrations were without a blemish.

Ultimately, she declared that Shompole’s book Dare to Defy: The Autobiography of Peter Shompole ole Leroka had broken new grounds.

“We are used to autobiographies of authors, mostly politicians, who take the same trajectory defining that success is going to big schools and getting well-paying jobs. This however is not what every Kenyan considers to be success in life,” said Nyairo.

Original draft

After working on the original draft which consisted of 100 pages handwritten by Shompole and later typed by his grandchildren, she realised there are stories of successful ordinary people who uphold the virtues that Kenyans hold dear.

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After the successful publication of Shompole’s memoirs, Nyairo said she is working on a book about a Makere University trained painter, Ngethe Macua, who has lived with one lung for 60 years.

The book launch was presided over by Bishop John Owaa Oballa of the Cathoilc Diocese of Ngong. Former Kajiado Senator Peter Mositet, one of Shompole’s pupils, said he was inspired by the story of an orphan who brought himself up to become a teacher still impacting lives even at 88.

Shompole was born around 1935 and was initiated into moranhood before he met a stranger who taught him how to read and write, and urged him to learn through correspondence until he got a primary school certificate.

He was later admitted to a teachers training college after a chance meeting with a missionary, earning him a job as a primary school teacher and later a headmaster who would teach among others former Vice President George Saitoti.

Shompole said he suffered a stroke on January 1, 2008 which almost killed him as he could not access medical help due to the election violence.  

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