She was a top performer in the 1994 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) but got married after her parents failed to raise her secondary school fees.
Twelve years later, Fatuma Hajji registered as a private candidate, sat her KCSE, passed and joined university.
Fatuma, who made news for writing her KCSE at a boys-only school in Garissa County, has finally graduated.
On Saturday Fatuma graduated with a degree in Business Management (Human resource option) at the East African University in Kitengela, Kajiado County.
After her graduation, she talked to Saturday Standard. With several children to raise, many in Fatuma's situation would have given up on the dream of acquiring even a high school certificate. But, nothing would stand in her way.
The Garissa County government, where Fatuma was nominated as a Member of the County Assembly, is celebrating her extraordinary achievement that was almost shattered by lack of finances.
"After I did well in my KCPE, I was admitted to Moi Girls High School, but I could not raise school fees.
My father had died. My mother could not raise the required amount, and my relatives could not help. One of my uncles told me to sell my admission to a national school to someone else, which was not transferable,'' she told the Saturday Standard.
"Back then, bursaries and scholarships were unheard of, so I opted to get married in 1995 because there was no one to help out," she recalls.
"After giving birth to my second baby in 1998, I talked to my husband, Abdinasir Keynan, who supported my idea.
I have always known the importance of education. I always tell my women friends the importance of education."
She says most people in north-eastern Kenya are yet to appreciate the importance of education.
Her husband hired teachers to tutor her privately at home, and in 2008 she enrolled for KCSE at Boys Town Secondary School.
''Parents should be interested in the performance of their children because if they don’t, the children won’t care'' Fatuma says.
Being a mother of six children Fatuma has been competing with her children in matters academic.
Her first-born son Mohammed Keynan is also set to graduate with a degree in medicine, while her daughter Samira Keynan is a first-year medical student at Kenyatta University.
"I had an accord with my son that we both join university when he finished school in three years. He had promised me that he would get a straight ‘A’ and I believe him. My daughter was too, an A student'' she noted.
"Education is important for girls and as a parent, I have to be a role model,'' says Fatuma.
Her children say they were also inspired by their father to join university. The father, a veterinary surgeon from the University of Nairobi, says Fatuma's success transcends personal achievement.
"Fatuma has shown women and men how desire can bring achievement. When the exam results were out, she was proud. It symbolised that women can make it. That it is never late. She has made history," says her husband.