Downed by the hardship in Baragoi, boy without hands scaling education heights

John Lokuta Ewoi, a graduate of Masters of Science in Finance at the Technical University of Mombasa. [Robert Menza, Standard]

John Lokuta Ewoi is conquering the world.

Born without hands in the herding fields of Baragoi in Samburu, he is now working his way up the academic ladder.

Like most children in the area, he was often sent out to look after cattle. But the punishing terrain proved too rough for him.

“I was enroled to school by accident. I started life as a herder, but due to my condition, I would often stumble on stones and fall. My family decided to take me to school,” he says.

Last Thursday, the 29-year-old stood out among the crowd at the Technical University of Mombasa graduation. He earned a master’s degree in Science in Finance.

After the herding hardships, Ewoi found his footing in school. He topped his class at the Baragoi Primary School, scoring 351 marks out of 500 in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination.

And at the Maralal High School, he got a B plus, earning him a place at the university in 2014.

His family struggled to ensure he went through the secondary school and university, sometimes selling their cherished cattle.

At the university, Ewoi kept the momentum and did not disappoint his family and lecturers. On Valentine’s Day in 2018, he set a record in the faculty, graduating with a first class honours bachelor’s degree in commerce (Finance option).

For his sterling performance, the university awarded Ewoi a scholarship to pursue his master’s degree. He also got a token of Sh50,000 from the chief guest, Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak.

John Lokuta Ewoi, a graduate of Masters of Science in Finance at the Technical University of Mombasa uses his lips to operate his cellphone. [Robert Menza, Standard]

The institution also gave him a job as an assistant lecturer.

Vice Chancellor Prof Laila Abubakar noted that the scholarship and the job enabled Ewoi to pursue his masters, which he completed ahead of many of his peers.

“He has proved that despite his challenge, he can do it if he puts in hard work,” she says.

Prof Raphael Mutuku once challenged students to emulate Ewoi, saying he has proved to the world to be an academic giant despite his challenges.

“If Ewoi can make it, the other students have no reason to perform poorly,” he said.

And observing him go about his chores proves how hard it has taken him to get this far. His right arm did not grow at all, and his left is underdeveloped. He weak as it may look, he has learnt to use it to about his work.

To write, he puts the pen on one side of his lips, holding it firmly with his little hand. He then skillfully leans on the table to write.

And when it comes to operating his mobile phone, he holds the gadget in his little hand and uses his lower lip to dial.

He will also stretch his arm to remove or return the phone to his shirt or trouser pocket to the surprise of a stranger.

“I lean on the desk to open my book and use my little hand to write notes,” he says.

John Lokuta Ewoi who is physically challenged uses his lips to write. [Robert Menza, Standard]

His handwriting is neat. Because he has to put down his head and use his mouth, his desk is tailor-made to make him comfortable. 

“My family has always been supportive from the primary school level, and I have always worked hard,” he says.

Ewoi loves footballer and music. He has used his talents to make friends and encourage others.

“I integrated well with my classmates both in high school and on campus playing football. I gave football more time in high school, and I was a star of sorts. I also sing, especially in church,” he says.

He is also focusing on helping the physically challenged and bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds back at home. 

His mission is to pass a strong message: Disability is not inability.

Ewoi has now set his sight on a doctorate degree, which he plans to register for in September.

“The sacrifice and efforts I put into my academic work have paid off. I put all my efforts to achieve this great milestone and I can say today that it is worth it,” he says.

He also thanks those who have made his life bearable in school and university.

“In university, my roommate ensured the room was clean, my clothes were washed and ironed. He would even ensure we had water when there was a shortage. I got great support. I am grateful to all those who helped me study from primary to campus,” he says.

Prof Abubakar suggests that the government capitation be considered for students with similar challenges.

“We have established a mainstreaming committee for the disabled in the university and Ewoi serves as a member,” she says, noting Ewoi does not complain despite his condition.

Ewoi also says his wife, Catherine Aringo, came in handy since they married a year ago. “She often accompanies me when I travel and is of great help.”