Retired but not tired: Kenyans speak out

Mrs Ruth Adaka displays some flowers and decorations flower at her home in Kiminini, Trans Nzoia. [Osinde Obare, Standard]

Cambridge Dictionary describes retirement as the act of leaving your job and stopping working.

But for some like Thomas Barasa, a retired school principal, Ruth Adaka, a former nurse, and Philemon Samoei, a former military officer, retirement offered them another chance to serve society.

They are making a positive impact on society after years of service. Mr Odhiambo, fondly referred to as ‘Baro’ by students and colleagues, taught for 37 years before hanging up his boots but would later opt to go back to teaching his favourite mathematics subject at Rafiki Secondary School.

He served as principal at St Antony Boys High School, Chewoyet Boys, Konyau, and Nyamira Secondary School but could not resist a chance to teach following an invitation by Rafiki Principal Moses Mulembo.

His outstanding teaching skills have seen learners post impressive grades in mathematics.

“This is not just about financial security. It is about harnessing the expertise and dedication of individuals who still have much to offer. Once a teacher, always a teacher," says Odhiambo, 61.

He still exudes energy and enthusiasm, challenging the notion that age can hinder one’s passion. According to him, being a classroom teacher is more satisfying than being a school manager.

"If you were to ask me to go back to service as principal or sit at home, I would rather sit at home because the government tends to delay capitation. A good number of parents have a challenge paying school fees due to the high cost of living, and this makes work very hard," he said.

He also weighed in on the debate about reducing the retirement age, suggesting it should be a personal decision based on self-assessment.

"It is time to re-evaluate our society's perception with a wealth of experience and a burning desire to serve. I am proof that age is just but a number, and passion knows no boundaries," he said.

Philemon Samoei served the country for 13 years as an Air Force officer and has extensive experience in peace missions, security consultancy, and conflict management. He supports the idea of lowering the retirement age to 55.

After a distinguished career that included participation in UN peacekeeping missions, Samoei opted for early retirement.

But this was not the end of his service. He pursued further education, earning degrees in criminology and international conflict management.

Today, he is actively involved in security consultancy for the mainstream church focusing on counter-terrorism efforts in East Africa.

He believes early retirement allows for continued productivity and creates opportunities for the younger generations to grow in areas of their passion.

Ruth Adaka started working as a nurse in 1977 and shares her unique journey and the challenges faced in both the public and private sectors.

While the salary in the private sector was higher, Adaka appreciated the privileges, such as extended leave for personal matters, offered while serving in government facilities.

She suggests that the retirement age be lowered to 50 years to allow individuals to start a new life while strong and active.

"At least a person will return home while still in his or her senses, with energy to work, be it in a kitchen garden, poultry farming, or even milking a cow for their health. You do not need to reach home hopeless and be a burden to your children," said Adaka.

Elisha Khalai, a businessman in Kitale town, said it would be appropriate for those not in informal employment to continue working until they attain 60 years.

Magaiwa quit city life and went back to his rural home in Mabera village after surrendering everything he had to his children.

“Immediately I got my job, I started buying land, built a home and invested,” he said. By the time he was turning 30, Magaiwa was done with getting children.

"I would see people retire at 55 years and the first thing they would do is put up a house and open a shop which would close after a short period due to lack of money to do business,” he said.

Cornel Pesa, a retired teacher, said he was enjoying life in retirement. The 65-year-old last taught at Rangenya Primary School and put down the chalk in June 2018 at the age of 60.

His children bought him a matatu which he has been managing in retirement. "Some people have been suggesting that I should go back to class and teach because I look energetic,” he joked.

Pesa is a board member of various schools and he serves with passion. “I am among the signatories in one of the schools,” Pesa remarks. He prefers people to retire at the age of 60 when they are energetic.

Martin Onyango, 62, a retired primary school teacher, said for decades he found joy in teaching his pupils.

His wife Mary Akinyi recalls how dull her husband was after he retired. This prompted them to open a private school, Maryland Academy, in Nyalenda estate in Kisumu five years ago.

Jared Ngesa, a former security guard, handed in his boots about 10 years ago. The 75-year-old went back home to Siaya County with his family from Kisumu where he used to work. "I loved my job but when it was time to go, I had to rest as age was also catching up," he said.

Alexie Muzame from Vihiga County taught for over 30 years with dedication in various colleges in different parts of the country.

The 69-year-old taught in local private colleges until 1989 when she landed a similar job in Qatar.

She recalls mentoring thousands of young people both in Kenya and Qatar. However, her lifetime dream was to become her own boss and employer.

“I enjoyed teaching secretarial studies but at the back of my mind, I wished to own a private school to impact children as opposed to teaching adults,” said Muzame.

She adds: "My passion has always been teaching. After teaching adults for a long time, I thought to myself what it could mean to teach young ones and mentor them into responsible individuals."

It was during her stay in Qatar that she decided, together with her husband, to start a private primary school in their home county, Vihiga.

They established Vihiga Education City located in Central Maragoli in 2008 with a focus on moulding children in a Christian way and at the same time offering subsidized education to the needy.

Muzame is the director of the institution that offers learning opportunities to Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE), primary and junior secondary school learners.

Alexie Muzame during her normal day at Vihiga Education City school in Vihiga County. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

She also teaches the learners. Muzame, who is fondly referred to as 'grandma', says retirement was a blessing in disguise as she has all the time to enjoy the company of children and help them achieve the best in their lives as responsible individuals.

She is among the few people who have retired and returned home and are utilizing their experience and knowledge to make society a better place.

The former teacher believes retiring at 60 is good enough for one to focus on personal growth.

“At 60, the majority of the people are grandparents and are capable of making wise decisions that include investing and taking care of their families.

"We have retired but we are not tired; we focus on the societal growth of our families and others and we have seen wonders on how we have impacted lives," said Muzame.

[Report by Brian Kisanji, Ann Atieno, Sharon Owino, Martin Ndiema and Edward Kosut]