Days after learners who sat the 2021 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam joined Form One, Rassord Kipkorir, 17, was still herding goats despite scoring 383 marks.
Kipkorir, who did his examinations at Mogorwa Primary School in the neighbouring Baringo County, is described by many as an embodiment of strong will. He fled a banditry-hit Kambi ya Nyasi village in Baringo North in 2015 to herd cows in Uasin Gishu, just to get food, accommodation and access to school.
Kipkorir was born in Baringo North, one of the banditry hotspots. While a toddler, his mother fled banditry attacks, never to return. He was left with his elderly and ailing grandmother, who died when Kipkorir was in Standard Five in 2015.
“I never knew who my father was. So when grandmother died I was left alone, with no food or protection,” he said when The Standard found him herding barely 500m from Kapkayo centre in Keiyo South on the border between Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties.
Kipkorir had left Baringo in search of herding jobs in Uasin Gishu, which he found after spending several nights in trenches. “I asked the family to accommodate and help me to go to school as I take care of their cows. So I would take the cows to the grazing field and go to school before returning at lunch to check them. I would return again at 4pm to herd,” he said.
Kipkorir says while in Uasin Gishu, the family soon stopped him from attending classes regularly. Frustrated, he left for Baringo in 2019, without fare. He walked more than 100km to Baringo North.
The first day he spent the cold night outside a shop in Kipkorgot on the Eldoret-Kaptagat road. The following day, Kipkorir said he was lucky to reach Nyaru in Keiyo South after a lorry driver offered him a lift.
At the Nyaru trading centre, he walked down Elgeyo escarpments to Kerio Valley towards Baringo, but was stranded at Kapkayo centre near the fluorspar mining area in Kimwarer. “I was tired, hungry, thirsty and frail when I arrived at Kapkayo. I had not eaten for days. I needed help,” he said.
Mr Daniel Ketiem, a resident of Kapkayo spotted him in Kapkayo and asked where he was going, because he looked confused.
Mr Ketiem’s wife, Caroline Cheruiyot, said he offered the boy food when he arrived, then he slept for some hours. “Kapkayo locals initially suspected he was a criminal and wanted to lynch him. He was rescued by my husband. He pleaded for mercy, saying he was heading to Baringo,” Ms Cheruiyot recalled.
She added: “Kipkorir looked like a street child when he arrived. He was tired and hungry. I realised he was bright because he showed interest in studies and helped my children with homework. I asked him to choose whether he wanted school or a livestock herding job. He said he would do both. We decided to take him to school in 2020.”
Mogorwa Primary School admitted him in Standard Seven after teachers were satisfied that he was sharp and determined to study.
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But when he led his school in the 2021 KCPE with 383 marks, another bleak future stared at him.
“I have a child in Form Four and another one in Form Three and I couldn’t manage to take him to high school. His head teacher proposed a fundraiser and then locals started contributing some money through a WhatsApp group. I thank God because a well-wisher heard about his story and decided to help him join Form One,” she said.
Mogorwa headteacher Mr Eric Chepnjor said he expected Kipkorir to score at least 400 marks, but was happy with the 383. “We didn’t have details about the boy, but I agreed to admit him because every child has a right to education. Even the guardian did not know where the boy came from,” Mr Chepnjor said.
Kipkorir said when KCPE results were announced recently, he was ready to join any nearby day school and still herd to earn school fees.
Today, after another sheer luck, he reports to Machakos School, a national boys’ institution in Machakos County after Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Mr Wesley Rotich offered help. “I will facilitate him... He is going to realise his dream. Never despise humble beginnings,”Mr Rotich said.