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Learner joins national school where he once worked as watchman

 Gabriel Ochieng, 21, when he reported to Maranda High School for admission. Left, as a watchman, he poses for a picture at the school (Courtesy)

It's a story of dreams, sweat and hard work; a story about a young man with a burning passion to succeed.

Gabriel Ochieng', 21, is a man who aptly personifies Harriet Tubman's quote: "Every great dream begins with a dreamer."

Dressed in a sky-blue shirt and brown corduroy trousers, Mr Ochieng' yesterday strode into Maranda High School, ready to take his place as a Form One student.

His journey to the school has been long and challenging.

It began in 2016 when, through the efforts of an aunt he lived with in Siaya County, Ochieng' was employed by Pride Kings Security Firm as a watchman at the school.

He earned Sh5,500 a month.

At the time, Ochieng' had no hope of completing his education, having dropped out of school in Standard Seven for lack of fees.

It would take a chance encounter with a parent visiting the school and hearing about his plight to revive his hopes of going back to school.

The woman, whose name he may never know, told him about a Unicef-sponsored programme - Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (Werk) - in Nairobi that helped needy students return to school.

Ochieng' recounts how he resigned from the security job and promised the school principal then, Boaz Owino, that he would one day be back as a student.

Finally realised

That dream was finally realised yesterday as he strode through the school gate, thanks to a combination of sheer determination, an article carried in The Standard and virtual strangers.

"I packed my belongings and travelled from Siaya to the unknown in Nairobi. I promised God and my sponsor that I would never let them down," Ochieng' said yesterday.

Once in the city, he was directed to Ofafa Jericho Primary School where he was welcomed by the head teacher, Elizabeth Kokwach, who housed him for a year.

Ms Kokwach, who yesterday accompanied Ochieng' to Maranda, described him as godsend.

“He had nothing save for a wooden box, a frayed blanket and some omena. I gave him my husband’s shoes because the ones he had were in bad shape. Teachers contributed towards his other needs while I took care of his accommodation and food. He was obedient and hardworking,” she said.

"At first I thought the young man was a con but after hearing his story, I realised his case was genuine and deserving. He didn't squander his luck and was among the most promising Standard Seven candidates last year," she added.

Through determination and hard work, Ochieng' was elected the school assembly speaker.

Kokwach said a well-wisher, who prefers to remain anonymous, paid school fees for the four years of secondary school.

Ochieng', who comes from Ugenya in Siaya, is the first child in his family to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams. He is the third of eight children.

His father, he said, was a drunk and his mother a struggling casual labourer. After dropping out of school, he sold water in Siaya town for a pittance before the security job came knocking.

He worked for three months, sending Sh3,000 to his mother every month to help her support the family.

Last pay

"I was left with Sh2,500 after my last pay in November 2016. I used Sh1,000 to pay my rent at a shopping centre outside the school and used the rest for the journey to Nairobi. I walked the 5km to Bondo to catch a bus to the city," he said of his journey in pursuit of his dream.

“My dream is to climb to the top of the highest educational ladder and then occupy the top echelons of our nation’s forces as a security expert.”

At the school gate where he once stood wearing a watchman’s uniform, a former colleague ushers him in saying: “We wish you well. Please share your secrets with us to give our children hope."

"I don't regret my past because the journey, though tough, has been full of learning. I have emerged more mature and determined to walk the journey of life without ever looking back,” said Ochieng, wearing the grin of one who has arrived at his dream destination.

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