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Orphaned boy beats odds to claim top spot

By CAROLINE NYANGA | January 18th 2015

Erick Odhiambo believes education is the bridge between the squalor he has been brought up in and the big dreams he has for his future.

The 16-year-old scored 433 marks out of a possible 500 in last year's Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams, one of the best performances in the country.

While he dreams of joining a national school and going on to become a chemical engineer, the reality of his impoverished background puts a damper on his plans.

To put his achievement in perspective, one has to first understand Erick's tribulations. The bright boy sat his exams at Josana Day Care Primary School located in Dandora, Nairobi. To access the school, one has to negotiate a labyrinth of informal structures.

His school was likewise congested; 700 pupils guided by only 19 teachers.

But that was the least of his worries as Erick had to endure the stench from the Dandora dumpsite. Crime, teenage pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse are common in this area, but he did not let the social ills around him stand in his way to success. Nor did he focus on the fact that he is an orphan with nobody to support him.

"It is patience, resilience, hard work and support from teachers that has kept me going. I do not want to end up like many young men whose future have been ruined due to the fact that they did not get the chance to further their education. If I get a sponsor, I will work tirelessly to make it in life," says Erick, whose choice of high schools includes Alliance, Starehe and Maranda.

He lives with a well-wisher who is unable to support his quest for further education.

Erick was orphaned at the age of six. He and his sister were taken in by their aunt, who, unfortunately, also passed on in 2012.

Every cloud has a silver lining, however, because a teacher at Josana Day Care Primary School, Grace Odera, came to Odhiambo's rescue after noticing his potential. With the help of the school's chief executive, Alice Josana, Erick registered for the KCPE exams.

Erick believes that it was God who saw him through. And he is praying for another miracle as he waits, hoping and praying, to join secondary school.

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