In 2002, I was twelve years old and in class eight. I had had the fortune of having started schooling while young. I was always the youngest in my classes. I’ve had a thing with numbers that has made me love the language of mathematics. Though I always excelled in my maths class ever since I can remember, I was an average pupil.
When I sat for my KCSE – the final exam that transitions students from primary to secondary school, I only managed to score 235 marks out of the possible 500 marks. That was a fail. There was no good secondary school that would admit me with such marks. But my low performance was pegged on the fact that I had no goals or aims.
I had become disillusioned with education as my elder brother, who had sat for his exams two years before, had not proceeded with his education. With no money to take him to high school, my brother took my mother’s job of performing manual tasks in people’s farms. It was a pitiful existence that had nothing to be admired.
At that point in life, I was contemplating marriage as the best escape to the uneventful life that lay ahead of me. Having seen my mother struggle to make ends meet as she raised us without a husband, I erroneously thought that getting a husband was the only way out of that drudgery my mother had gone through.
I saw poverty and the cycle of poverty that my brother was falling into. I saw its claws reaching out to engulf me too. The curse of poverty was all too real to me. I feared to have “bastard” children that would go to school without shoes and a pitiful hand to mouth existence. My ideal husband then was a policeman. The children of police officers that I had attended the same school with appeared to have had it easy.
When sometimes I went to school because my mother had paid for my food ration there, the policemen’s children carried packed lunch that I would only salivate for. My dreams and aspirations of meeting a prince charming from Kiganjo Training College were cut short when, in those days after my results, my mother came home with the offer of a high school education if I repeated class eight. It was an offer and a demand that, as a twelve-year-old, did not have much to argue about.
I had so many doubts on this promise, which I felt was on a shaky ground, considering that my mother didn’t have a stable source of income and no husband to look up to for provision. Even on the tenuous promise, I had too much faith in my mother, and I was not the one to let her down. The following day I walked to my former school and had a candid conversation with the headmaster Mr Wachira.
I promised that I would work on improving my marks if the headteacher offered me a place at the school. Mr Wachira did not have a problem and promptly allowed me another chance in his school. Now I had two people that I had promised to better my grades. There was no way I was going to renege my promise to them. I felt my resolve strengthened.
I had dreams of changing my life, dreams of building my mother a house, and dreams of giving my children a better life. I repeated class eight in the year 2003 and immersed myself in my books to the point that I don’t know how time flew.
In November, I did my exams, and when the results were out, I was amongst the top students in my zone as I had scored 369 marks, which were an addition of more than 134 marks on my previous score. The senior student countrywide was a certain Marita Nyakundi who had scored 482 marks out of the possible 500. But I had passed too this time.
To me, this was the end of the beginning of a new era and phase in my life. The first realization of goals set. In chunks, my dreams were coming true.