How far can the quest for education drive a person with no financial means?
Mathew Aol, now a final year student a Kenyatta University, stretched the imaginable limits after sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) 9 times; twice being gaining admission to Maranda High School and once in Kapsabet High School, among other highly reputed schools.
He saw friends finish their secondary school, join university and graduate, as he stagnated in one place, painfully so, but with courage and determination.
For years, he knocked doors of local politicians and other people; some outrightly lied, others made promises and then there is the lot that shut the door as fast as it opened.
At some point, Aol would have short stints in high school before being expelled due to lack of school fees his burning desire to become ‘someone’, he says, would push him back to Class 8, hoping tomorrow will be better.
This year, a 36-year-old Aol finishes his studies at the Kenyatta University, after fighting to accomplish his dream to attain education, his youthful years having slipped off his hands.
Aol hails from Nyakach, Kisumu County and is the ninth born in a family of 13 children and among the only three who managed to at least attain a Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (KCSE).
He first sat for his KCPE in 1998, where he managed to garner 476 marks out of the possible 700 and secured an admission slot to Kabianga High School, but due to lack of school fees, he could not join the institution.
Aol would later move to Rongo Primary School in Migori County, in 1999, where for the second time he sat for KCPE and even improved his performance after managing to get 559 marks.
With no hope that he would be able to continue pursuing secondary education, Aol enrolled back for KCPE, this time in Kitele Primary School where he scored 387 marks out of the possible 500.
He was admitted to Rapogi High School in Migori County but did not report, again, due to lack of school fees.
In 2003, he joined Sony Sugar Primary school within Migori County, where he scored 399 marks and for the second time readmitted to Rapogi High School.
In 2004, a good Samaritan offered to sponsor him to Rangwe Junior Academy, where he managed to get 434 marks.
At this point, Aol took a break until 2008 when he returned to primary school; Agoro Sare primary (2008), Aldo Rebby Academy (2009 under scholarship) and Agape Academy Kosele (2010).
In all those years, he would be admitted to prestigious national schools, but never reported. “All this happened because I am from a poor background,” he said. “I wanted to learn, I was ready, but no one extended a hand of help to me. It is only the hope that one day I will overcome that pushed me,he added.”
In 2011, Aol sat for KCPE in Oriri Primary School and got 403 marks and was admitted to the prestigious Nairobi School.
Luckily, he says, Equity Bank through the Wings to Fly scholarship sponsored his secondary education, ending a 14-year desperate pursuit for education, while at the age of 29 years. “I was older than most of the training teachers at the Nairobi school,” he recalled.
“I ignored the fact that I was the oldest in my class or among the students in the whole school and focused on what took me there.”
At Nairobi School, he said it “was home away from home” while mentioning the teachers who saw him through even though for the four years, no relative visited him.
In 2013, when he was in Form 2, his mother turned blind, a development that took a toll on his performance before he bounced back.
“While I was all along strong, this really affected me. It affected my performance,” he admitted.
He sat for Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2015 and scored a B Plus, with 71 points.
He is set to graduate later this year from Kenyatta University with a Bachelors degree in Public Policy and Administration.
“I have been getting Sh45,000 per year from the Government scholarship,” he said.
While completing his studies is exciting, a sense of anxiety is building up, for the fear of the unknown. His aged parents’ expectations are that their life and that of their 9th born will not be the same again, after graduation.
He would not wish any other Kenyan to go through his experience and that is why he is pleading with the government to champion access to education.
Aol is a case of hope against none and just a case study in a worrying situation across the country, where thousands of youths have given up and resorted to crime and drug abuse.
But the big question is, will Aol meet the expectations of his aged parents after completing his studies at Kenyatta University?
This article was first published by Capital News.