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Dr Ocharo: It took hard work to get to the top

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Tell us a bit about your upbringing.

I was born in Maralal – a small hillside market in Northern Kenya, within Samburu County. The market was pioneered by Somali settlers in the 1920s. When I was just two years old, my parents moved to Bungoma and a few years later, they separated. My mother started a small business of knitting sweaters and selling second-hand clothes. Life was not easy at all; it was full of struggles. However, my mother managed to see my siblings and me through school, the challenges and struggles notwithstanding.

You have a doctorate in physics, a master’s degree in physics and a bachelor’s degree in education. How did you manage that?

When I was in Form Two at Butere Girls, I realised that some subjects were not my cup of tea and I had no other option but to drop them. I was a physics major. I scored As in both atomic physics, solid-state physics and electronics. I realised that there was something special in me that resonated very well with physics and especially quantum physics. That’s how the desire to pursue physics got conceived with a strong conviction that I would pursue it to the highest level.

Was it easy to attain this?

The road was bumpy, especially striking a balance between being a mother and a student while discharging my obligations. However, this did not deter me in any manner.

What inspired you to undertake a male-dominated course?

I have never belonged to the school of thought that some things are the preserve of men. I always believe that what a man can do, a woman can do just as well. I have always wanted to be unique.  I fancy challenging the status quo. I am a critical thinker, very analytical and therefore always tend to consider issues in a very structured way. This has inclined me towards the field.

Who inspired you in your journey?

My mother played a major role as my anchor, mentor and strength. She constantly reminded me that society judges single and poor mothers harshly, holding that they cannot see their children through to university education and that the narrative had to change. I was propelled and destined to succeed. Besides that, my husband has been my greatest support. He paid the entire fees for the programme and pushed me gently but firmly to start and complete the programme. At the time of admission, I was already a mother of one son and was expecting my second child.

Prior to your appointment to the Kisii Cabinet in 2013, you worked as a lecturer. Why did you change?

I am a firm believer in precise and effective discharge of obligations wherever I am placed. While lecturing was enjoyable, God will always grant you what you pray for. And so with the encouragement of my greatest supporter – my husband – I applied for the job and got it.

Do you sometimes miss teaching?

Teaching is in my blood and I am always ready to share my knowledge. I am sometimes involved in developing curricular for higher learning institutions. It is part of giving back to the community.

Do you consider yourself to be overambitious?

I have always been deliberate, calculative and conscious in making decisions.  The people close to me see a lot of potential in me and constantly remind me that my time in a station should not exceed the time I am useful there.

What is your greatest fear?

As the late Tupac Shakur would put it, “Life is a test, mistakes are lessons, but the gift of life is knowing that you made a difference. My greatest fear is not making a difference.

What are some of the lessons you have learned so far?

That hard work does not kill. It is a precursor for excellence. It has been a path dotted with many failures, but I believe that failure leads to success.

Interview Source:The Standardmedia.co.ke

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Education

Mwangi Mukami: Kenyan man who scored D+ in KCSE earns his 5th degree in US

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Mwangi Mukami has shared his inspirational story on how he had achieved academic success in the United States (US) years after he was considered a failure by the Kenyan education system.

Mukami scored a D+ in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams and had no chance of joining any institution of higher learning in the country.

Sharing his story on his Facebook page, he said an opportunity to leave the country for the US restored his dreams of attaining a college or university education.

“Over 20 years ago, Kenya’s education system wrote me off as a failure because I had a D+,” he narrated.

“I remember vividly saying to my peers that I wanted to be a policymaker or an attorney. Their response was a burst of collective laughter and sneer,” he added.

Focused on his goal, Mukami did not waste any time when he arrived in the US. He immediately went back to school to pursue his dreams.

Now aged 36, the young man has recently graduated with his fifth degree from the University of California and hopes he will live long to open doors of opportunities to more D+ students.

Mwangi Mukami: Kenyan man who scored D+ in KCSE earns his 5th degree in US

Mwangi Mukami with his mother during a graduation ceremony. Photo: Mwangi Mukami.
Source: Facebook

“For the misfits, the rejected, and the oppressed,” he said.

He attributed his success to his mother who raised him and his six siblings single-handedly while selling unspecified things at the Kawangware market.

“Congratulations to my mom. The degree is a reflection of her tenacity. I am grateful and honoured to have wonderful brothers and sisters who support and trust my ability to achieve,” he added.

He further noted that he proudly uses his mother’s middle name – Mukami- as his surname because she was his hero

According to Mukami, his mother sacrificed a lot to ensure they got a decent education, had food to eat even during difficult situations and that they had the nest childhood.

Mukami said whatever they lacked in material wealth was compensated by what they possessed in spiritual, mental, and emotional health.

“I was raised in a ten by twelve foot house by a woman who believed I could change the world. And I am still changing the world,” he said.

The 36-year-old went on to reveal that for three years now, he had been providing scholarships and relief grants to children in Kawangware and most recently, in Kibera and Mathare.

TUKO.co.ke previously reported of a young medic who defied all odds to achieve her dream careers just to prove wrong a family friend who discouraged her from studying.

Ifeyinwa Ezeudu is a medical doctor, pharmacists, science laboratory technician, weight management coach, nutrition and lifestyle coach.

Ezeudu said she was discouraged from pursuing her career choices because she was a Muslim girl.

by Tuko.co.ke

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Business

UoN masters degree finalist who sells eggs appeals for a job

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A jobless graduate who’s finalising his masters degree is appealing for well-wishers to give him a job. Dennis Obiri Ogola from Ndumbuini in Kabete sells boiled eggs despite having a diploma, degree and is set to complete his master’s programme in early 2021.

“I’m currently doing my masters and I’m in my last semester of the coursework. I have a diploma in Procurement and Supply Chain Management from the Kenya Institute of Management and a Bachelor of Commerce degree (Procurement and Supply Chain Management option) from the University of Nairobi,” says Dennis.

Humble background, hawking eggs, rent arrears

The soft-spoken Dennis hails from a humble background and is the firstborn in a family of six children. Wellwishers enabled him to pursue his studies and he dreams of helping his younger siblings get a good education.

“I was helped by a children’s home to complete my primary school education. I joined high school in the same children’s home and because of my good manners, they offered to further my education. I did my diploma and after scoring a second class (upper division) in my degree, I got sponsors for the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme at UoN,” he says.

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Dennis got into the eggs business after another well-wisher was touched by his plight and gave him the startup capital even though the proceeds scarcely meets his needs. On a good day, he makes Sh300 profit which he reinvests in the business, leaving him with peanuts to live off.

“I have some rent arrears but I spoke to the landlord and he’s understanding- but at the end of the day, he wants money.” Photo: Courtesy.

 “After hearing of my situation, an empathetic Human Resource practitioner in a financial institution gave me capital to start this business selling eggs and smokies. In a day, I sell a tray of boiled eggs at Sh600 (Sh20 per egg), making a Sh300 profit. I spend Sh300 on eggs for the next day and use some of the remaining money buy saviets, onions and tomatoes for kachumbari , wrapping papers and tomato sauce. The remainder of the money cannot pay my rent. I have some rent arrears but I spoke to the landlord and he’s understanding- but at the end of the day, he wants money,” he says.

“The far I’ve reached, it’s taken a lot of patience and perseverance. I would like to appeal to anyone with a job to offer me the opportunity. I dream of at least helping my siblings,” concludes Dennis, who has over ten certificates.

You can reach Dennis on 0705446010.

by SDE

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Education

Duo gives libraries vital facelift

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Public libraries are vital as storehouse of knowledge; they mould character of cities. Yet, most public libraries are in dilapidated conditions and require a facelift.

At the end of 2018, author Wanjiru Koinange and publisher Angela Wacuka, founders of Book Bunk, conducted a research and found out that contrary to popular opinion that Kenyan’s don’t read, 300 people were walking in and out of public libraries every single day to use them. For this reason, three years ago, they set up Book Bunk to give public libraries a new lease of life after decades of neglect.

“Our mission is to restore public libraries, to convert them not just from a physical perspective but also from a social and experiential perspective. In a sense, what are other people doing in their spaces, what

are they getting access to, what are they reading and what kind of services are in public that we can bring to the libraries,” starts Wanjiru.

They have three projects, with Macmillan Memorial Library as the flagship and others in Makadara and Kaloleni in Nairobi. Two years before the renovations, the duo spent time doing a lot of programming work, events and research, and when the funds came, they began physical restoration, starting with Kaloleni.

However, Covid-19 happened and with it came new rules and regulations on how construction work should continue. At that point, the two had already hired 28 people as casual labourers for the project. Luckily, by the time the new regulations were set, they had already done the bulk of renovation and all that was left was just painting and tiling, which could be done by fewer staff members.

“It didn’t feel right for them to stop because they were relying on the cash to survive. We began looking at how they could space out work, even though it would take longer, but it meant that we could still keep them. They were able to do that and currently they have completed the renovation of first branch,” she says Though risky, they used local people to work on the project to make them feel part and parcel of it. Since land grabbing is prevalent in these areas, most locals look at those who walk in with projects suspiciously, thus educating them on the project’s significance was not a walk in the park.

“It wasn’t a one day or week event to convince people of our intention. We had to go there time and again trying to sell the idea to them that public spaces can be beautiful and functional whether they are in Runda or Kaloleni,” says Wanjiru.

The Kaloleni project is now complete and the community is vigilant in safeguarding it and ensuring that there is no vandalism.

Working with the government has been a challenge and a bonus for the pair. A challenge because bureaucracy in these institutions makes things drag than they would if handled by a private entity. Nevertheless, meeting kind people in offices made it easier for them navigate things that could have take a long time to deal with. The second challenge has been financing their project.

Operational funding “Operational funding is our greatest challenge. It’s shocking to me that in this day and age, people still expect to have their

names on the building when they support a project without even catering for salaries of people who do the work. Wacuka and I struggle to find cash to pay our people’s salaries, to give the people committed to the project good life and not have to worry about anything. It breaks my heart all the time because we don’t struggle to find money for events or research, yer for salaries, it is a struggle,” she explains.

The pandemic has made the two think of future libraries, which is leaning towards being more technological.

“We are currently creating a framework on what digital adoption will look like. The Makadara Library is full of university students and teenagers, which will force us go digital because young people in that age bracket are using technology. This means we must have plans for high speed internet, tablets and we must also have a place where people can experiment with coding; that’s the future of libraries. I think libraries as public spaces needs to evolve into more of community centres instead of rooms full of books. This evolution cannot ignore tech or it’s bound to fail,” she adds.

With Macmillan, they are trying to Africanise the library.

Library and culture “When the Macmillan Library was opened in 1931, black people weren’t allowed in. Presently, if you look at the collection, you’ll realise the content was not meant for Kenyans. On the other hand, the library in Kaloleni is such a significant one in our history, but no one talks about. The building became the unofficial parliament before it was even set up,” she says.

The pair has been trying to reconnect libraries with cultures and to have African literature and art represented.

Understanding the youths are idle during this pandemic and that going to libraries has been prohibited due to health risks at the moment, the organisation has also been trying to take the library to the local’s homes.

“We hired people to find out how many children live in every single estate and in Kaloleni, we found out that they were about 190 children. We appealed to our partners and friends for colouring books, toys and novels and walked around giving the kids in their homes,” she recalls So far, Kaloleni was just a pilot project in as far as the book donation drive was concerned. They plan to do this in Makadara as well.

“The future is more libraries and we want to create a template, which can be replicated in as many libraries as possible. We want to create a team in whatever spaces that we can who can carry out the work and have more libraries than bars,” she says in conclusion.

FACTS
• Wanjiru is a writer and has recently released a book, Havoc of Choice.

• Angela Wacuka was the director of Kwani Trust for around eight years and that’s when she met Wanjiru and the two became friends. Wanjiru started assisting Wacuka manage her events and that’s how their work relationship was borne.

• While Wanjiru is good at management and administration, Wacuka is an incredible networker and communicator.

• They have sessions where they ask each other how they are doing. They have also a small staff who check on them and give their expertise instead of doing it all on their own.

BY PD.CO.KE

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