Failure is not final, affirms Dr. Job Mogire in this awesome story of faith and resilience.
No library, no laboratory…no student had ever qualified to go to the university from this school
“Job were you at Mangu High School?” I have been asked this question many times. Sometimes it’s Alliance High School or Starehe Boys Centre or some other big school. No. I didn’t attend any of these big schools. Instead, I went to a day school whose name you have to sit down in order to pronounce properly. On a full breath, ready… go: Kerongorori SDA Mixed Secondary School. Yes, Kerongorori… don’t try to pronounce it if you have dental braces or tooth cavities. I will not be responsible for that.
By the time I enrolled, the highest accolade Kerongorori had ever achieved was being ranked among the ‘most improved schools’ in the rural district. Despite its 11 year history, no student had ever qualified to go to the university from this school. Kerongorori had no library. No laboratory. Cementing was in only half of the classrooms. Only the form four class had wooden windows; the rest didn’t have any. Additionally, most of the teachers were untrained.
I had to trek to and from school every day. Rainy, bushy footpaths, contours of the rugged terrain.
Kerongorori is seven kilometres away from my rural home. I had to trek to and from school every day. The footpaths are bushy along the contours of the uneven terrain. You also should know that The Kisii highlands is a rainy region. Being rained on while making my way to and from school was very common. Just to bring this reality home – on the morning I took my final exam Chemistry paper 1, I was heavily rained on as I ran to school. And because of the long distance I had to cover, there was no time to seek shelter.
On that fateful exam day, every bit of my body was wet, including my shoes.
Whenever it rained, I would remove the school sweater and cover it with the polythene in which I carried my books. I would then proceed to school drenched by the rain. Once I got to school, I would remove my shirt and hang it on the barbed wire fence behind the classrooms and wear the hand-knit sweater till the shirt dried up. On that fateful exam day, every bit of my body was wet, including my shoes. I did my Chemistry Paper 1 exam wearing a sweater, shivering, and feeling cold to the bone.
Kerongorori had no school bus. I had no access to electricity, either at school or at home. Speaking English was a preserve of classroom; outside the classroom vernacular was the convention. I always made attempts, but it was frustrating because I was often the odd one out. Although my written language was good, my speaking abilities were not, with the added colourful influence of vernacular accent. My pronunciation of ‘oxygen’ for example in those days was ‘okshen’. Words such as culpability made me a selective stammerer. I even pronounced my own name, Job, as ‘Chopu’
My parents were unable to pay my fees
How did I end up at Kerongorori? After passing my KCPE primary level exams, I was selected for admission to one of the high-ranking secondary schools. However, my parents were unable to pay my fees, and no one around me knew how else I could get enroll in this school of my dreams. I searched for avenues wherever I could, knocked every door I could find, and followed every lead that showed any promise. Eventually, I gave up and joined Kerongorori. This was 6 months after my peers had enrolled in Form One.
The feeling of losing the opportunity to pursue your dream is awful…
To say I was full of disappointment is an understatement… I was in pain and in denial. The feeling of losing the opportunity to pursue your dream is awful. I’m not quite sure exactly when the dream to become a doctor was birthed in me, and why it had become as strong, but what was most important, was that I was ready to work hard for it. All I needed was an opportunity to do my part. That’s why it hurt so much, to work so hard for something only to lose it when it seemed so close. This temporary defeat almost convinced me that it was over. That my hopes of becoming a doctor were dashed…
What do you do when you are
trapped with a burning desire;
have no resources to accomplish it, and
no one to believe in your dream with you?
Do you give up and settle for less?
I became my own teacher in most subjects. I had to.
Well, I am glad I didn’t give up. Right from form one, I became my own teacher in most subjects. I had to. There was no other way. To qualify for medical school, I had to score straight A’s in all subjects, even in Chemistry and Biology despite the lack of a laboratory in my school. It would have been easy to blame the school for lack of facilities, or my parents for their poverty, or the government for lack of bursaries for poor but bright students. None of that, however, would have brought me closer to my dream. Lamentations never do.
The independence I gained while teaching myself…has been one of the strengths for which I am grateful.
Instead, I took charge of my destiny and believed in the beauty of my dreams. I pulled through four tough years at Kerongorori SDA Mixed Secondary School. I qualified for medical school from a school where the next candidate in my class scored a C+. My friendships and performance in medical school ended up creating the impression that I might have gone to one of the top level schools in the country from where most medical students hailed. No, I didn’t. I went to Kerongorori. But I made of Kerongorori everything I could make of any big school and more. To improve my spoken language and to overcome the strong vernacular influence, I read aloud very frequently. The independence I gained while teaching myself almost every single subject except history, CRE, and commerce, has been one of the strengths for which I am grateful.