In Summary
  • When G4S Kenya signed a new contract at Daystar University and were looking for guards who had university experience, Juma was the first one to volunteer and was posted as the chief guard at the main entrance.
  • In 2007, he joined Daystar University in January 2007 as an undergraduate in Bachelor of Arts community development after he secured sponsorship from Canadian benefactors. He is currently pursuing his PhD.
  • Purity Ngina decided to re-sit her KCPE exams and this enabled her to proceed to high school and later join the university; she is Kenya's youngest PhD holder.

The Kenya Primary National Examination (KCPE) results are out and half of the country is not very excited with the grades their children brought home.

We have read in various media of parents who have killed their children because of low marks, yet life does not really depend on what you have at hand, but what you choose to with it.

From a security guard to a PhD student: Juma Nyongesa

In the sleepy village of Mururi, Matunda in Kakamega County, a child was born. Juma Nyongesa is the first born child of 11, in a family that has known nothing but poverty.

His parents were peasant farmers who barely made ends meet.

“I remember my mother working as a casual labourer in farms to supplement what my father got from his meagre seasonal construction work. While in primary school, on weekends and holidays, I joined my mother in farms so that I could be able to raise money for uniform and books,” says Juma.

In 1998, Juma sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). With great results, he was called to join Musingu High school, but this news was received with a mixture of excitement and sadness.

“I had passed so well, but the challenge was that my family could not afford to send me to that school, because of the money needed for my school fees,” he recollects.

A few weeks to closing of form one selection, his father sat him down and floated the idea that he joins Eshikulu Day secondary school, which he could afford.

“He promised that he would make sure I completed high school. That marked my 35 kilometre daily trek in search of secondary education for the next four years,” says Juma.

Determined, his father sold a piece of his ancestral land to pay for his school fees. In 2002, Juma sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and earned a B mean grade. “I had missed direct university admission with a few points,” he notes.

EMPLOYMENT

After staying at home for a few months, Juma decided to look for employment. In 2003 he tried out several disciplined forces recruitment exercises- Kenya police, Kenya Prisons, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Defence Forces without success.

“In 2004, I attempted the same recruitment and luckily, Kenya Army recruited me. This was great news that lifted my spirit,” he adds.

However, 38 days after reporting at Recruit Training School in Eldoret, a parade was assembled, six names were called out and were asked to pack their belongings and leave the school within 15 minutes.

“My name was among the six. We were only told that there was an error in the process of recruitment. Later, I learnt that a powerful politician had his people and we were ejected to create space. This was very devastating,” says Juma.

Not the one to give up, in 2005 Juma travelled to Limuru to stay with his aunt who worked in a tea plantation. He worked as casual tea picker for a few months but he was not getting the fulfilment he yearned for. He then travelled to Nairobi to stay with his cousin in Kawangware.

This cousin worked in a private security company and when Juma told him that he needed a job, that was the only place he could think of.

“Within a few months, I had secured a job as a security guard in a company called Cornerstone Security Company, with a Sh3,600 monthly salary. I was posted in Westlands Mvuli road at Mvuli apartments as the gateman,” he recollects.

Juma Nyongesa

Juma Nyongesa a former security guard is now the Principal at the Kenya Institute of Development Studies. PHOTO| COURTESY


It is at this gate that the thought of one day going back to school was birthed.

“Together with other four young men, whom I knew from the village, we rented a small room in Kangemi. Our monthly rent was Sh2,500 which we shared among the five of us; hence my monthly rent bill was Sh500. To save on transport, I could run to and from work every day. I did this for nine months,” he shares.

Juma later moved to G4S Kenya, with a triple the pay, better uniform and payment in time. His first assignment with G4S Kenya was at Kenyatta University, Nyayo hostels as a guard.

“I met some students who knew me from the village, while in high school. That I was better than them in class yet they were students made me feel so uncomfortable. Word quickly spread to the village that Nyongesa’s son was a watchman. This brought a lot of sorrow to my father who had hoped for better,” he adds.

When G4S Kenya signed a new contract at Daystar University and were looking for guards who had university experience, Juma was the first one to volunteer. At Daystar University, he was posted at the main entrance as the chief guard.

“I interacted with students and staff, did my best, and worked with my whole heart. Severally, I was named the customer care person of the month in the university students’ magazine, Involvement. This is against the background of how negatively security guards are viewed,” Juma says.

SAVINGS

Within a year, he had saved money that could pay fees for a full semester as parallel student, but then a miracle happened.

A new guard had been posted to Daystar and assigned to guard residential houses for visiting faculty from Canada. Being his first assignment, he had no money to keep him going before receiving his first salary. Juma gladly took him in.

“In one of their conversations, he narrated to them how I had helped him out. The Canadians asked to see me,” Juma narrates and adds: “They were interested in what my future dreams were. I told them of my desire to go back to school and in our second meeting, they said they were willing support my education, plus that of my fellow guard.”

Juma exchanged e-mail addresses with the Canadians, took photos and they travelled back to Canada.

In August 2006, they sent Juma an e-mail asking him and his friend to start looking for admission in a university of their choice. “I had three admission letters from three universities. A friend advised me to also apply in Daystar University, for it will be an interesting and inspiring story to other people,” he shares.

Juma joined Daystar University in January 2007 as an undergraduate in Bachelor of Arts community development and a minor in business management and administration. “I remember my first class with nostalgia — from a guard to a student. It took time for reality to finally sink,” he adds passionately.

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