Education changed my life

It is so hard to imagine what my life would have been like without an education. Part of the reason why, is because education is not just something done in preparation for life. Education is life itself.

I was born in coastal Kenya but spent my childhood days in Western Kenya before I found myself in the Kibera Slums in an effort to search for a better life for my siblings and myself. Having been struck by the early death of our parents, I had no option than to step up to fill their shoes. My parents never achieved education in its highest standards, so my siblings and I had no form of inheritance left to us. My mother literally struggled to bring food to the table and in many occasions, she failed. My father was a ‘daily drinking officer’ who had long forgotten the essence of fatherhood. Thinking about the circumstances I grew up in, I’m so glad that at 24, I am not another statistic, lost in the hopelessness of my home village.

Without an education, my life would look very different. I would have been lucky if I could finish primary school by age 15. Between 15 and 17, I would have asked my clan elders for a piece of land and built a thatched grass hut. By age 18, I’d be married to a village girl who probably hadn’t been to school or at best had finished primary school. At 23, I’d have at least 4 children and with six mouths to feed and no job, I’d be depressed by 25. Like any other person my age, I’d resort to drinking traditional alcohol all day, in an effort to run away from the many realities life was throwing at me. Without any knowledge of or access to contraception, I’d continue fathering children and by age 30, I’d have the average custom family of 8 children. My drinking would continue to spiral out of control and without proper meals and limited access to healthcare, I would be diagnosed with liver Cirrhosis shortly after; thus, indicating the end of my short existence on earth and the beginning of the same cycle for my children. This is the life I inherited from my father.

It is true that the future is a mystery and we own no bragging rights over it, but the odds are far better when a child’s future is well invested and planned for through education. Education is the passport to a brighter future and as a child growing up in rural Kenya, your ticket can only be booked today. Education hasn’t just changed the course of my life, but that of my entire generation. I not only see a brighter future for myself, but I see one for my entire generation. Today I stand head and shoulders above my fears because of what education has done for me. Education has helped me realise and understood that the world I was born in to, is not the world I must die in. It has taught me that the circumstances I face can be controlled and altered, they don’t need to be a noose around my neck. The knowledge that I am responsible for every single outcome in my life and accountable for all of the choices that I make, has empowered me to change my life. With greater responsibility comes maturity and the ability to take action.

At age 24, and on the verge of finishing university, I feel obliged and responsible to my slum community. I feel I have a mandate to inspire and help in whichever capacity I can. School has taught me life and life has taught me better than to turn my back on my country and my people. The aim of education is knowledge; not just of facts but of values too. Thank you AOL, who chose to turn and help me and many others by choosing to respond to our plight. You chose to make a longer table and not a higher wall. You sacrificed a lot to restore the lost dignity and humanity that lacked in our lives. To this I am and will forever be grateful. You have taught me how to stand up in front of just about any situation or anyone when I could merely stand up for myself. Thanks Adventure Out loud. I cannot wait to make you and myself proud.

About the author

Jacob is a writer, university economics student and community youth leader living in Kibera Slum, Kenya. Ever the optimist, Jacob is never short of a smile or a joke and along with an unwavering determination, these were the qualities that led AOL to sponsor his university education when we met him in 2015. Jacob became the guardian to his two siblings, James and Cythia, after the sudden death of his parents as a young teenager and he is proud that Cythia will be staring university in 2018.
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