Northern Kenya

University student’s captivating book of possibilities inspired by hardships

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Despite the difficulties of obtaining a proper education, Wambua recently completed his university course and produced his first book, Destination.

Wambua Musembi was born into a family of three and raised by a single mother in Bula slum, Isiolo County, where he encountered enormous obstacles from a young age.

He struggled to afford daily meals, walked seven kilometres to primary school on an empty stomach, and frequently skipped lessons to work menial jobs to support his family.

Despite nearly giving up on his dream of lifting his family out of poverty, the 26-year-old, the youngest in his family, is the only one fortunate enough to have attended secondary school and progressed to university, overcoming numerous obstacles along the way.

“My elder brother sacrificed his secondary education so that the money our mother had saved could be used to sort her hospital bill after she fell sick and was hospitalised for several months,” he said.

With no one left to take care of the family, the brother sought casual jobs to fend for his siblings and support the ailing mother but the Sh150 he earned daily wasn’t enough to cater for all their needs.

In class three at Kisima Primary School, Wambua resorted to slipping out of class and scavenging for scrap metal, which he sold to local traders for a small profit, which he used to help his brother sustain the family.

Four years later, he was relocated to Mwangaza Primary, which was closer to home, sat for his KCPE examinations in 2013, and scored 294 marks, gaining admission to Chogoria Boys High School in Tharaka-Nithi County.

“I was unable to join (Chogoria) due to financial constraints. I opted for Waso Secondary where I studied until Form Two when I got a partial scholarship at Muthambi Boys School in Tharaka-Nithi,” he told The Eastleigh Voice during a recent interview.

He had to repeat his second year of high school at the new school after discovering he had missed significant portions of the syllabus. He sat for his KCSE exams at this school in 2018 and scored a C Plain. Determined to improve, he retook the KCSE exams the following year at Kaliene Mixed Secondary in Meru, achieving a B (Minus), which granted him direct entry to the university.

Life became tougher for Wambua after joining Mount Kenya University for a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Finance in September 2020.

"The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) paid 70 per cent of my fees, leaving me to pay the rest, along with food and rent," he said.

Despite the difficulties of obtaining a proper education, Wambua recently completed his university course and produced his first book, Destination, a riveting 96-page work that stirs the imagination, inspires, and demonstrates how one can rise through the ranks of life and arrive at a single goal.

The motivating book is inspired by his life experiences, highlighting some of the detours he encountered while growing up and demonstrating how some of them turned out to be turning points.

“When we were young, we all had big dreams but as time went by and we grew older, it looked quite hard to arrive at the destination of our dream. At some point, the dreams sounded impossible to achieve,” the author says in the introductory chapter of the book.

Wambua also mentions in the book that while in university, he worked as a night watchman at Kisii estate in Makongeni, Thika, Kiambu County, and was hosted in a local church due to his inability to pay rent.

He also discusses his difficult decision to retake the KCSE exams after being denied direct admission to the university on his first attempt.

“I was afraid of what the society would have thought of me, failing again, but this time, I was not starting from failure but experience,” an excerpt read.

Wambua made his writing debut during his fourth year of high school following encouragement from a fellow student SK Kajwang who had successfully published his book. He read over 30 books to improve his craft before beginning his writing career.

“The whole process is time-demanding and requires commitment and creativity. You must set deadlines to ensure you do not start a project then drop it along the way,” he said.

He adds that when creating a book, one must first work on a draft copy that is then corrected. A manuscript is also sent for grammar checking and proofreading by an editor before the copyright is given and the final copy is sent for printing or publication.

Wambua admits he wasn't sure whether his writing would make sense to the readers, but he kept writing, focusing on communicating a message of inspiration and encouragement.

“I believe the invaluable lessons I picked from the hardships I faced can encourage someone at the brink of giving up to achieve their dreams and become reputable people in the society,” Wambua said.

His neighbour, also a family friend, Hassan Abdi said the feat would inspire other young people to be more deliberate in pursuing their aspirations.

“We are happy for him. Seeing someone from a humble family defy the odds and achieve their dreams is quite encouraging and a testament that education is vital,” Hassan said. Hassan said there were a lot of talented youth in Isiolo County but could not realise their potential due to a lack of empowerment by local leaders and the county government.

His books are available at the Nuria Bookstore.

Wambua is currently writing his second book, On the Other Side, which urges young people not to give up on their aspirations. "Keep believing, stay positive, and don't be afraid to try because unless you do, you will never know what you are capable of".

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