The hostel looks like an apartment. Well, it’s a way of saying it looks too good to be called a hostel. Other universities I’ve been to don’t have hostels that match up to this one. It’s a girls’ hostel and unlike other male comrades who went in to test their evolving manly skills, I was in there to look for one girl, not so short, with a chocolate complexion, plaited with thick fabric braids and a pretty innocent and life is good kind of a face. Her name is Emma. She beholds a story that is like gold in my library and platinum to the souls of you my readers. After my interview with her, I was left asking myself how we would look like if we were to look like what we have been through. I thought about the times I have gone through shit and it felt like the universe was holding me hostage. And for everyone else who says life is unfair, it stops being unfair until you hear from someone like Emma.
I knock on her door, “Come in,” A voice from inside says. I slowly swing the door open out of the respect I have for the girls’ territory. Tricky places you know! She is lying on her bed while studying. She turns to see who it is. “Oh welcome,” she says and sits up. I shake her hand, “Thank you.” I take a sit on a chair by the study table and quickly scheme the entire room as if looking for landmines. She is smiling with one corner of her lip in a manner to say she expects me to say something. I realised my silence was uncalled for, like someone who was waiting to be served tea. But anyway, some tea and biscuits would have been nice. Considering the venue is a hostel and not a café, no offence was taken.
Emma and I were acquainted already through my good mjango, Jose. A light skinned, sheng spitting dude with an afro. Emma happens to be the best friend to Jose’s soulmate, another light skinned young lady with milky eyes. In the midst of our small talks, Jose mentioned Emma saying she pays her own school fees. Aha, stop right there, “Mjango. A first year? A girl? Paying her own fees? Whoa! Where’s she? Ask her whether I can interview her.”
“See I am a big fan of the girl child.” I started by saying after she asked why I wanted to interview her. “Though I am a full member of the boy chid clan with more than just physical evidence, I cry when the girl child cries and I love it when she laughs. So will you be crying or laughing?”
She smiles mildly and sighs, “Let’s go and find out.”
Honestly I didn’t know what to expect. But I have to admit, I was not prepared for anything.
“So where is the most comfortable place for you to have this interview? I asked. Just then, her roommate walked in and stopped half way when she saw me. She then said, “I will be back.” That’s the kind of courtesy comrades in hostels suddenly develop when they find their roommates in with someone from the other side of the gender. I wonder what they think they will be ruining if they stuck around. That which does not require the presence of a third party. Well, I am sorry to announce that I didn’t have that courtesy myself when I was in the hostels sometimes back. My roommate by then would take time to open the door whenever I found it locked from the inside and there was a female voice murmuring in there. Negligent of his expectations, I would keep knocking until it’s opened. He would later tell me how I cut their fun short and I would be like, “Ah pole man! Sikujua uko ‘busy’ manzeh!”
“I prefer we go outside. We will get so many interruptions here,” she said.
We sat on a pavement and she began, “I was the only daughter in the family so I was daddy’s girl,” Emma
began. “Anything I wanted, I was given. That was the norm until he died in the space between form three and joining form four. My younger brother was still in form one.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I said.
When the breadwinner passed on, the mother was pregnant. When Emma was in form four, her mother gave birth to twins miraculously through caesarean.
“I was happy but I was stressed.” She said.
I understood her mixed reactions. It’s always a good thing to have a baby. But somewhere along the way the good in it is strained when there’s hardly any way to provide for the new-born. So that made the four of them, Emma, her brother and the twins. With her father long gone, there was nobody who could help them except their grandmother. The extended family members deserted them. Life became unbelievable and pathetic. Her mum was recovering from the C – section hence she could not do much, the twins needed food and her brother needed school fees since he had just joined form one. Due to the high levels of stress added on to her asthmatic condition, Emma had to switch from day schooling to boarding in her fourth year of high school. She was greatly affected by the sudden demise of her dad, something that is expected of daughters explained by the deep connection they have.
“It was a tough year but I made it through. So after form four, my aunt called me to Kitale saying there is a job I can do there.”
“Aha, a breakthrough!” I said.
“Don’t rejoice yet.” She said and giggled.
“Though yes, I was happy because finally I had found a way I’d be supporting my family.”
“But?” I asked.
“But upon reaching Kitale, there was actually no job at all.”
“You can’t be serious!” I was now deep into the story forgetting how cold it was out there and how my bum is not good with hard surfaces.
“I wish I wasn’t. My mum called to ask whether I had the job and I had to say yes. In fact I added that I had a job in a warehouse.”
“Tell me you had a good reason for doing that.”
She said, “Yes. I just didn’t want to stress her. That’s the last thing I wanted to add on her already full plate.”
Emma asked her aunt and all she could say was that getting a Job in Kitale was not easy. The aunt said she didn’t need a certificate to get a job there because anyway, how many people have certificates but are still jobless. All she wanted was to get Emma to an environment away from home that made her more stressed than her age allows. And like the ambitious girl she is, she set out to tarmac for any job she could do that doesn’t require a certificate. It’s not what she signed up for, but she had to.
“My objective was to raise money for my fees and help mum too.” She said.
Having no fare, she would walk for long distances asking for a job. She started off in food places. They said they needed people who could do heavy work like carry huge jerricans of water and cook big amounts of ugali. Judging from her own appearance, she had the zeal but lacked the physical ability. Funny how I have an able body but wouldn’t be able to fit the job description because, well, they’d look at me and say I look like a born town. Not having an ID made her quest for a job even tougher.
“I just knew a job was there. But I didn’t know where.”
The egg of fortune began to crack when she finally got a job. Though not one worth celebrating. It involved sorting packed sacks.
“The sacks were bigger than me and at the end I was given seventy bob.”
“What!” I found myself saying.
“At the same time, my aunt’s husband was not giving enough money for the daily needs of the house. My aunt had developed a habit of just sitting around because I was there. Many times I had to spend my money to cater for the house needs. I was staying at their house anyway.”
Needs piled up day by day. Her brother called from time to time asking for money while in school. And by the way, they had to sell their cow to pay the young boy’s fees.
“So later, I started looking for a job within. I began washing clothes. Mark you, I was not used to all that since back at home I never used to do all that. I was daddy’s girl remember?”
“What was your attitude towards that job anyway?” I asked.
“I have to say I was happy. Finally I had something to do. But it became tough as time went by because I did a lot but not for the pay that was equivalent to the amount of work I did.”
Her savings account was under a cushion in her aunt’s house. At the end of every week, she would send some cash to her mum. Her aunt knew where she kept the money. She would say sometimes, “We can’t sleep hungry yet you have money here.” Emma would cry whenever that would happen but she had no choice. It was a two steps forward and another seven more backwards affair. She decided to request a woman she worked for and had an Mpesa shop to save her money for her.
“Time came I couldn’t do that work anymore. I was being overworked by my aunt and the job I had was just too much because of my asthma. So by the time I stopped, I had 17000 shillings.”
Soon she had to leave for home in Homabay. She didn’t go back empty handed. Even my mum taught me that. It didn’t take long for the agony of finances to creep up again. Emma had to hide the money she had been saving since she knew it was her best shot of getting to campus. Before long, she went to work as a house help at a family friends’ house in Kisumu. They were good friends to her dad. That alone made them treat her like family. She worked there until August, having raised enough money for her school fees to Masinde Muliro University to take a course in Disaster Management and International Diplomacy.
“I paid my fees and the hostel too. I decided to pay for the most expensive hostel where a room was for two. I couldn’t stand staying in a room with six people. I had been through a lot and least I wanted was interruptions in my time alone.”
On her first day of admission, Emma says that night was the first night ever since her dad passed on that she had good sleep. Having spent almost all her money paying fees and buying essentials, she had only an amount that would buy her food for one week. In the second week, not having anyone to call or borrow money, she starved. An entire week without eating anything.
“I had soda that I bought during admission. I drank it for a number of days. Be sure I was adding water.” She said. I thought about my second week in campus and the way I had already despised food from the Mess. You’re right, my heart sank.
“My roommate gave me the worst advice I have ever been given by anyone.”
I was eager to hear this one.
“She told me to look for a boyfriend, saying they were all over campus. They’d give me money.”
Trying not to laugh, “You said?”
“I brushed it off. At this point my life is in, I don’t have time for boys!”
And that was final. I hope every boy child got that loud and clear.
She resolved to do something she hadn’t done in a long time. She called her mum and asked her for some money. Soon after however, she decided she had to look for a way to generate income. Her desperation for a job took her through one of the lowest points she has been through. But she says that God saw her tears through it all. One thing led to another until she got a job as a peer counsellor in the university. It’s called Work-Study. She has been counselling her peers since she was in class eight. She once helped her classmate in class eight who was pregnant not to abort or commit suicide. Today, the girl thanks Emma for standing by her through those days even her own mother was against her.
Emma has worked her way through the ranks in the Dean of Students to the position of the head of the health division. It deals with reproductive health. It is not just a source of income for her fees, it is something she enjoys doing being evident through the trust she has gained from her peers.
“That is super brilliant Emma. I am touched. I know I won’t be the only one. But then I’d like to know, apart from what lies back at home, what are the challenges you face?”
“The balance between work-study and my school work. Sometimes it’s hectic but you know nothing comes easy. If it does then it’s a scam. And maybe my dad too. I mean, I will be lying if I said I completely got over his demise. I still wish he was alive to see how far I have made it.”
“Indeed Emma. But you’re a strong one eh?”
She smiles and says yes.
“Counselling others is good. But who counsels you when you have your own issues?”
Chuckling, “Hey that’s a good question. Because for real that’s another challenge. There are some things I undergo that I cannot tell my friends. So yea, that’s a good question.”
I asked her to describe herself in one sentence and this is what she said, “I am a hardworking, strong and ambitious lady who really loves helping and changing people lives.”
“Yes you are. How about in one word?”
“I am a fighter.”


What do you think?

100 Points
Upvote Downvote

Written by The Mjango

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

A very tough and touching story , I am sure it will be a motivation to many like her out there , nice article my brother ?