As you enter Egerton University Nakuru Town Campus on Government Road, the institution is a beehive of activities.
The security at the entrance is tight as a female security guard keep a close watch on every movement around and past the metal gate.
And as students and other clients pass her at the entrance, they have no idea that the woman who inspects their luggage and frisk them before allowing them to go through a metal detector is student at the same institution. Not even some lecturers notice her.
Some of the students even reprimand her for the slow pace at which she clears them, perhaps because of fatigue as she rarely gets good rest.
“Sometimes when I look at some of these students who scorn at me, I pray to God to give me strength to study hard and join them at graduation square one day. Sometimes it is good to respect people you meet because whatever one is doing is not permanent. This world is a global village and you don’t know the next meeting point,” she said.
She added: “Unfortunately many Kenyans see security guards as failures in life and school dropouts who don’t deserve respect.”
Meet Ms Naomi Cherono, 27, who is the darling of the students and lecturers as she ensures their security is guaranteed through superb checking at the entrance.
Interestingly, students and other visitors who have interacted with Ms Cherono leave the institution impressed.
However, many would probably never know that the guard who takes care of their security is struggling to complete her studies at the same institution.
“She is the safe pair of hands to help the students and workers at the institution enjoy their work and study. I love the way she is strict. I was happy with the way she handled my colleagues who did not carry identification documents,” said George, a student.
“With terror threats at public institutions, Cherono makes sure only students and staff with proper identification documents enter the institution when she is on duty. She is a no nonsense guard who loves her job,” said Mary a second year student.
“She is a cool guard and when she talks about security, I listen very attentively. She gave me some advice on personal safety including tips on how to detect suspected criminals in a crowded gathering,” Victor, another student.
Ms Cherono, who is a Library and Information Science student, hopes to graduate this year. But she may not graduate as she owes the university a fee arrears of Sh268,000.
“I have decided to work as a guard in the day and in the evening I attend my classes but my joy walking home smiling with my certificate is fast fading as I have not cleared my arrears,” she says.
“Juggling between class and work to raise an extra coin for my school fees,” she told the media. Ms Cherono’s journey is inspiring.
In 2012 she sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and scored a D and since she wanted to join university her poor grades let her down. She enrolled for a certificate course and passed her exams.
“I passed and I decided to advance by studying a diploma course which I passed,” she recalls.
Ms Cherono wants to prove that getting a D in KCSE is not the end of the road.
“Getting a D was a blessing in disguise as I have been able to realise my potential and as I study hard. I want to be a role model to other girls who seem to despair after getting the grade,” says Ms Cherono adding that poverty is the state of the mind. She says her dream is to pursue Library Studies to PhD level.
“My next stop is a PhD class and nothing will stop me from one day earning the title Dr Cherono,” she says as she frisks a client.
But the journey has not been easy as raising the school fees was an uphill task.
“I come from a poor background. I am the first born in a family of 10 (eight boys and two girls) and my father is a tractor driver in Mauche while my mother is housewife and they have a burden of taking care of the rest of my siblings,” she says.
She added: “It is not easy to raise such a big family. At one stage my dad told me to quit college as he had no money to pay for my fees.”
However, that did not dampen her fighting spirit and she was forced to carry the books to read and complete assignments while working as a guard.
“When you’re a security guard cum student, there is no time to relax. Every second counts. I wake up at 4am to study and complete my assignments and by 7am, I report to my place of work and the university,” she said. “Working as a guard has denied me the privileges of social life,” she said.
Despite the challenges, Ms Cherono has passed all her examinations and practical tests and is optimistic of a bright future.
“I owe the university Sh268,000 and unless I raise this money my dreams of graduating as a librarian may not be realised,” she said.
“I have to clear the arrears as I don’t believe to be a failure in life. What I earn as a security guard caters for food, and pays my rent and other costs,” she said.
Egerton University Vice-Chancellor Prof Rose Mwonya commended Ms Cherono for overcoming odds to pursue her dreams.
“Her sacrifice is commendable. I started from diploma and today I am the vice-chancellor of Egerton University. I encourage her to work hard,” said Prof Mwonya.
Nakuru City Board Director Kamau Kuria commended Ms Cherono’s resilience.
“Unlike other girls who score a D grade and think there is no future, Ms Cherono has a bright future and her hard work is now paying off. She is a role model to her peers,” said Mr Kuria.
A lecturer at Egerton Town campus William Kipchumba described Ms Cherono as a hardworking student.
Egerton University Town Campus Security Supervisor Paul Rotich described her as a courageous and disciplined student.
This article was first Published on the Daily Nation of Nation Media Group.