When she graduated from Chuka University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics attaining a first-class honours degree, Ruth Jemutai Rono thought the myriad problems back at home would be a thing of the past.
But as fate would have it, the 27-year-old graduate ended up in the village doing manual jobs to help her younger siblings after her parents separated.
Ms Rono, who is from Lelbatai village in Baringo Central, was raised in a humble background but through hard work and perseverance, she scored 364 marks in her KCPE exam in 2005 and was admitted to the prestigious Tabagon Girls High School.
Her problems started after her parents could not manage to raise the required amount and materials to take her to Form One.
“My mother, who always struggled to ensure that I achieve my dreams, managed to raise a meagre Sh11,000 through her manual jobs and I was admitted to Form One. Surprisingly, no other fee was paid until I cleared Form Four with arrears of more than Sh90,000,” said Ms Rono.
She added: “Throughout my secondary school education, I was often sent home for fees but I normally went back with nothing to pay.”
When the media visited her on Tuesday, it emerged that the graduate, who is the first born in a family of eight, is the sole breadwinner.
She also takes care of her two sisters who are disabled and need constant monitoring.
Her mother returned to her parents three years ago after she suffered from depression while her father is a habitual drunkard, which has led him to abdicate his responsibilities.
Ms Rono said that during her secondary school days, she used to walk for 20 kilometres from her home to school.
“I remember the pair of shoes which I wore when I reported to Form One is the same one I had throughout my secondary school education. I used to trek to school during opening days and when I was sent home for fees. I walked for more than 20 kilometres through hills and valleys just to pursue my dreams,” she said.
“I used to walk barefoot and when I approached the school I put on my only shoes. I did this to prevent the shoes from getting worn out. The trick worked anyway and I passed my KCSE exam, attaining a mean grade of A minus despite the challenges,” narrated Ms Rono amid sobs.
During one prize giving day at her former primary school, teachers raised the issue of her fees problem and a quick fundraiser realised Sh52,000.
“I was also given Sh20,000 for emerging the top student in my class. Knowing my fees woes, I used the money to pay the arrears and the schooled waived the remaining amount,” said Ms Rono.
Locals in her village helped to raise her fees after she was admitted to Chuka University.
“I was elated that despite the poverty back at home, I was almost achieving my dreams so that I could change the lives of my parents and siblings. The Helb (Higher Education Loans Board) loan helped me a great deal during my four years at university and I managed to attain a first class honours,” she explained.
After completing her university education, she returned home only to find her mother very ill.
“I struggled to get money for her medication and she was diagnosed with depression. Owing to the many challenges, I could not manage to cater for her treatment and my maternal uncles took her,” said Ms Rono.
The university graduate remained at home to take care of her siblings after her mother was taken by her family. Her sister was set to join Form One then and, together, they did manual jobs to raise school fees for her.
“Finally we got a good amount of money from the manual jobs in the village and I took my sister to a neighbouring day secondary school,” she added.
After her graduation in 2016, knowing the problems back home, Ms Rono decided to look for manual jobs in Nairobi in order to help her family.
“I stayed in the city for close to three months only to be told that my father came home drunk one day and torched the three grass thatched houses and left the children for the dead. Knowing that my mother was not at home, I sensed danger and I left Nairobi in a huff,” she explained as she fought back tears.
“I had saved Sh10,000 when I came back. I started to build two mud-walled houses from the little savings and went looking for my siblings who were now living with neighbours after the houses were burnt. The elder ones refused to come back after my father was released from prison for fear that he would attack them,” she said.
She took care of her three younger siblings as she applied for job opportunities with no success.
“My father is not supportive at all and he does not care to know what we eat or who pays school fees. I have been forced to carry the burden of taking care of my younger siblings considering two are physically challenged. I rely on manual jobs to get money for virtually everything,” said the graduate.
Her efforts to seek for assistance to get a good job in order to take care of her siblings have been unsuccessful.
“There was a time my mother left and one of my sisters almost starved to death. This made me not to look for internships because my siblings would suffer. I have been successful in my education but problems at home are dragging me back and I cannot enjoy the fruits of my hard work in school,” said the distraught lady.
She appealed for help to get a job so that she can help her family get out of the abject poverty they are in.