The plight of a Kenyan graduate

March 18, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Cynthia Meru

An argument broke one chilly Friday night between my friends and I, on the issue of gender equality and equity.

“We are brought up in a judgmental society, where societal roles are dished out based on one’s gender, value of his or her family name; thus, does your last name count when mention and the weight to move mountains like the Kenyattas, Clintons, Mandelas of this world?” Connie opened her statement. She argued that the merits and capabilities of an individual are the least checked, therefore making one’s level of education just a phase of life. Grace contradicted the statement claiming that one level of education gives one a chance to a better life in social circles; she continued to say that education expands one’s mind, increases ones curiosity of what surrounds them and guarantees exposure and capacity of growth in all realms of life.

“Better life in the social circle? Do you even know that in a social setting one still needs to prove themselves worthy of being among their peers?” Connie asked. The discussion took a sad note when Connie decided to narrate a story: I met Brian when he was a 2nd year, quantity surveyor student in one of the prestigious Universities in Kenya while I was still pursuing my secondary education. We both lived in one of the many slums in Nairobi, we became friends because we had a similar vision; that of making a difference in our place of residence and be a source of hope to the hopeless. It was clear to the both of us that formal education was our only option.

Brian managed to graduate, scoring a grade that gave him a fighting chance in the corporate and business world. After two years, of hustling he finally got a job he had always wished for; he was living his dream. Rumor had it that you were being prepped for promotion whenever the boss wanted you to accompany him to functions considered important. He therefore decided to work smart, worthy of the acknowledgment of his immediate superiors.

One day his boss asked him to accompany him to a cocktail party organized by the Quantity Surveyors Guild; his facial expression matched that of a SportPesa jackpot winner. This invite meant he was in for a bright future in the firm; it was his turn to shine and create contact with the elite in his field. That night he called me and could not hide his excitement. His elation reminded me of the day my crush called; I saturated with happiness. I told him to be cool and compose himself and everyone would love him. He wore his Sunday best and maintained a high aura of ambition.

A driver was sent to pick him up; the sleek black BMW limo was a clear indication of the party’s importance. It was held in a five star hotel, which Brian never imagined of dining in, but as Lupita put it at the Oscars, “No matter where you are from, your dream is valid.” Anxiety rushed through him when he was ushered at the yard as he saw the bright men and women who are considered gods in their profession. Wow. This was the most unbelievable moment of his life. His boss was watching and amazed at how lost Brian was in thought that he couldn’t notice that he was standing for five minutes waiting for him to snap out of it.

“Brian?’’ he looked up and met his boss who was now getting impatient from trying to get his attention.  “Sorry sir! I didn’t see you coming,” Brian hastily responded.

“Thank you, sir.”

“For what?”

“For letting me accompany you.”

The boss looked aghast at him. “You deserve it!”

“Come let me introduce to my friend Mr. Kairuki who also happens to be the chairman of the Quantity Surveyors Guild.”

“Hi,” he stretched his hands to meet the most respected man in his field

“What’s your name young man?”

“Brian Otieno Otieno.”

“Otieno? Do you by any chance come from the same family as Otieno Kajwang’s?”


“What does your father do?”

Getting irritated by the turn the conversation was going he said, “My father is a cobbler back in the village, the first car I ever saw while growing up was a rusty pick-up track that my neighbor, who was a teacher, rode every Sunday to church. In our village he was respectable and the richest man around.”

“Okay-y, where did you attend your secondary education?”


“Secondary school?”

“I went to Eastleigh High School.”

His boss noticed that the environment was becoming hostile, and Brian was raging with anger. He therefore decided to take part in the conversation. “Mr. Kariuki, Brian is the youngest partner at our firm. The information that his boss divulged at that moment took Brian by surprise!

Tears rolled down Grace’s cheek, because deep down she was going through a worse torment! She is awaiting graduation and decided to move to the city for the hope of a greener pasture. It has been three months and the tunnel is blocked, the hope of seeing the light at the far end of the tunnel is now but an illusion. Most graduates are left to fake it, with the hope of one day making it.







Cynthia Meru

I believe that everyone has a potential to do great things, all one need is an opportunity. Favourite Quote: “Don’t be afraid of getting wet, if you want to be a swimmer.”


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