Daily life is not honest. College shouldn’t be a luxurious. These are lessons I figured out in rural Kenya

Daily life is not honest. College shouldn’t be a luxurious. These are lessons I figured out in rural Kenya

This is a First Individual column by Robel Ng’ong’a, who lives in Edmonton. For extra details about CBC’s To start with Man or woman tales, see the FAQ.

My 18-12 months-outdated cousin and I had set off on foot to a neighborhood market deep in just rural Kenya to buy greens and potatoes for our relatives food that night. It was in the course of a single of our yearly visits to my parents’ childhood house to commit Xmas with my grandparents and extended household. 

At that time, I was the head boy at a highly ranked worldwide faculty in Nairobi, the money of Kenya in a couple of many years, I would go by myself to Canada to come to be a pupil at the University of Alberta.

I was privileged to increase up in Nairobi, in which I was uncovered to what the contemporary environment experienced to give. Energy, faucet water, access to features ended up all conveniently readily available. But lifestyle in rural Kenya could not have been more different.

My cousin lived in a location identical to wherever my parents and a lot of uncles and aunties were raised. Most people relied on kerosene lamps or battery-driven torches to gentle up their properties. Tap water was a thing individuals would only find at the town centre or hear about on the radio. Most family members would have someone wake up early to operate down to the stream with buckets to fetch h2o that would be applied by the overall homestead for all purposes, from using baths to cooking foods. 

A boy wearing shorts and a T-shirt stands beside an older man sitting on a stool and holding a coffee cup. The two are posed outside a building with rough walls and a tin roof.
Ng’ong’a, age 8, poses for a photograph with his grandfather outdoors his dwelling in the Kenyan village of Randago. (Submitted by Robel Ng’ong’a)

The community marketplace was about 4 kilometres away from our homestead. My cousin and I walked because we only experienced just one bicycle readily available. Our dialogue targeted on hardships that youth like him confronted. A single section that caught with me was his eagerness to have an education but his palms were being tied by his obligations to support treatment for his spouse and children. As a substitute of expending funds on an schooling and a dream of a greater tomorrow, he would have to settle for work that place food items on the desk these days.

As I heard his text, I was filled with unhappiness. I was harm by how unfair life could be, particularly thanks to components no a single could manage, like what family you are born into. 

My journeys and what I’ve learned 

A small group of people, including two women, two men and a young boy, are seen from behind walking on a reddish dirt path. Around them are trees, some plastic outdoor chairs and other grownups talking or working. 
N’gong’a, considerably appropriate, walks with his mother and father, sister and uncle as a result of the village exactly where his father was raised. N’gong’a grew up in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, but expended just about every Xmas trip with his relatives in a rural village. (Submitted by Robel Ng’ong’a)

When I was 18, I flew halfway throughout the world to a new land, many thanks to my mother and father and a quantity of scholarships. When I reached the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, situated in the small central Alberta metropolis of Camrose, I discovered myself in classrooms surrounded by a multitude of persons from all distinct backgrounds. 

I vividly don’t forget taking an entrepreneurship course in my fourth yr at the Alberta College of Business where I interacted with classmates and observed how passionate they ended up about undertaking the proper issue — whether in wellness treatment or sustainable manner. It was inspiring — and it opened up my eyes to the reality that absolutely nothing is unachievable when approached with dedication.

Thanks to my mothers and fathers, I was equipped to stay my desires. I was able to show up at very good faculties and in no way lacked in anyway. All those once-a-year Christmas visits to our household property in rural Kenya not only helped make me grateful for what I had, they also ignited an urge to do something with my daily life that would make a variation to other people. 

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The new buddies I manufactured during all those visits spoke Luo as their first language, whilst I spoke mostly English. In spite of a slight conversation barrier, we performed with each other and, by means of immersion, I figured out how to speak my ancestral language. I also learned how to do some of the matters my mothers and fathers did escalating up, these as using cattle to graze and drink h2o by the river or fetching water from the stream. 

A young man smiles at the camera while standing on an interior staircase that features brightly painted pillars.
Ng’ong’a graduated in spring 2023 from the University of Alberta’s Augustana in Camrose, Alta., the place he served as president of the student’s association. (John Ulan)

Every single time I went again to the village, I arrived out much much more realized, with skills I would not be capable to select up wherever else. As I grew older, I observed these children develop and deal with lifetime head-on. It grew to become apparent that our various upbringings meant we confronted various difficulties.

I could quickly feel lousy for them and want them nicely but I will hardly ever overlook that they took me in and taught me invaluable classes when I was youthful. It was a firm reminder of the African proverb that states, “If you want to go speedy, go alone. If you want to go much, go jointly.” 

Now it is time for them to study

I am privileged to be the place I am now — a youthful African male with a degree from just one of the world’s best universities. But that is not plenty of. My serious mission is to make sure I am not the past to have these kinds of an possibility. There are tons of deserving youth in rural Africa who are worthy of a likelihood, and I will do my best to empower them. 

My time as a university pupil in Canada played a important role in demonstrating me what was attainable. It continue to pushes me to want to do additional.

A smiling young man wearing a graduate’s cap and gown holds a wooden mallet while standing in front of a large, bell-shaped sculpture.
Ng’ong’a retains a wooden hammer right before putting a bell-formed sculpture — a tradition for graduates from the College of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose, Alta. (Submitted by Robel Ng’ong’a)

That is why I hope to build a non-revenue corporation that will aid young people today in rural Africa accessibility reasonably priced instruction. I have started to pitch my organization program to prospective partners and have registered my firm with the government of Kenya.

My cousin has the likely to be remarkable. All my young village mates have the opportunity to be wonderful.

Quite a few have generally referred to the African continent as a sleeping huge. I am on a mission to assistance it wake up to a vibrant new long run.


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