Samuel Kuria - St. Al's Grad
When the Late Nelson Mandela clearly stated, “Education is the tool you can use to change the world” this statement was not clear to a boy brought up from a humble background by his own mother and stepfather in a family of four children somewhere in Gacharage in Muranga County, Kenya. Unfortunately, by the time the young child would turn 8 years, the mother developed a complication while giving birth and passed on leaving the newly-born girl, the boy, his elder sister and elder brother at the care of the stepfather. Everything changed immediately after the burial.
Things did not go well for his elder sister and his brother and so they had to relocate to his grandmother’s place while he was left at home with his step-father and the infant step-sister. The boy was not able to continue with his education because he was at times left home to take care of the younger sister. It was not until his grandmother came to his rescue in 2005, about 3 years after his mother’s death, that his life regained a bit of shape. She had learned of Children’s Home in Nairobi just next to Kibera slum that was taking in orphaned children. It was at this point that she made sure that the boy and his elder sister joined the institution in order to unburden herself and hope that her grandchildren got all the help they needed. The younger step sister only joined in later after the stepfather could not provide for her as a result of a physical impairment.
However, since the death of his mother, the young boy had remained silent and was deeply troubled by all that had happened around him. He was shy, with no self-confidence. After seven years at the Children’s Home, the boy completed his primary education level and learned how to play musical instruments like the trumpet, but there was no development of his self-confidence. Unfortunately, by 2010, the home changed from helping orphaned children to becoming a private school for fee paying students. Most orphans were sent home, and others had to be dropped off to their relatives.
That’s my story…My name is Samuel Kuria, a proud graduate of St. Aloysius Gonzaga high school in Nairobi. I joined St. Al’s in 2012 after leaving the Children’s Home. I clearly remember that day I left the Children’s Home for my elder brother’s place in Muranga some fifty miles from Nairobi. There were so many things that I did not actually know, including where the bus stage was and from what point I was to take it. Luckily, I got some good Samaritans on the way who helped me. I finally got home to my brother and he was very happy to see me even though I had decided that I was not going to stay there. I did not know what to do but I was sure that I was going back to Nairobi. I went back and waited for my uncle who lived in Nairobi at the only place I knew, the Children’s Home. Unfortunately, he did not show up and I had to be accommodated within the institution again but only for the night. The following morning, I was awakened early before sunrise and was tossed out of the compound. I did not know what to do next. Everything seemed so empty!
I had heard and even interacted with students from St. Al’s when at one time they joined us for a football and volleyball match. It is then that I learned about how the school was taking students in and offering them scholarships to study. By this time, I had done my Form One (first year) and abandoning my education to stay upcountry with my brother picking tea in people’s farms and doing casual jobs would render my life meaningless. That morning, being a Saturday, I went to St. Al’s but I was not able to speak with the Principal because the office was closed for the weekend. I was however lucky enough to find somebody I knew who could house me, a friend whom we had been in the same Children’s Home for a while. Come Monday the following week, the new Form One students who had been selected for the scholarship were now being enrolled in school. I recall, coming back the following day by 8 o’clock. At this point, I was determined to do anything possible to earn the scholarship even though some doubts still lingered inside me. Being a busy day in the school, I did not see the Principal until around 2 o’clock in the afternoon when she was kind enough to call me. I explained to her why I wanted to see her, and one of the reasons was that I did not know what would follow if I could never go back to school. I also made it clear to her that education was the only thing that would change my life and guarantee me a future. I just had to begin with only one step, just one, and my life would be better. Although it was difficult getting some of my documents from the former Children’s Home, the headmistress was kind and understanding. The next morning, I remember being given a letter to take to the social worker where I was given school uniforms, books and a pen so I could begin classes because I did not have one. It is at this moment that I began my journey, back in Form One again, young and as curious as I had been. It was during the first days in St. Al’s that I began gaining confidence to be able to stand up for myself.
Life had changed completely by the thought of being a student at St. Al’s. I began to see the positive things in life. I even began to admire learning languages such as French. The introduction to French as a subject was interesting especially during the salutations by our teacher. We all laughed the first day he introduced himself. Instantly, I had fallen in love with French and was not going to stop soon. I finally managed to take it up as a subject in my final year in secondary level examination. Music also became my passion and I was able to play the trumpet and the saxophone in the 2015 National Musical festival, emerging in fourth position in the country. I used music to build my confidence. I used music as a tool to open up to people and respond to their thoughts and feelings. In fact, I have continued to play music, and I don’t intend to stop any time soon.
St. Al’s social needs program offered help to students like me who could not get support from their families. I received a lot of support especially for food, shoes and even toiletries; but most importantly the program rented a safe place for me to call home, which I shared with another student who was on his own. Without the four years of help from the social needs program, I could not have succeeded at St. Al’s.
Every student who goes through St. Al’s is required to generously give of themselves, their time and love to others in the community and society as a whole for six months through the community service program. I was posted in a girlchild organization and was able to learn a lot from the many lessons I taught as well as from the many events and outreaches we did together. At the end of the six months, I was awarded a full scholarship to study at the University of Nairobi, taking a bachelors degree course in Diplomacy and International Studies in which I have been progressing well.
By God’s grace, I received another scholarship that greatly helped me improve my level of education in the pursuit of French language at Alliance Francais in Nairobi. It was also in the process of pursuing my studies in French language that my former high teacher encouraged me to apply for an internship position in France as an Assistant in English Language. I made the cut out of the many who had applied for the internship and I was able to find myself in the top of the 70 Kenyan students who were shortlisted for the internship. I look forward to flying soon to France to take up the challenge.
I thank God so much for the opportunity to meet such great people, such great mentors, my very generous sponsor and above all, I thank God for the founder of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Fr. Terry Charlton. He remains a father-figure to many. I can utter that the shy, unconfident young boy is no longer a boy hiding in the shadows but a young, bold and confident man ready to love and serve because of all I have learned; and I recognize so well that learning can never stop.