Power to read: Mother, 58, and daughter 33, graduate with PhDs

Outside Moi University main campus administration block in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County, two ecstatic women hugged as a grey-haired man watched in awe.

On Thursday, more than 5,000 students graduated in a virtual ceremony.  But Anne Mugalavai and Leen Kavulavu were among less than 200 lucky students who were invited to represent other graduates at the graduation square.

The two women, Anne,58, and Leen, 33, are mother and daughter and both were celebrating a rare spectacular feat.

Mugalavai had just been awarded a PhD in information science while Kavulavu graduated with a PhD in education.

The man who watched as the two women enjoyed a splendid moment was Professor Levi Musalia— a senior lecturer at Chuka University in Meru.

He was quiet but the jubilation was palpable on his face.

From Kegondi Village in Sabatia Constituency, Kakamega County, the family came to celebrate the fruits of hard work.

Journey to success

The mother and daughter had long but outstanding journeys to the epitome of academic excellence.

Dr Anne Mugalavai, Leen’s mother completed form six 38 years ago at Butere Girls before joining Kenya Polytechnic—currently Technical University of Kenya (TUK) for diploma in Library science.

After her diploma, she got a job at Egerton University where she worked as a university assistant librarian.

In 2004, at 42, she enrolled for a degree in information science at the same University (Egerton) where she graduated with a first-class honour.

“I was the oldest undergraduate student. I decided to join students at the age of my children while balancing between my job as a librarian and studying. But it was my dream to pursue a degree,” Dr Mugalavai says.

She says attaining a first-class motivated her to further her studies, and she enrolled for a master’s degree at Moi University a year later in 2008.

“I graduated with a master’s degree in 2012 but I didn’t take a rest. The following year I enrolled for my PhD I am glad that I have now completed, but most importantly, I am exhilarated for completing the journey with my firstborn daughter,” the proud mother of three daughters says.

After completing her master’s degree, Mugalavai says, she shifted from library officer at Egerton to a lecturer of information at Rongo University.

She told The Standard that her second born daughter Fiona Muleke is pursuing a PhD in human resource management, also at Moi University and was to graduate this year but could not due to a technical hitch, while the last born Cynthia Chamwada is pursuing her master’s degree.

Coincidentally, Dr Mugalavai was taught and mentored by her high school teacher Prof Cephas Odini, who also moved to Kenya Polytechnic and later to Moi University, becoming her teacher at the three different institutions of learning.

“I didn’t qualify to join the University at form six, but I didn’t give up. Most of those who qualified to join the University did not further their studies. I am lucky that I started late and I have completed,” she says.

Dr Kavulavu, just like her mother started with a diploma, graduating in 2008 at Kenya Methodist University in Meru.

Dr Leen Kavulavu (left) and her mother Dr Anne Mugalavai are all smiles as they pose for a photo after graduating with PhD at Moi University in Eldoret on Thursday, December 12, 2020. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Tender age achievements

At 33, she stunned her parents with the pursuit of education that made her a lecturer at Karatina University at a young age of 28 in 2015.

After graduating in 2008, she enrolled for her degree in Education Arts (history option), graduating in 2010 and immediately enrolled for her master’s degree.

“Upon completing my masters, I got a job as a lecturer at Karatina University. I also enrolled for my PhD at Moi University. I am happy that I am celebrating this achievement with my mother. She is the one who encouraged and motivated me to enrol,” she says.

She also praises her father, saying the professor has been pushing them to reach the highest level of education.

Prof Musalia says his daughters listened to him when he persuaded them to further their studies despite not qualifying directly to join Universities.

“I wanted everyone in my family to attain the highest level of education. I didn’t want to be the only member of the family with a PhD. I gave my wife the time to pursue her studies while I encouraged my daughters to do better,” he explains.

He continues: “We are now a family of academicians – three lecturers and the rest are joining the club. My second born is the brightest but also the most difficult to handle.”

Prof Musalia asked men to give their spouses the opportunity to further their studies.

“I will be hosting a small party to celebrate the women I have mentored. It would have been a grand celebration but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have invited a few friends and family members,” she added.

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