The different fortunes of various students were in full display on Monday and Tuesday as learners reported to secondary schools.
On foot, on bicycle, by car or helicopter, it was all a question of means of transport for the parents and benefactors who braved long queues to have their children in school on the first day.
For George Masinde, there was no way he was going to let his only chance of joining a national school slip through his fingers.
His plan was simple and straightforward: Wake up at 3am while parents are still asleep, put on his primary school uniform and sandals, then find a way to St Joseph’s Boys High School Kitale.
“I was afraid of losing the slot, yet I knew that if I informed my parents that I intended to make my way to the school very early, they would not allow me,” he said.
By 8am, Masinde had reached the school from his Likuyani home in Kakamega County, after braving the Monday morning chill, and was at the principal’s office, pleading his case.
Apart from the calling letter, he had carried nothing, because he had nothing to carry.
Masinde told the principal that his parents had been struggling to make ends meet, and they had not managed to raise his school fees.
But he could not just sit there and do nothing.
Godfrey Owuor said he was amazed when the boy showed up in his office early in the morning.
“I was in the office when my secretary told me I had a visitor and I told her to let him in. A boy in tattered primary school uniform and shaking from the morning cold stood before me.
“He pleaded that I allow him to join Form One even though he had no money to pay,” says Owuor.
The principal admitted Masinde, then started an appeal to well-wishers to support him.
He said the 14-year-old boy’s quest was genuine and he deserved to be assisted.
Masinde scored 370 marks out of 500 in the 2020 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam.
He says he wants to be a pilot and vows to work extra hard to realise his dream.
Masinde’s friends and neighbours had told him he risked losing his slot if he did not report to the school on the date indicated on the admission letter.
“‘First things first and God will lead me through the way.’ That’s all I told myself before leaving.
“I just have hopes that someone will help me realise my dreams,” he says.
His mother, Damaris Mutenyo, was shocked in the morning when she was told that her son had decided to leave early so as to secure his place.
She immediately left for the school and found her son.
Mutenyo is a vegetable vendor and the boy’s father is an itinerant trader, and their earnings cannot pay for Masinde’s education and their domestic needs.
She appeals to well-wishers to help her educate her lastborn son, saying he was her only hope for a better future.
“With my earnings averaging Sh150 per day, it is difficult to educate him in a national school and we would be glad to get support,” she says.
For yet another student at Maranda school, the contrasts spoke volumes.
An unnamed beneficiary of Raila Odinga Foundation is said to have arrived at the school in style, aboard a chopper, and with the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga by his side.
According to a teacher at Maranda High School, Raila, his brother Dr Oburu Oginga and others had come to admit a student at the school.
“That photo on social media sites is not that of the boy Odinga came to admit here.
“He is one of the several students and even parents who posed next to the chopper,” said a teacher who was in school when Raila and his entourage went there.
But other reports indicate that Raila and Oburu were at the school for other missions not related to Form One admissions before eager students, teachers and parents posed for a photo with him and the chopper.
Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango denied that the former PM had gone to drop a student at the school.
In a mobile text message to The Standard, Dennis said: “He (Raila) did not drop a student at Maranda on Monday.”
Dennis did not, however, state the reason for Raila’s visit to the school.
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