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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

There is no shame in going back to school

DETERMINED: Teresa Lokichu.
DETERMINED: Teresa Lokichu.

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Forced to drop out of school because of female genital mutilation and early marriage, older women are going back to achieve their academic dreams

When the government launched universal free primary education in 2003, it is not just children who answered this call. At 84, the late Kimani Maruge was also not left behind.

Maruge’s journey became a major inspiration both locally and internationally. He was immortalised in the film titled The First Grader, a 2010 biographical drama film based on his true-life story.

Though his story was more of an exception at the time, today the situation is becoming increasingly different.

Women are going back to school in droves and this has been observed across counties. Traditionally, people went to school to get a job and make a living but an interesting trend has been gaining traction with a growing number of women with a solid financial base making the bold step to return to school.

There are those who are going back to school because they aspire for political offices that demand that the holder to have attained a certain level of education. Others want to set a good example for their children and there those who simply want to finish what they started.

But for others like Teresa Lokichu, it is all of the above.

Born in 1961 in West Pokot county, she was enrolled at Chepareria Primary at 10. Like many children her age, she nursed various dreams of being a teacher, a doctor or a pilot.

But in spite of her wavering dreams, one thing remained clear — she wanted to become somebody in society.

“I enjoyed being in school but when I reached standard eight, things changed in the blink of an eye and my life took a very different direction,” she explains.

Lokichu remembers the fateful day all too well when she went through female genital mutilation and was later carried shoulder high to her husband’s home.

This day set her on a journey that would leave her widowed with 11 children, with no education, or a way to make a living.

“I began selling illicit brew because I felt like I had reached the end of the road. With time, having being raised in a religious household, I had to look for an alternative source of income,” she says.

She ventured into selling seedlings, building materials and farming. “With time, my business really picked and my life was becoming more stable,” she adds.

As a result, not only was she able to put food on the table, but her children were able to go to school and to avoid going through various retrogressive and harmful cultural practices that characterise the life of

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