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November 20, 2018

'Semi-illiteracy locked me out of global event'

Asman Saidi Ruma will never forget how his low level of education denied him the rare chance to fly abroad to attend the 2014 UN Climate Change Conference held in Lima, Peru.

The humiliation the Mijikenda Kaya elder suffered when his name was struck off the list of people that were scheduled to be in the Kenyan delegation to the conference in the South American state, was beyond words.

The 72-year-old retired chief from Ukunda in Kwale county rues the moment persistent ill-health forced him to drop out of the once prestigious Shimo La Tewa High School at form one 53 years ago, hence cutting short his studies, never to return to school again.

Ruma who is a Madrassa teacher, was among two Kaya elders selected by the government to attend the international conference but to his utter shock and disbelief, he was dropped and replaced by an educated colleague.

The shame of being left out of such an important global event is what inspired the septuagenarian to join Maweni Joy Adult Literacy Centre this year. His wish is to pursue education up to secondary level.

And as proof of his determination to realise his dream of acquiring the form four certificate, which denied him that important flight abroad, Ruma who is also the Ukunda Kaya Elders Committee secretary, has already registered for this year’s standard eight national examination.

“I missed the chance to fly out because I had no form four qualifications, something I regret up to this day,” said Ruma.

The father of five and grandfather to eight says he had been turned into an object of ridicule by cynical members of the public, some of whom are outrightly against his going back to school, claiming he is too old. But not one to give up easily, the former administrator has vowed nothing will detract him from his resolve to be in school to improve his education. He is however grateful to his friends and family members for their encouragement and support.

“I will study hard to realise my dream of joining high school next year in spite of my detractors. Nothing will stop me from achieving this goal,” he says.

Despite having only primary school education, Ruma expresses himself in fairly good English. He was indeed among the best adult literacy learners who were feted during the the International Literacy Day celebrations in Msambweni Sub-county for outstanding performance having emerged tops in the county mock exams with 350 out of 500 marks.

His teacher, Rashid Ali, said: “His steady progress in class surprises us each day. He has motivated so many elderly people and youths who dropped out of school to enroll in the adult literacy centres,” said Ali.


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