LETTER FROM JAPAN

From rural school in Kiambu to Obihiro University in Japan

The Japanese people are very friendly and welcoming

In Summary

• I look forward to this new four-year journey and experience at Hokkaido, Japan

PhD student James Komu and Japanese Ambassador Ryoichi Horie
PhD student James Komu and Japanese Ambassador Ryoichi Horie
Image: COURTESY

There are two important days in a human being’s life: The day you are born and the day you realise the purpose why you were born.

I am yet to know whether I have realised my purpose (story for another day), but I can confidently confirm that I was born in a remote village in Kiambu county, Kenya. My parents were teachers and so I can boast of a “modest life” then, but I was not happy with schooling in my home county up to Masters Level.

To start with, I went to Kamunyaka Primary School in Gatundu North subcounty, where we would walk 6km one way to school daily. Back then, I dreamt of joining a secondary school far away from home, where I would use a matatu (public means of transport in Kenya) to break the norm of walking to school. Unfortunately this dream didn’t come true as I was enrolled to Mururia Secondary School, one of the best secondary schools in the larger Gatundu District then, which was only a few ridges from home and in the same home county. The good thing was that this school was a boarding school and so I would not walk to school daily. I promised myself to work harder so as to break this monotony of home county schooling by joining a university far away from my home county.

A year after I finished my secondary education in 2006, Kenya held a general election, and tribal clashes resulted from ethnic and geographical diversity of Kenya’s politics. During this time, I was set to join campus and due to the fear of unknown, my parents convinced me it would be only safe to study in a university closer home. I ended up in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) in Juja subcounty, Kiambu county. At this time, my hopes of studying outside my home county were very slim, as I had no plans of continuing with my studies after my bachelor’s degree.

When I finished my bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory sciences, I was lucky to be employed by Jkuat in the College of Health Sciences (Cohes) as a teaching assistant, an opportunity that redeemed my hopes of continuing with my education. The TA job is a position in a university that allows a person to be trained to become a lecturer and a researcher.   

I had to immediately enroll for a master’s degree course, and as fate would have it, I ended up in Jkuat, still within my home county, this time because the university was sponsoring me. At this level, I was aware that I would have a chance of pursuing my PhD later and made my mind that I would not do it within my home county. To be sincere, I had no plans of how I would break this norm or what would have happened along the way to deter me from this dream, but I had to pursue my PhD outside my home county.

When I finished my MSc medical virology in 2018, I had again to immediately enrol for a PhD, and I thought of other universities in Kenya outside Kiambu county. I was, however, held back by the long time I took for my master’s degree, and I decided to apply for scholarships outside the country. I sent applications to more than five scholarship-offering bodies and institutions. Fortunately, I was able to secure the Mext scholarship from the Japanese government to pursue my PhD in veterinary sciences at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in Hokkaido, Japan.

As I landed at the Narita-Tokyo Airport in Japan on October 2 this year, I reflected on my journey from all the county schools to a dream of a university outside my home country and smiled. I had even managed to study outside my home continent. This was a dream come true.

The Japanese people are very friendly and welcoming, and I would encourage anyone from Kenya wishing to study outside their home county and country to consider studying in Japan. Their universities are well-equipped with modern infrastructure to ensure coherent research progress. More information on available scholarship opportunities can be sort from the Japan Embassy in Kenya located in Upper Hill, Nairobi.

I look forward to this new four-year journey and experience at Hokkaido, Japan, and I have immense faith that I will make it.

 

James Gitau Komu

Tutorial Fellow, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

PhD Student, Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine