‘University degrees are no longer prestigious!’ Yes, so I hear. Apparently this is true in some place; allegedly many places. However, that statement is not true to some parts of the country. Let me explain. In my home village, education has always been valued but the resources to send children to higher education often were not available. That said, higher education for a girl didn’t really matter as they were better of married after standard eight. This has recently changed and the community has embraced educating the girl-child. When you are a graduate you respected because you are of high status hence the prestige.
Barely four years ago, in June 2011, at around 4 am, a 10 seater shuttle turned off the Mombasa road and drove towards Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. The security personnel at the entrance stopped them and gave them a sinister look.
“Who are you and where are you going?” asked one of the guards.
The driver of the shuttle replied, “We are from Marakwet in North-Rift Kenya and are going to Daystar University Athi River for the graduation ceremony.”
“Wow, so your boys not only run but also study?” asked the guard.
“Yes of course, but this time, the one graduating is a girl!“replied the driver, with a big smile.
The guards were quite astonished and quickly redirected them to Daystar University shouting congratulatory messages to the graduand in question. Probably they were wondering how on earth can there be a child, a girl for that matter, who came all the way from Marakwet to study in Daystar University? My name is Magdaline Kiyeng and that shuttle was ferrying my family to my graduation.
I came to Daystar in August 2006 straight from Marakwet, a very intelligent and somewhat naive nineteen year old girl. I had applied and been accepted into Daystar without much help and so my parents paid the fees and sent me off to university in a land I had never been to. I made the seven hour journey from Marakwet to Athi River, with connections in Eldoret and Nairobi unaccompanied, not because no one could come but because we are raised like that. In Marakwet it is normal for a nineteen year old to run a home of eight children confidently as though there are no parents.
During orientation I was shocked by everything from dress code to mannerisms to the environment, to the distance…the list is endless. I saw and heard things I would probably have not seen and heard if I had stayed in my comfort zone, the land of Marakwet. My God sent saving grace was the DOULOS students who help during orientation helped me keep my life at ease. I later learnt in INS 111 that this experience was called Culture shock awaited me.
Daystar University became a home for me and with a work study scholarship life became easier and enabled my undergraduate education to come to a close in a ceremonial graduation that saw my family and friends travel to Daystar University, 400km from home. Though they got lost as they came for the graduation, they never missed an opportunity to applaud their girl child being given the power to read and write. Daystar University helped make me who I am today and taught me to be a servant leader. I thank God that Daystar was not just a destination for me but a teacher in my life’s journey.
The saying that ‘University degrees are no longer prestigious…’ does not apply in Marakwet and probably other places too. In my community a university degree is still prestigious because the graduates improve the livelihood of the community through sensitization programs for primary & secondary schools. The need for community support has led to the formation of The Marakwet University Students Association (MUSA) and I am a proud and active member. MUSA members engage in community education, advice and awareness as well as help in Civic education before elections. The University graduates in my home area are a voice of reason.
Through the years, more and more of my kinsmen and women have attended university and I am happy to tell of the numerous graduations happening in my village every year. Education is highly valued and many parents are sending their children to universities for Undergraduate, Masters and PhD degrees. Recently, on August 7, 2015 we had the opportunity to establish a university in Marakwet a constituent college of Kisii University that has brought university education closer to the people.
As I now wind up my Masters at Daystar University, I hope to go back to my people and do something that will change their lives for the better. Thank you Daystar I am a Proud Alumnus keenly aware that ‘University degrees are still prestigious’ heading back to change the lives of my people at home.
Magdaline Kiyeng ‘11