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The story behind new graduate’s passionate note to Prof. Gicharu

Juma J. Tom joined Class One in 1993 aged five. He progressed without repeating any class, sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination in 2001 and scored 300 marks that earned him a place in Sirakaru Secondary School. Learning uninterrupted at this pace, he would have completed Form Four in 2005 aged just 17. But poverty and misfortune conspired to rob Tom of many school years. It has taken him 23 years from the day he stepped into Class One to his graduation from Mount Kenya University on 9 December 2016 with a Bachelor of Education degree.

Juma J. TomJuma J. TomAn orphan, Tom dropped out of school while in Form I. He stayed out for two years before going back to start Form I all over in 2004. He completed Form IV in 2007, scoring a B-. The grade, however, denied him direct entry into a public university under the Government-sponsored admission programme. He remained at home for six years – until MKU advertised a scholarship award scheme for which he applied, praying that he succeeds in this endeavour.

The experience explains his emotional message to MKU on 8 December 2016, the eve of his graduation day. Specifically addressing MKU Founder and Chairman Professor Simon N. Gicharu, he wrote: “I know many people will graduate tomorrow. I am one among the many. You can’t know how much you have changed my life. My dream is now real. It all started in 2013 through the scholarship award the MKU family granted me. You stand in my heart as a dear father. As I graduate tomorrow, my request is to meet you even for five minutes to thank you for your kindness. May Almighty God bless you abundantly.” In an earlier letter addressed to the university, Tom said the advertisement of 28 July 2013 about the scholarship offered by the institution restored his “ambition, objective and aim of becoming a future professor”. He had been shortlisted and interviewed on 5 September 2013.

He recalls that on 6 September 2013, while still at Thika, he received a message at exactly 7pm informing him he had been granted a full scholarship. “I was lost for words after receiving this message,” he says.