The impact of the Mwangaza Scholarship Program, as told by a scholar himself
Almost everyone can understand the stress of final exam week. Now imagine having the additional stress of paying off all school fees before being allowed to take your exams. Kenyan medical students cannot sit for their final exams unless they have a receipt on their desk showing all school fees have been paid. Additionally, in Kenya, student loans and credit cards don’t exist like they do in North America—so this is no small feat. It’s not unheard of for Kenyan medical students to go hungry for days because they had to use money budgeted for food to pay for school fees. Through the generosity of private philanthropic funding, AMPATH was able to set up a scholarship program to pay the school fees for approximately XX Kenyan medical students. The application process is rigorous and competitive. And the selection process is even more difficult because each applicant is worthy of the scholarship. Each has a unique story to tell. Here is just one, told by the Mwangaza Scholar himself:
This is a life experience that has been left untold because I have always tried to write about myself but barely have I ever finished a line before my eyes flood with tears, hands sweat profusely to a point of dampening the paper and body quivering too much to support its stature. I have never reached a point of acceptance but here I go.
My name is Cherop Kemoi Jack. By the time I was nine, both of my parents died leaving me and my brother orphans.
My father died when I was five. Living in a witchcraft subjugated area, claims say that he died for having been bewitched by envious relatives due to a land dispute. The Luo community, also having a backward custom of wife inheritance, forced my mother to marry our own uncle. This was the worst thing that my mother could have imagined in her entire lifetime—being against her own beliefs and principles, she publicly denied it. This led to a lot of consequences. First, we were deprived of all our father’s belonging. Second, we were excommunicated and treated as outcasts.
Excruciatingly, this made us homeless, landless, helpless and the worst of all outcasts; something comparable to death. Our one and only house was brought down mystifyingly by a phenomenon that was left untold up to date. This convinced me enough to believe that evil spirits had been sent to torment and consume us completely.
After a failed attempt to survive on our own, my mother decided to move us to Baringo County—her home before marrying my father. I had high hope for Baringo. But my joy was short-lived. It was just merry when we were being welcomed by our aunts, uncles and grandparents, but it was a wrong turn for us! A language barrier paralysed my academics and socialization completely. Having known Luo only, I found it hard to manage in class since all the lessons were taught in their vernacular. This made my performance pathetic! I became the dummy of the class every term. This almost made me give up in my studies.
My impoverished family turned their home into a ‘Busaa’ brewing place (a local illicit brew). We started being exposed to alcoholism at an early stage. Brewing and selling had now become our profession.
But my mother’s sickness was the worst. She remained sickly for more than two years before dying at home. Having no money to take her body to the hospital for death registration, she was buried customarily leaving no evidence of her death.
My brother and I were raised by our 70-year old grandmother. I continued on with school but it wasn’t until class five that I was able to understand Kalenjin and begin to excel in my studies. It never bothered me being hungry nor sleeping on a hide skin but what was more important to me was if I had time enough to read. In spite of all these challenges, I still had a dream. A dream that initially sounded foolish to every ear it landed on. I had the passion that one day I would be a doctor.
Luckily, it happened that an uncle of mine, to whom I owe my gratitude, pleaded to Moi High School-Kabarak to offer me a scholarship. God answered my prayers and cries! I got the scholarship. There in Kabarak, life was not as smooth as people thought; but I promised to work hard never to let down those who struggled for me not forgetting myself too. My dream of being a doctor now seemed to be a reality!
Since then, I finished secondary school and enrolled to Moi University for a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. This is the path that I am currently studying and am in my second year of studies.