Graduate Spotlight: Against all odds – The journey of Andrew Waswa


Life has a way of presenting us with unexpected turns and challenges that can either break us or mold us into stronger individuals. For Andrew, a young man with big dreams, the path to becoming an accountant was far from conventional. From doing odd jobs to struggling with financial constraints, his story is one of perseverance, resilience, and a pursuit of education against all odds.

Andrew’s journey began in 2010 when he completed his high school education. With ambitions of becoming a neurosurgeon, he soon realized that his dreams would have to be put on hold due to financial limitations. Undeterred by this setback, he decided to make the most of his situation and explore alternative paths to success.

Between 2010 and 2015, Andrew got to Mumias Sugar Company Limited where he was working as a casual laborer performing unskilled manual labor. While his aspirations for a career in medicine seemed distant, he refused to let his circumstances define him. Determined to keep his mind sharp and engaged, he spent his spare time reading newspapers, books and watching news bulletins both on radios and televisions as a way of staying updated on current affairs. This commitment to continuous learning would prove invaluable in the years to come.

In early 2015, Andrew relocated to Nairobi with the aim of pursuing the Diploma in Business Information Technology (DBIT) at Strathmore University. Financial difficulties hindered him from pursuing the course and his fortunes began to shift when he took up a temporary construction job, popularly known as mjengo in Swahili, to make ends meet.

However, he soon received an unexpected precious opportunity to work as a gardener at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, which presented him with the prospect of better financial stability. Andrew, armed with a B- grade, had reservations about accepting the position. He wondered if his skills would be better utilized elsewhere.

It was during this period that fate intervened, when Dr. Mary Omingo, a lecturer at Strathmore University and his mentor, gave him a glimpse of hope by paying his fees hence enabling him to start Certified Public Accountants (CPA) classes at Strathmore University. This was after she mentored and recognized the potential within him. Although his commitment to learning was unwavering, juggling work and studies posed a significant challenge.

Dr. Omingo played a pivotal role in Andrew’s journey. Not only did she encourage him to persevere, she also covered his fees and provided him with much-needed financial support for upkeep. More than that, she acted like a mother to Andrew, listening to him and encouraging him to soldier on despite the many challenges.  Andrew spent his days working as a gardener and his evenings studying at Strathmore. Clad in his Strathmore attire, he would seamlessly transition from gardening to hitting the books.

Time went by and he got an opportunity for a work study at the University Library.

Throughout his journey, Andrew found guidance and inspiration from another mentor, Mr. Bernard Shiundu, the Head of Library at Strathmore University. Mr. Shiundu challenged Andrew to aim high and pushed him to pursue career opportunities aligned with his course of study. Mr Shiundu’s  love and insistence on submitting multiple job applications per day propelled Andrew towards growth and self-improvement. He completed his CPA classes and embarked on the journey of doing a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Finance options) degree, CPA exempt in 2019.

As he progressed through his studies, he seized the opportunity to intern at various institutions. Ultimately, he secured an opportunity at Centre for Research and Therapeutic Sciences (CREATES) whose offices are at Strathmore University, where his passion for finance began to take shape and his initial wish to serve in the medical field got, somehow, realized. The experiences and interactions with different individuals during his journey as an evening student moulded him into a well-rounded professional.

Despite the challenges and setbacks Andrew faced, he cherishes some memorable moments from his time as an evening student. One such memory includes a hiking trip to Ngong Hills with his classmates, which allowed them to bond and share laughter, providing a much-needed respite from their demanding schedules.

When asked what advice he would give to others facing similar challenges, Andrew emphasized the importance of perseverance, discipline and resilience. He encourages individuals to view every situation as an opportunity for growth and to never underestimate the value of hard work. He firmly believes that any genuine and reasonable job, regardless of its nature, can serve as a stepping stone towards achieving one’s goals.

Andrew is now a #ClassOf2023 graduate. Today, with his degree in hand, he reflects on his remarkable journey with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude. The sacrifices he made, the obstacles he overcame, and the unwavering support from his loved ones, particularly from Dr. Mary Omingo, and his mentor, Mr. Shiundu has finally paid off.

Andrew lives by a simple mantra: “Assist someone today for him or her to help another person tomorrow.” His journey has instilled in him a profound understanding of the power of kindness and support. As he embarks on his career as an accountant, he remains committed to paying it forward, ensuring that the opportunities he receives are extended to others who may be treading on a similar path.

This article was written by Rachael  Wangui Wanjohi, a 4th year Communications student.

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