Graduate Spotlight: Vivian Wambui – Housekeeper turned graduate


Determination, perseverance, inspiration, and narrative change are words that cannot come close to how the story of Vivian Wambui unfolds. She can not wait to put on her graduation gown and say ‘I made it’, on a day she has yearned for since she joined the SU housekeeping department. This is a tale that would be mistaken for a myth, recounting a remarkable journey of humble beginnings to extraordinary success.

Vivian’s journey starts at Strathmore University Business School (SBS) in 2012 as a housekeeper, initially driven by the desire to earn a living. Her background placed obstacles to the pursuit of further studies but she had a dream; she had caught a glimpse of the stars, and wanted nothing less than the fulfillment of all her ambitions.

“I have vivid memories of shedding tears every time the graduation season approached, questioning whether I would ever have the chance to don a graduation gown myself”, she confesses.

Working at Strathmore University [SU] was part of her journey, a must-pass-through path as she describes it. Beginning as a housekeeper was a crucial phase that led her to the position she holds today; after all, you clear and ground your land before you come in with the foundation.

During her third year as a staff member, someone recognized Vivian’s untapped potential. They saw a flickering candle that yearned to illuminate the darkness and inspire others. “I received ideas and inspiration from various individuals. For instance, I recall feeling a bit unwell one workday and decided to visit the University’s medical center. To my surprise, Dr. Evans Almeida not only tended to my physical health but also kindled my dreams and aspirations. He inquired about my ambitions and subsequently connected me with a mentor who provided guidance and uplifted my spirits,” Vivian recollects.

A second love

Although some individuals recommended that she attend Kibondeni College to refine her skills in housekeeping, her heart yearned for law – her first and enduring passion. However, as life often surprises us, love can manifest in unexpected ways. Vivian discovered her heart skipping a beat when she embarked on her journey in Accounting. She found herself captivated by the way numbers could narrate a story, without the need for words to illuminate their meaning. This newfound passion for accounting surpassed her initial expectations, proving that sometimes a second love can surpass all anticipations.

Her dream of studying at SU needed some background work. She had to start a Nairobi College to gain a certificate in Accounting Technician [ATC], which was later reviewed by KASNEB to a diploma [ATD]. She, therefore, had to go for a retake of the new syllabus before proceeding to pursue her Certified Public Accountant [CPA] certification at SU.

Being the hard-working person she is, Vivian managed to do her CPA until the sixth level before starting her Bachelor of Commerce (BCOM). Managing her commitment became a complicated art as she had to juggle between work, CPA, and the BCOM classes at SU. Despite it all, she remained steadfast in her pursuit of excellence.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic became a part of our lives;  everyone was immersed in a new world of online learning. “Juggling work during the day and attending evening classes proved to be quite the hassle. The timing of my classes consistently fell at inconvenient moments, whether it was after a tiring day at work, during a waiting period at the bus stop, or amidst the chaos of a crowded and noisy matatu.” Striking a balance between the two programmes was an additional challenge. “I vividly recall being physically present in a Bachelor of Commerce [BCOM] class, but my thoughts were preoccupied with stress about my upcoming CPA exams,” Vivian shares.

Raising school fees was another challenge for her. What she was earning could not sustain her and pay her school fees. She describes her being able to pay for her ATD as a miracle. When she enrolled at the College, she paid her administration fee but was still left with an unpaid balance. To this day, Vivian remains baffled by how she managed to attend classes with an outstanding fee balance, as no one else was allowed to do so due to the strict measures at the school.

Securing a scholarship

Then came SU, where she did her interview and got admitted, even though she had no idea how she would manage to pay her fees. During her interview, she recalls the late Ms. Christine Oketch asking her where she would get the fees from, to which she replied ‘God will provide’.

As the semester commenced, days turned into weeks, but Vivian was unable to start her classes due to the unresolved fee issue. She approached Ms. Christine once again, expressing her situation and the need to begin a little later. In an angelic display of kindness, Ms.Christine went above and beyond to assist her. She not only helped Vivian apply for the school’s scholarship but also followed up with the financial aid department to secure the scholarship, allowing Vivian to catch up with her classmates.

Embarking on a new chapter, Vivian made a significant career shift in September 2017. After five years of wholehearted commitment to the SU housekeeping department, she made the courageous decision to leave and follow her passion in the financial sector. Joining a financial institution provided her with an opportunity to explore her newfound interest. Even amidst this transition, Vivian remained focused on her long-term goals. She continued her pursuit of the CPA qualification, demonstrating her determination to excel in the field of finance. Additionally, she was on the brink of commencing her Bachelor of Commerce [BCOM] studies, further solidifying her commitment to personal and professional growth.

The journey from 2012, when she first joined the University as a staff member, to 2015, when she enrolled to College to lay the foundation for her dreams, and finally to becoming a BCOM graduate from SU, was far from easy. Many would have settled for achieving their CPA, but Vivian pressed on. She attributes much of her success to the unwavering support and comforting presence of the SU staff. Throughout her challenging journey, they have been there for her, offering encouragement, guidance, and a helping hand whenever she needed it. Their support has been instrumental in helping her stay strong and resolute in reaching her goals.

Wambui encourages dreamers to keep dreaming and work towards their dreams. “Today you might be at what you consider a disadvantageous position but that does not define your future success. It won’t be easy but if you can envision a positive outcome and find the courage to act, then you can overcome the challenges,” she says.

Today, we celebrate Vivian Wambui, a proud Strathmore University graduate, who defied all odds to achieve her dreams. Her journey serves as a powerful testament that no human is limited. She stands as a living example that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, as long as you have the unwavering zeal to push through the darkness.

Cheers to all that made it this far!

This article was written by Faith Katumbi.

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