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From marginalized to empowered – Rebecca is living the Strathmore dream

Rebecca Eyanae

My name is Rebecca Eyanae from Turkana County. I am the second child in a family of six siblings. I have one sister and four brothers. Both my parents are alive however; my uncle raised me. Apart from being a generous man, my uncle is a firm believer in education and especially girl child education, which is limited in the Turkana community. Throughout my school life, he has remained a mentor and a constant source of inspiration.

I performed well in KCPE and was admitted to Turkana Girls’ Secondary School and at the end of the four years; I managed to score a mean grade of B+. My tuition fees were catered for by Mama Mzungu Foundation, a charity organization located in Turkana County that assists needy and bright students especially girls to access high school level of education.

I came to know about Strathmore University (SU) through my high school principal, Sr. Florence Nabwire. She knew about SU and the KIVA Loan organization and gave my contact to SU’s special project manager, Lilian Munene who handled my application. To this day, Lillian is still a great friend and mentor.

Looking back at my time in high school, I still draw a lot of inspiration from Sr. Florence, the school principal who introduced me to Strathmore University. She is not only the best English teacher I have ever known but also a very effective administrator. Her passion for the education of girls and progress of women in general within the community inspired us all.  She saved many of my schoolmates from early marriages, which is rampant in the community and continues to mentor and encourage girls and their families to embrace education.

Making the transition from high school to Strathmore University wasn’t easy but the change was eased by the university’s structures which promotes a well-rounded community life and consequently provides an ideal learning environment. Some of the systems that helped me the most include the  one on one mentoring sessions, career services, the clubs, engaging lectures and the work-study program. Through the mentoring system, I picked up many valuable lessons like spirit of service, hard work, generosity, justice and chastity, which I now hold very dear.

Career fairs also exposed me to various future employers such as KCB bank and Safaricom limited. I was lucky to secure an internship opportunity in these two companies in 2016 and 2017 respectively.  I learnt a lot from them in terms of practical knowledge and professionalism.

During my undergraduate period, I decided to focus on water challenges in Lodwar town, for the two compulsory Information System projects. I did this in my second and fourth year of study. My research aim was to find an IT solution that could help in solving water challenges that the municipal Lodwar Water and Sanitation Company (LOWASCO) still faces in its effort to supply clean and adequate drinking water to the residents of the arid town.

I also joined the Community Outreach Program (COP), a society that brings the Strathmore community together for volunteer work that aims to positively influence and improve various communities in Kenya. Additionally I was part of  Macheo, an after school tutorial and mentorship program run by Strathmore University’s Community Service Centre that focuses on high school students from Kibera slums in Nairobi.  Coming from Africa’s largest slum, the challenges these students face in accessing opportunities is something I could closely relate to and therefore decided to participate as a mentor.

The opportunities to grow and help others grow are always present in Strathmore. In late August of 2017, a great opportunity presented itself in the form of an exchange program to KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

I have always dreamed of travelling abroad. Growing up, sometimes we would spend our nights outdoors, due to the desert heat in Lodwar. On these nights, I would spend my time watching planes fly across the night sky. The feeling I felt was a mixture of excitement and fear.

In August 2017, this dream of flying became a reality last year when I was selected through the Safaricom Limited #Twaweza campaign to participate in the exchange program. The selection process was tough but I thank God, I was among the selected team who went to Sweden.

I got the opportunity to live and study in a country ranked amongst the most developed in the world.  And together with three other Strathmore University students, I attended the 2017 KTH Global Development Hub, based in KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Global Development Hub project focuses on developing coordinated education and innovation for global development by means of partnership between KTH and selected sub-Saharan African universities. Students and teachers collaborate in tackling local challenges such as clean water and access to energy, and researching for global solutions.

The three months spent in Europe’s startup capital and at one of the leading universities in the world was packed with valuable life lessons for me. I learnt a lot about being time conscious, confident and believing in yourself and above all the ability and confidence to add value to the society. This has helped me to identify areas that I would like to work on improving back in Kenya and especially in my community in Lodwar.

Going forward, my wish is to engage the existing companies in Turkana County to provide opportunities for the many bright and needy students in the county. This can be in the form of scholarships or internships. I also intend to mentor students and involve myself in research that brings a positive impact to Turkana County.

I am currently applying for a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT), an opportunity presented to me by the Strathmore Faculty of Information Technology to whom I am forever grateful as an alumna. I am also undertaking research about water challenges in Turkana County.

My goal now is to learn and apply everything I can to improve lives in one of the most marginalized communities in Kenya and see to it that every child gets to experience the joy of education.