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Prisoner with Passion for Math Hopes to Work in a Bank

Peter Kamau derives his joy from doing calculations to a level most Kenyans have never reached.

Although he has been behind bars for more than a decade serving a life sentence, he has managed to complete his Certified Public Accounts (CPA(K)) course.

Yet, despite his deep knowledge of mathematics and accounting, he says that he feels wasted, locked up in Naivasha Maximum Prison and with no hope of ever being released.

“I am slowly rotting away in jail with no hope of ever achieving my dream, which is to work in a bank,” he says as he helps some of the students in the prison do the homework they were given by their trainer.

Kamau hit the headlines when he became the first inmate to achieve that level of education, a first for any prisoner.



He says that he had never thought that his love for and interest in math would enable him to gain international recognition, since he was just doing what he loved most.

“Playing with numbers is my hobby and I derive my joy from solving a difficult sum,” he says.

Kamau’s interest in working in a bank originated from watching his neighbour in the Kabati area in Thika who used to work at a local bank.

‘I always admired him; he was ever neat, looked financially stable and was ever smiling. Up to this day I still harbour the dream of one day working in a bank,” he says.

Growing up in a family of ten children and in extreme poverty was never easy.

This forced him to skip school as he pursued his secondary education.

He was, however, a bright student since his primary-school days.

He attended Siakago Secondary School and managed to score a C+ in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam, but could not extend his education beyond secondary school because of lack of fees.

“I still harboured my desire to be a banker, though I watched as my dreams went down the drain because I could never have afforded college education.

“My parents had numerous financial problems trying to raise all of us in the best way possible,” says Mr Kamau

However, fate was not on his side.

Kamau was arrested, alongside four other persons, in his hometown in Thika district at the tender age of 20 during a swoop by police and accused of robbery.

He still maintains his innocence to this day.

“They said that I had committed a robbery and I was shoved into a police van. I ended up in Nyeri Prison and attempts to prove that I had committed no crime were futile,” he says in a sad tone.

At Nyeri Prison, he was informed by some prisoners who had been transferred to that facility that the Naivasha prison had partnered with Strathmore University to offer accounting lessons and examinations to inmates.



He went and literally begged the wardens at Nyeri Prison to transfer him to Naivasha, viewing this as a chance to achieve what he had always dreamed of.

His plea was granted since his character at the facility was deemed good.

He says that he was positively accepted into the Naivasha facility and immediately started his course.

He adds that he paid extra attention to his studies but never thought that he would be able to go so far in his education at the facility.

In May 2013, he became the first prisoner to graduate with such a high qualification from Strathmore University, in an occasion he calls the best day of his life. A friend who runs a college homework help service helped him work his essays well.

“When I was told that I had been given the power to read and to do all that appertains to this degree, I had a mixture of bitter and sweet feelings.

“The reading part was okay, but doing all that appertains to the degree was, and is still is, something that my heart yearns for,” he adds.

He says that on that day, for the first time, he felt human.

Not being confined behind bars and getting to celebrate his achievement presented a ray of hope.

His parents and siblings joined him for the celebrations at the university. They all broke down in tears when his name was read out from the list of graduates.

He now wants to engage in distant learning at the same university, something he has been unable to do as the prison does not offer distance learning, which is needed for the course.



His only hope lies in a presidential pardon that is offered to prisoners who are found to have had good conduct. Such an amnesty is the only thing that can help him walk out of the prison doors and pursue his dream.

“I want to be able to pay taxes like any other Kenyan and not just feed on the Kenyan taxpayers’ money,” he adds.

He, however, is not deterred and still hopes to become one of the best accountants in the country.

He challenges people who find mathematics in general difficult to have a positive outlook, saying that a change of attitude towards the subject can help one achieve very good results.



“I am freer than most people outside since I am free in spirit. However, I still would want to be free in body and enjoy my talent in mathematics,” he concludes.

According to Naivasha Senior Prison Warden Patrick Mwenda, the facility has over the years produced bright students who were able to compete positively with their counterparts who are not behind bars.

“We have a student pursuing medicine at the University of Nairobi and (the) majority of our students are also undertaking courses in carpentry, woodwork and accounting,“ he adds.

According to Mr Mwenda, the facility produced the best student in all the prion facilities in the country, who scored a B- in the KCSE exam.

He, however, challenges the society to accept the inmates once they are released as he feels many are reformed people.

Source, Daily Nation