Shaban Varajab-My River of Life
Who is Shaban Varajab? I am a Kenyan born of two Muslim parents, Mwajuma Alwanga Shaban and Shaban Olewe Wakenga. I was the last born of their four children, raised in Western Kenya. My parents came from two different ethnic backgrounds, Luhya (my mother) and Luo (my father). Although a Muslim, I attended Christian schools, interacted with many Christians and learned a lot about Christianity and less of Islam. (Partly this was because my parents passed away before I was 12 years old.) Beyond the labels of my religion, ethnicity, and status as “orphan,” perseverance, relationship building and achievement in the face of great difficulty have shaped my identity. Since my parents’ death, my maternal grandmother raised me. We struggled, coping without food and clothing at times, and with limited resources available for my education. My primary school teachers supported me; they saw my potential and paid my way through the last two years of primary school. I excelled in my 2000 KCPE Exams and was supposed to join the prestigious Mukumu Boys High School; yet we were unable to pay the required fees. In fact, I almost dropped out of school at this level. For four months I stayed at home while my friends joined high school. Instead of losing hope, I worked on nearby maize plantations to save for secondary education. My grandmother had to shed tears to see me accepted into Mukumu, yet my savings only allowed me to join my village school, Isongo High School which I joined in Mid May 2001. Getting this chance I used my early days and I studied hard to win the trust and sympathy of the Principal, who ensured that I was among the students who benefited from Ministry of Education bursary (educational support) which was competitive and limited as we had many students from poor families. At times even with the bursary I was not quite able to meet the fees, so I occasionally had to miss school for one to two months. I remember many times leaving school at 5pm very fast on my feet so that I can get home before the sun sets to conduct my studies since I had no paraffin to light my room at night. Despite this, I persisted and passed my 2004 KCSE Exams well, enabling me to join Moi University in 2006. Before joining University two key events almost pulled me down and almost made me lose trust, hope and patience in God. The first was the untimely death of the former KNUT secretary Mr. Katumanga, a man who had promised to fully sponsor my University education after being impressed with my District Mock exam results (an exam that I had stood out as the best student in Mathematics) in an event he attended at our school in October 2004. The fact that my admission letter to join University was hidden making me delay in applying for HELB loan also came to me as an inhibitor to my progress. I never gave up. Joining Moi University was not the end of my struggle. While I benefited from the Kenya Higher Education Loans Board bursary, it did not fully cover tuition and subsistence costs. I found extra work during my free time to cover costs of food, stationery and support for my ailing grandmother at home. I joined the Moi University work-study program and worked as a cleaner and a messenger at the University Dispensary. I washed students’ clothes every weekend for a fee. I also cooked shortcakes and sold them to students every morning. I was also forced to train myself in computer skills so that I could research and do typesetting for students assignments at a fee. On some occasions I would approach the university administration to offer me work opportunities during International Conferences and Symposiums, where I worked directing guests and organizing the events. This was really tricky for me, since I had to balance academics, socialization and work at the same time, while the majority of Kenyan students focus exclusively on their academic commitments. All in all, I did not lose hope. God provided me well-wishers, good health and a smart mind to overcome all odds. Besides being prayerful, I also read and interacted with great works of Inspirational writers such as Ben Carson’s Think Big, Brian Adam’s How to Succeed Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and Barack Obama’s Audacity of Hope. I also acknowledge the support and encouraging words of a great network of people who saw me at my worst and best, listened to my troubles and helped me lay them to rest. They include my lovely grandmother- the Late Mwanaisha Nyangweso, my sister Saada Shaban, my uncles Mr Omar Imbundu and Mr Hussein Mango, my Primary school teacher and mother Mrs Dina Nyangweso, my High school Principal-the late Patrick Kubai Lumidi, my close friend and counselor-the Assistant Dean of Moi University Mrs. Mary Wosyanju, my Economics teacher-Mrs Kurgat of Moi University, my friends Geofrey Musera of Masinde Muliro, Daniel Wereh of Rural Women Peace Link, Kate Mansfield of Mennonite Central Committee and Fred Ongeri of Moi University, Joyce Muchena of IRC-Kenya, my University roommate-Mr Johnah Mmaitsi, my mum Selline Korir, Mrs. Osaba Omar, Mrs. Alice Gondi and Mr. Tom Odhiambo in Kisumu. I am also inspired by humble people like Churchill, Eric Omondi, and many others that I cannot mention since the list is long. This team means the whole world to me-they are the small seeds that are making the big forest of progress in my life.
Right from University, I am very passionate about social change especially on issues concerning Peacebuilding and conflict transformation, youth development, gender equality, education and civic engagement.
Experiences of struggle have shaped who I am today, yet they have not limited my hope and dreams for the future. Currently I work as a program manager with Rural Women Peace Link a nongovernmental organization based in Eldoret-Kenya working with disadvantaged women and youth from conflict zones in Rift valley and Western parts of Kenya. Going forward, I believe I am not yet the man he could be and certainly not the man he wants to be, but again is not the man I used to be. My plans are to seek for a Masters scholarships that will help me advance my studies in Peace Building and Conflict Transformation focusing keenly on Policy Analysis and Political Change. I wish to share and inspire those that feel are low and cannot turn their lives around, that they should not look at where they have come from because it is not as nearly important as where they are going. Your future life empire is in your positive mind . Always keep your eyes on the stars and your feet firm on the ground. As for me, I have a vision to succeed in my life and use my success to uplift the lives of others who are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
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