Mercy Nyaramba
Sep 16 · 4 min read

The Ocean Swim

“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

~Michelle Obama

Each year, at least 21.9% of candidates fail their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(KCPE) exams. These 13-15 year old teens are forced to make a lifetime’s worth decision, guided by a system that is unrealistic.

Our Kenyan education system is structured in a way that ambushes the mindset of learners. They are encouraged to concentrate more on grades rather than skills and knowledge application. It’s so sad that we are made to believe that the higher your grades the sharper you are! I mean, what if I crammed the answers to get a good score?

It is unfortunate that we are trapped in a tenet of limitations to thinking only as far as good grades go: It’s even more tragic how a three-day examination has the power to determine one’s future after eight years of learning!

One wonders why we aren’t developed as a country yet our young generation is giving up on life simply because they failed at one thing regardless of factors such as the current state of their health, personal background, environmental surroundings that limit their performance or anxiety.

A few months ago, I came across a story of a 14 year old boy who ended his life as a result of failing to attain his goal of 300 marks out of 500 in his KCPE exams and instead managed 170marks. The system made him feel like there was no future for him with his performance. This only speaks for just one of the many incidences recorded yearly: This particular story caught my eye because I could resonate with his pain since I was in his shoes at one time in my life.

The reality of our society is that those who spring from well-off families have the privilege of getting access to further education despite their performance. Ever asked yourself what happens to the young teens in the rural regions and disadvantaged backgrounds, who sadly don’t have the luck to experience the glance of second chances?

The outcome is young girls giving up, getting married at a young age to start families while young boys getting into crime acts like robbery and drug abuse. This right here is what’s creating what we call "The Poverty Cycle".

Physiological preparation should be a necessity: In an ocean where you have no skills to swim, there needs to be knowledge and assurance that poor results do not equate to failure in life.

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My relatable story starts in a small village- Keumbu, Kisii county, Kenya. Growing up I was neither dumb nor smart, I was more than an average kid to be precise; I had good grades to take home. Things changed when I sat for my KCPE exams and the results weren’t to my expectation; I felt ashamed, kept away from everyone; It felt like the end of the road.

Time went by and I was due to join high school. However, I faced this step with much opposition because I didn’t qualify to join a top-performing school. Already, I could feel my success in life wash away with all the limitations that came with our education system. The one exam that I failed at was dictating the direction my life would take and it did not sit well with me.

Our parents had been sucked into the system too, therefore, I was convinced to repeat the class and I did just that. I put my best foot forward and in two months, I performed well and it was decided that I would join high school.

In a small village in Msambweni, Kwale county, a small growing vearkat sponsored school is where I got to taste my second chance. Thanks to foreigns who started that initiative away from their home country to help young girls get an education. Although months late, with only 3 weeks to catch up on lessons and prepare for exams, I managed to beat the odds; having the society, my family, and the education system to prove my abilities are beyond limit. I managed to be among the 25 students that joined university to further their education.

While on campus, I realized my career path depended fully on self-learning. We all can agree on this; in our universities, all learners are taught is 100% theory and little to no practical skills. We are in no way prepared for the real world market. I’m lucky enough to have come across a mentor; Michelle Njeru, who encouraged me to start developing mobile applications while volunteering to mentor high school girls. She always joked with “mercy don’t give up again”.This switched the game for me.

Years later, I am a confident Android developer in an environment that supports young talented youth without impediments: Impact Africa Network. A place where your ability to think and solve problems is highly implemented. A place with exposure to real market experience and most importantly, a place where your skill matters!

My greatest desire is that the Kenyan education system is redesigned: It didn’t have to take 21years to realize my path, what if I started early?

“Failure is an important part of growth and developing resilience. Don’t be afraid to fail”

~Michelle Obama

Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine. Be limitless!

Impact Africa Network

Ecosystem Catalytic Startup Studio in Nairobi.

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