It is about 5am. A group of young men in blue and white uniforms are walking fast along Lang’ata Road. Each man is braving the cold weather carrying a small bag and a wooden club. As the traffic builds up, they walk even faster. These men are all-day guards in various city estates and they have to make it to their place of work before dawn.
Boniface Kirui, 26, is among them. But he is no ordinary guard. He is a graduate of Moi University with a business management degree in finance and banking and CPA I. So, how did he end up here?
“I am the first born in a family of five. I grew up in Olesoi village in Kibreret ward, Bomet County. My childhood was fun and enjoyable, unlike my present day situation. Being a first-born, I never lacked reading materials, food, medical care and clothing. My father was then working as a soldier with the Kenya Army, and my mother was a housewife, and a subsistence farmer. We all schooled at the nearby Kidisoronik Primary School, located within the village, just a walking distance from home.”
He sat for his KCPE in 2006 and scored 341 marks out of 500. He then joined Longisa Boys’ High School, a provincial school.
“Back then, I did not struggle with paying school fees, but I really worked very hard because I knew that education was the gateway to a bright future. Most of the people from the village who I identified as successful had joined the army or were working with the police. But I wanted something different for myself. I wanted to grow myself academically so that I could join a university and professionally train to be a banker. I sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2010 and scored 62 points, B mean grade.”
He joined Moi University’s Kericho town campus the following year, 2011, to pursue a Bachelor of Business Management degree in Finance and Banking.
It is while at university that life suddenly became hard for Boniface and his siblings.
“My younger siblings had joined secondary school and my family was struggling financially. Paying for school fees was a challenge and in between, I had to do menial jobs like hawking second-hand clothes, especially T-shirts and jeans trousers to my fellow students to earn some pocket money. At other times, I would approach businesses in Eldoret town to run errands for them as a messenger, whenever I had a free day from class. This saw me earn Sh50 per task and I would make a maximum of Sh150 in a day. Though this was only twice in a week, it kept me going as I would invest it in second-hand clothing. But the small business could not grow because I was using the little profit to support my living expenses and part of my school fees. For the four years that I studied, I juggled between menial jobs and school work. I eventually graduated in 2015.”
DREAMT OF WORKING FOR A BANK
“I always dreamt of working in a bank or this big financial institution. I imagined myself smartly dressed in a suit and a tie as I headed to work every morning. But that has not yet come to be. I’m a working as a guard at Agape Court in Makadara Estate, Nairobi.”
“I have been sending out job applications every so often. But so far none of the banks and financial institutions I have applied to has called me for an interview,” Kirui says.
Immediately after graduation, Kirui started teaching Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry at Chelemei Girls Secondary School in Bomet.
“I was working as a PTA teacher up until November 2016, when I left because the school wasn’t paying me.” He then came to Nairobi for greener pastures in December.
“I was in touch with a friend from home, who I was putting up with as I looked for a job,” he shares. Jobs were hard to find so he settled on the one that was easily available at a security company, where he now works as a guard.
With a Sh7,000 monthly salary, Kirui has been living in the Kibera slums with a friend who also works as a guard. Their monthly rent is Sh2,500.
“After paying rent, I’m left with very little to send to my parents back home.
“There is hardly enough money to take me through the month, the money is not even enough for bus fare alone, so I walk to work,” he offers.
Like a majority of other jobless graduates across the country, Kirui feels that the education system is partly to blame.
“Higher education has been re-angled to address entrepreneurship among the youth. Many youths graduate with enterprise skills, but the support to start and run a business is lacking,” says Kirui. That is one of the reasons over half of my former classmates are still jobless.
“My parents feel as though they have wasted their resources, though they have not given up on me. I too feel the same. So far, this degree certificate has not helped me to improve my life,” he says, pointing at a copy of the certificate. Two of his three siblings are in secondary school, while one is in primary school.
With a huge number of young unemployed graduates in the market there is a growing concern as to whether programmes meant to assist the youth at universities to transit from the classroom to the workplace are actually working. Since 2012, many universities have been running enterprise and incubation centres to promote innovation and youth entrepreneurship. But these programmes have not helped university graduates find work or start businesses, says Kirui.
“Education is not losing its value, but there seems to be some disconnect between graduation and entry into the workplace. The government should move in speedily to address this issue before it gets out of hand.”
His mother’s words motivate him to keep going.
“She always tells me that my time will come.”
Perhaps the next time he will be going to work before dawn, it will be to a banking job.