Emmaculate Ndulu, is one of the thousands of Kenyan children who have two things in common. She is extremely talented and intelligent and at the same time comes from a poverty stricken background. Her family has no means to pay for her the school fees.
Kenya, like many other countries in the developing world is a place where around half of the population live on less than 1 dollar per day. These families have hard time earning enough to feed their often large families and have no money left for the required school fees. This puts the young and talented children into precarious situation. More often then not, due to the lack of school fees they have to leave the school. This happens usually at around the age of ten to twelve. Once out of the school system, they try to help their families by doing some manual work.
Emmaculate has six other siblings. One of her older sisters has sacrificed herself and started to work as a housemaid right after the elementary school. She earns around 40 USD per month and sends half of it back home to her parents so they can pay the house rent. The monthly cost of renting two small metal sheet shacks amount to approximately 20 USD. Her father used to support the family and was very talented and smart. However, when Emmaculate was a little girl, he got inexplicably stricken with mental health issues and has not been able to financially contribute to his family ever since. The burden of financial matters is on the mother’s shoulders as she struggles to find some kind of manual work at the nearby fields. For a full twelve hours of work she is able to bring one dollar back home to feed her whole family.
When Emmaculate was around eleven years old, the situation at home reached critical mass and she was forced to drop out of school. With almost no money to buy some basic food she decided to help and accompanied her two older sisters during the work in the fields. “We would get up at 5 am, and start walking to the fields for 1 hour without any breakfast in the cold night without any shoes on. I had no jacket to wear so I would shiver until the sun came up. We reached the fields and asked some people for a job. We would work from six in the morning till six in the afternoon, without any break and no food. We were entitled to get our 1 dollar each after twelve hours of work in the fields. However, there were times when some people took advantage of us, three young girls, and did not pay us anything. I recall the feeling I had in my empty stomach when I had to walk home. I was asking God how could he let that happen. At times I had to fight with thoughts that this life was not worth living while my tears ran down my cheeks. I had nothing to bring back home to my family. Those were the days hard to forget,” described Emmaculate.
About a year later, thanks to the Slovak sponsored school program for the talented children from the poverty stricken families, Emmaculate was offered a chance to attempt to pass the entrance exams at the St. Filip Neri boarding school. “I had a dream,” sighted Emmaculate, “where I was dressed in the Masai style school uniform. I thought that I would soon start going to the school in the town next to my village, where they used to have the Masai type of uniforms. However I was amazed to find out during the entrance exams at St. Filip Neri boarding school, that they wore the exact type of uniforms as I saw in my dream.” Her parents borrowed some money for Emmaculate, enough to buy only one bus ticket to Joska near Nairobi. She went with her younger brother, Daniel. As they had only one ticket, they had a few hours of uncomfortable ride with Daniel sitting on his sister’s lap. He was not feeling too well. “He was not used to riding a bus and felt really sick,” mentioned Emmaculate. “He vomited all over my dress. I had nothing to wipe it up with and so I had to endure the whole situation. The bus left us near the main road. However, It was a few more kilometres to reach the school. We had no money to buy a motorcycle taxi, so we walked hoping to make it in time.” Emmaculate came one hour late for the exams. She begged the teacher to let her try to do the entrance tests. To the amazement of all, she got the highest score of all the students that day, despite starting the exams one hour late. Her younger brother was third. She was accepted to attend the sponsored school program and has been at the top of her class ever since.
In July 2017, she got a chance to visit her family. She spent a weekend with her parents and siblings. Emmaculate was very happy as she missed them all and had not seen some of them in a long time. She helped her mother with the house chores and taught her younger sisters how to do some of the house work. Her youngest sister, Linnet, four at the time, accepted her into the family and they became close with each other. “That was the best moment for me when visiting my family,” said Emmaculate. “I had the opportunity to bond and reconnect with my youngest sister Linnet.She accepted me as her sister. I am very happy about it.” She paused for a while, sitting on her dormitory bed upon return back to the school, her eyes gazing in the distance she sighted “I wish I would be able to help them more.”
Emmaculate, similarly as many other talented children in Kenya, is aware that thanks to the opportunities and the chance to study at the boarding school, she represents hope for the better future to her whole family.