Charles Ouma, needy university student working fingers to the bone to raise fees

Charles Ouma, a Moi University student (left) in orange jacket and his dad (John Origi) in red cap, crushing concrete at a quarry site in Budalangi, Busia County, to raise money for fees. Despite the efforts, he has been unable to get the fees and appeals to people of goodwill to chip in and help him out. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, The Scholar Media Africa.
Charles Ouma, a Moi University student (left) in orange jacket and his dad (John Origi) in red cap, crushing concrete at a quarry site in Budalangi, Busia County, to raise money for fees. Despite the efforts, he has been unable to get the fees and appeals to people of goodwill to chip in and help him out. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, The Scholar Media Africa.

The firstborn in a family of seven from Nadero village in Ruambwa sub-location of Busia county, Charles Ouma studied at Nyambare Secondary School in Alego/Usonga constituency, Siaya County, from 2011 onwards.

He sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam in 2014, attaining a B+ (plus) grade of 71 points.

His subject scores were:

English B-, Kiswahili B, Mathematics A, Biology B, Chemistry A-, History and Government A-, Geography A- and Business Studies B-.

Admitted for studies

When Ouma, now a 25-year-old student, eventually received a calling letter from Moi University Eldoret in 2015, he heaved a sigh of relief.

The overjoyed student could not believe his eyes. To confirm his unbelief, he handed over the letter to his equally pleased dad, John Origi, who confirmed that it was true he had been called to join the prestigious institution of higher learning.

The news saw him spend sleepless nights waiting with anxiety for the day he would set foot at the university.

He eventually joined the campus later in the same year. He enrolled to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Travel and Tours Management.

Ouma reveals that he applied for and received an education bursary of KSh10, 000 from the Budalangi Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committee.

He used the amount to pay fees for one semester at the institution of higher education.

However, when he returned to school the following year to begin his second semester, his academic dream reached a dead-end.

He was eventually sent back home to bring the outstanding fee balance after attending lectures for barely a few days.

Challenges

“I joined the institution of higher learning with high hopes, but I attended lectures for only one semester. I reported to the campus the following year for my second semester.

However, I was unfortunately sent back home to collect outstanding varsity fees, but my unemployed dad could not afford to raise the required Ksh 40,000, excluding accommodation,” says the worried student.

Charles Ouma, a Moi University student. He was forced to halt his academic journey in 2016 due to lack of school fees. He has been crushing stones for concrete, with his father, in a bid to raise the required amount, but all in vain. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, The Scholar Media Africa.
Charles Ouma, a Moi University student. He was forced to halt his academic journey in 2016 due to lack of school fees. He has been crushing stones for concrete, with his father, in a bid to raise the required amount, but all in vain. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, The Scholar Media Africa.

He says he received a loan of Ksh 40,000 in 2015 from the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB), enabling him to attend lectures the same year for the second year, but he could not sustain himself there. 

“The following year, I could not raise the required fee so I was sent back home for fees, but my dad was unable to raise the required fee,” he says.

Efforts

With nowhere to turn to for financial assistance to enable him to return to school, Ouma says he had no alternative but to embark on stone-crushing activity in quarries in a desperate effort to raise the required outstanding university fee balance.

However, despite teaming up with his dad, his effort did not bear fruit.

Even after crushing heaps of concrete aggregate that would fetch a lot of money, the major challenge they encountered was that there was no ready market.

The lack of a ready market was partly due to the high number of people engaging in stone-crushing business in the area.

“The only option available was teaming up with my dad to ensure we crush a large quantity of concretes that would fetch us good money,” he says.

Getting a client, however, was no easy task. We would wait for over two months searching for a client to buy our product,” Ouma narrates.

He, at the same time, says another challenge that had made it extremely difficult for him and his dad to raise the required varsity fee was that they would, after selling their concrete, utilize a large chunk of the proceeds so received to provide for the basic needs of the family.

“We could not raise the outstanding varsity fee balance because family basic needs were also calling for our attention, forcing us to channel a huge percentage of the proceeds to meeting them,” he recounts.

Ouma had totally lost hope of achieving his academic dream.

His dad John Origi, says one day, the disillusioned boy had attempted to commit suicide while they were not at home; he was rescued by a close neighbor who had gone to the house after hearing a commotion.

“He tried to hang himself with a rope during our absence, but one of our close neighbours who had heard a commotion rescued him,” said Origi.

“I had become worried that I would lose the golden opportunity I had been given at the university. I am now relieved after the university administration assured me my chance is still available, though I deferred,” Ouma recounts.

He said apart from engaging in stone crushing, he would, on several occasions, engage in weeding rice in various rice fields in the Ruambwa/ Mudembi rice irrigation scheme, among others.

Eunice, Charles Ouma's mother, ferrying stones by wheelbarrow for crushing at the quarry site. They have been struggling to raise fees for their son to no avail, owing to the high cost of living. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, The Scholar Media Africa.
Eunice, Charles Ouma’s mother, ferrying stones by wheelbarrow for crushing at the quarry site. They have been struggling to raise fees for their son to no avail, owing to the high cost of living. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng, The Scholar Media Africa.

However, the payment was too minimal to cater for his financial needs.

The student’s dad told The Scholar Media Africa that he had banked all hopes on his son, considering that he was hardworking and committed to learning. He had confidence his son would eventually land a good job and save them from ridicule.

“We had become a laughing-stock in the society owing to our poverty status. But my son would encourage me to turn a deaf ear to the ridicule, saying soon, our life would change for the better and that those who had been laughing at us would eagerly desire to associate with us,” says Origi.

Appeal

“I am ready and willing to return to the university so I can be able to complete my tourism course. I am kindly appealing to any well-wisher to come forward and sponsor me,” says Ouma.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Education official urges professionals to support their alma mater

“Once I complete my course, I am confident I will get a job that would enable me to support my parents, who have become a laughing-stock in the society simply because they are leading miserable lives,” he believes.

Previous articleFGM ‘medicalization’ derailing war against the vice in Kenya
Next articleBOOK REVIEW: The Woman Called Angel and Other Stories
Mr. Ochieng is a journalist based in Busia. He has 20 years of experience writing for diverse newspapers countrywide. He focuses on Agriculture, Health, Development and other Human Interest Stories.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.