Long Walk to Destiny - Sora Mudha's journey to becoming a Medical Doctor in Kenya
"The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” – Albert Ellis.
Sora in different stages of his life; highschool, university and medical internship.
When a child is born in the Gabra nomadic family, far in the remotest corner of the northern Kenya, he or she is kept waiting till dusk when the camels return from the field for him/her to get the first sip of highly coveted nutritious camel milk. The only exception though to those lucky ones born at night or early morning when the camels are still within the reach. Phrase like "exclusive breast feeding" do not exist in the lives of nomads. They say a child who is fed with camel milk on the first encounter with the world would take the camel's spirit with him/herself forever. They would neither get exhausted nor get thirsty easily. This is ritual however trivial is undertaken in preparation for the long tough journey ahead. What every child of the nomad is taught from the word go is that human beings are given legs to walk and that the earth is lame and however longer the distance might be the human would always conquer it. Nomadism is not only simple but adventurous. Vast plains of limitless potentials has been our grazing and playing fields. Ours is ever changing landscape ranging from beautiful expansive green fields during rainy seasons to dusty brown vicinities of whirlwinds during drought. Everything comes for free though. Our food, shelter, beddings all derived directly from plants and animals.
I held onto this beliefs that everything is the gift of the nature and therefore free, until I was taken to school to gain from the magic of civilization.
I vividly recall my first enrollment into Maikona Primary School in the heart of Chalbi desert. That was January year 2001. We travelled by lorry from my village about 200kms from my school. The road was rough and rocky as it's desolate and wild. Nothing has changed ever since though. My uncle left me at the school with nothing but a pair of an exercise book, a pencil, a plastic plate, and 'mkeka' (type of mat made from palm leaves). My first meal was githeri (mixtures of boiled maize grains and few grains of beans layered by good number of weevils) for lunch. Some bitter porridge made from maize flour was our breakfast and supper for all the four years I was in Maikona Primary School. Despite the sorry state of the boarding facilities, our teachers kept encouraging us that if we put extra efforts in our studies we would be able to overcome these challenges and be better persons in future. I took those advises with me, wore those challenges like armor and took the lead in my studies. I knew from the beginning that the only way out of this menace was through education.
I transferred to a different school in my fourth grade hoping for change only to find myself from frying pan into the fire. At El-hadi primary school not even the most crucial and basics of our existence like water was available in adequacy. Water was so scarce that every pupil receives just 3 litres of water for the whole week. How you manage that three litres of water was up to you. Bathing was an extreme luxury. Your container of water remains by your side at anytime of the day, lest it develops feet. It's guarded more than any precious thing in the world. Despite all these, we were always happy. We had no idea that beyond our horizons there are lakes, rivers and oceans where people swim. When our Social Studies teacher taught us about oceans, lakes and glaciers and how people use water for recreation, I dreamt of one day going to such places.
Our moments come when the school closes for holidays. It's our moments of happiness. Time to reunite with our families after long three months of no communication between us and our families. We arrange ourselves into groups depending on the regions where we came from. The school provided us with three litres of water and a special treat of plain ugali in preparation for the journey ahead. We don't pack much. Just a pair of shorts and shirts and small shuka to cover from the heat of sun and biting cold at night. Those are enough for the child of a nomads. What should someone do with ten to twenty pairs of clothes after all? A nomad would ask. When everything was set, the rubber hits the road. It was a 70 kilometers plus hit. Yes, just 70kilometers. Don't forget, besides being Kenyans, we are nomads. Long distance marathon is our domain. The journey begins at dawn along the dwindling path through the desert. The night was always cold with scorpions, snakes, foxes and hyenas roaming in search of meals but nomads knows one secret. Yes, it's a secret as I have said. Looking for our homes is like looking a for the needle in the haystack. Series of asking about where your homes might have moved to. This was long before the infiltrations of mobile phones. Today, every nomad has a mobile phone.
It's against these odds, that after eight years of relentless studies that I finally sat for my KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) examinations in the year 2008. My efforts finally bore fruits and I earned 419 marks out of the possible 500 marks. This at the time would directly earn you a ticket to one of the Kenya's best secondary schools. I was admitted to Alliance High School. However glorious the news of admission to Alliance High School was, the journey to Alliance wouldn't be any easier. My first travel from the village to city involved the longest I ever I took in my life. A whooping 600km on the rough road, perched on top of a lorry. The journey was treacherous and dangerous as well. A fall from the top of a lorry speeding over a rough road would mean instant death or lifetime disability.
This is the lorry Sora used while travelling home from school
The other bigger challenge was school fees. My school fees at Alliance High School for the first year was catered from the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) but troubled began in form two. I decided to contact the teachers in charge of scholarships at Alliance High School; Mrs. Olang and Mrs. Kageliza Ndege, who gave me application forms from Aiducation International. I made the application but wasn't sure if it will ever go through. Luckily, I was awarded the scholarship by Aiducation. I will forever remain indebted to you. Dr. Florian Kapitza, Dr. Kristin Kapitza, Mr. Jeremy Kambi, My aidumakers Hannes and Martina, you all occupy a very special place in my heart.
With my fees taken care of, life in high school was smooth. I had only one task; excelling in my final exams. For the better parts of high school I had to spend my holidays at school since going home was expensive and time consuming. I finally recorded exemplary results in final exams thus granted a slot at Moi University to study Law. However, my passion was in medicine. After a long struggle I made inter-faculty transfer from Law to Medicine.
The journey through medical school is a tough one and adventurous as well. Delicately balancing one's social life as well mammoth of medical works is not a task that one would easily maneuver around. It's in the University I made several friends, matured up and learnt how to tackle life's challenges even vigorously. Upon admissions I got lucky once again and got Mwangaza scholarship through Moi University and Indiana University that saw me throughout my medical school. On the side of upkeep I have HELB, friends and family members to thank for seeing me through. The journey through Moi University medical was long, tough and erratic marred by Lecturers' strikes and COVID-19 pandemic that culminated into closure of school for several months leading to extension of my stay in the university by one and half year. Throughout this journey many friends and families kept me in their prayers and acted as pivot that catapulted me further into my dream. Dr. Florian and his family among others encourage me to press on even when the light at the end of tunnel felt dim.
At one point in my third year I got sponsored trip to Switzerland by Aiducation International. It was one of its kind trip. An eye-opener for me in the world of limitless opportunities. I not only made numerous friends especially those affiliated to Aiducation International and our partner Company SwissRe but also had had chance to visit SwissRe headquarter and many other marvels of the land of Cheese. A week old attachment I enjoyed at Fricktal Hospital increased my scope of thoughts and perspective towards this beautiful career.
Sora in Switzerland
Learning in medical school is slow and gradual. A lot of attention is being paid to the accuracy and care of the patients. Everyone I met in my almost eight years in medical school played crucial role in my success. I took passion in spending my time with patients during my junior and senior clerkship. Often times we find ourselves so attached to the patients whom were just strangers to each before we met. Studying medicine teaches you humility, patience and also need to take not for granted the simple fact that you wake up healthy every single day. Despite the fact that many medical conditions requires treatment I hold strong personal beliefs that almost all diseases could be prevented and practicing healthy lifestyle is an hallmark to long healthy life. In simple terms we are our diets, exercise and thoughts.
Sora in Switzerland
I'm now excited to progress further into this career. Soon I will join my internship for the next thirteen months after which I would be given practicing license and chance to go deeper in speciality of my choice.
It has been a long walk to destiny. My special gratitude goes to all those who have played important roles in contributing to my success. I would like to sincerely mention my mum and my late dad who conceived the idea of taking me to school (something uncommon among the nomads), all other family members, friends and my teachers who supported me in one way or the other. To Dr. Florian, Dr. Kristin, Mr. Jeremy, Hannes and Martina, thank you once again for your unwavering supports. To all the Aiducation International and SwissRe fraternity, asante sana!
Written by Sora Mudha - AiduAlumni, Kenya