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Akuwan Arupe unbowed: When journalism makes you cry

She had walked 173km from Suguta Valley to Maralal. Reported to a boarding high school with a bag and a pencil. Nothing else. Bag was borrowed.

“If they send me away, I’m finished,” she said. They did not.

The story of such triumph over adversity, if told artfully, makes you want to cry. Or right out cry. And you don’t know why.

Well, you cry with empathy. You cry for joy and hope. All of that. Because the complex human emotions in you will have instantly recognised the determination of a child fighting against all odds. And when those emotions well up from the pit of your stomach and plant a lump in your throat, journalism is served, thanks to a skilful writer.

The Daily Nation on January 17 told the story brilliantly.

“Samburu girl reports to Form One with just a bag and a pencil,” read the heading. The story by Geoffrey Ondieki sharply painted the picture of the girl, Akuwan Arupe, 15.

She had scored 329 marks out of 500 in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam, the story said. It was an outstanding achievement for a minor from a volatile region where children frequently go to school hungry and girls her age, even younger, are illegally forced into early marriage.

Where Arupe comes from, cows count over educating a girl. But Arupe would have none of it. Barriers? What barriers, she was going to school. A bag and a pencil are all she needed. And she clutched them tightly as she faced school administrators to let her in, the reporter wrote.

Arupe’s parents didn’t come. A guardian, a fellow woman, who recognised the unique set of circumstances, brought her in and spoke for her. “We are really poor,” the Nation reported her saying. “Her parents are extremely poor.”

The story said that the school principal, also a woman, waived Arupe’s fees. Arupe was in.

Three days later, the Nation told another story that bookends the improbable success of such students.

“Boy who went to school with just a box and soap gets sponsorship for dream career,” said the heading of the January 20 story.

The story by George Odiwuor demonstrated how at the end of high school, a boy from another side of the country, Levis Otieno, beat all odds to score B+ in the last Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam.

Four years ago, Otieno from Homa-Bay County had reported to Form One with nothing but a metal box with just two bars of soap, sabuni ya kipande.

Now, Otieno has an offer to study software engineering in the capital, Nairobi.

This is the stuff journalism is made of. Kudos Nation!

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