Residence: Kibaoni in Kilifi
The light flickered on and my brother and I were mesmerized, staring at the bright fluorescent bulb hanging from our ceiling. Until this magical moment back on the 26th June 2006, our sitting room had not seen that much light between sunset and sunrise. That was the day that our house, the third in our neighbourhood, got connected to the national grid, and the feeling was both literally and metaphorically electric. This, to me, was a new dawn, one where even my room was bright in the evenings. This was the moment where that a six-year-old from a small coastal town in Kenya, started imagining and dreaming of electricity flowing through wires creating pure magic, and that initial dream was probably my first and greatest thrust towards science. I imagined that science could give us a better life and at that moment, I knew that I wanted all my fellow friends and family to enjoy the privilege of having electricity and so much more.
My primary school at Kilifi, wasn’t endowed with a science laboratory or any science equipment, however this did not diminish my hopes. I remember my first attempt at a science project at primary school, it was a good idea, but it had so many holes. It was a novel electricity-driven “hover-car.” Because of my limited knowledge in science at the time, I did not get the chance to complete this project, but despite this, my science and mathematics teachers’ words, ‘All my students pass in science and mathematics, and you are no exception,’ encouraged me to persevere. He gave me the self-belief and hope that my dream and adventure into the world of science was still very possible. His words inspired an exam performance that was worthy of an offer to study at a National school in Kenya.
In contrast to my primary schools, my high school was very well equipped, and this gave me a chance to learn using modern equipment like light microscopes, pipettes and burettes. I was so excited to join the school science congress club and to share my primary science project idea with all the members. A friend of mine laughed away my idea and said, ‘Bernoulli’s principal will work against you.’ At that point I had never heard of Bernoulli, or his principle, but I never lost hope and so I researched about it at the school library and continued to work on the project with our science club. Eventually, after rounds of competition at school, district and provincial competitions, the project made it all the way to science congress national finals. Inspired to walk this path, I continued to work hard in my studies at school, encouraged by the passion of my electricity teacher, ‘this is real science my boy!’ This was inspirational to all my classmates, but to me, it fuelled my drive for success at my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations (KCSE).
My high KCSE grades meant that I qualified to apply for an attachment at the Kenya Medical Research Institute – Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) in Kilifi. This was the first time for me to submit an on-line application, sit an aptitude test and be interviewed by a panel of research scientists. I was overjoyed to hear that out of about 15,000 students who completed their KCSE from Kilifi County in 2017, me and eight other students were selected for a three-month attachment.
Over the last two months, perhaps now my dreams have begun to materialize and my desire to pursue science has intensified through opportunities to talk to very successful and inspirational Kenyan and international health researchers. As I now try to decide which area of science to pursue, I believe that an opportunity to meet and to learn from international scientists from a broad field of science will help me decide on my future direction in science. Whilst it’s important that future African scientists continue to work on solving challenges faced by Africa, science these days involves collaboration of researchers across the globe. At the moment, though grateful for the doors that a national school education has opened for me, my exposure to people and cultures outside my own are very limited. Participation in the 2018 London International Youth Science Forum will offer me a unique opportunity to interact and form friendships with students from all over the world who share my passion for Science. It would really be a great honour to be a part of this forum.