Why Jackson Mwanzia is in class at 43 years
Unlike his son who is in Class Six and has classes starting as early as 7am, Jackson Mwanzia Kioko’s school opens at 9am and runs through 3.45pm.
“I live in Nairobi West, in an informal settlement that risks being demolished. That notwithstanding, I am determined to come to class every day,” he says .
Jackson, a hairdresser running a salon in Highrise estate near Mbagathi Hospital, Nairobi, is aged 43 but looks like he’s in his mid-thirties. “I enrolled after I noticed how my customers progressed in life after attending college,” he says.
He has over time watched as his clients joined college and after a few years of hustling and joblessness, finally got good jobs. “I noticed how life changed for them and I thought about it,” he says.
As he was going about his business, he learned of the adult literacy programme at St Peter’s Clavers in the down town.
“I checked it out in January 2018 and ended up enrolling. I used to do well in primary school and I know if I got a proper high school education, I could fulfil my dream of becoming an engineer,” Jackson says.
At first, it was tough for his family. His wife was not supportive and his children made fun of him. “We joked about it with my daughter who had just completed her O’Levels and my son.
My wife soon changed her opinion. I am serious with my studies and when I leave school, I head to my salon. The family is fully behind me, and this makes my learning easier,” says Jackson.
He meets with the clients by appointment after class. “I opted for the daytime classes because I noticed I could spend a whole day at the salon and not make any business,” he says, adding that daytime classes go on for three years and evening ones four years. “I will finish the course faster,” he says.
The arrangement means he has to maximise his evenings and weekends at work, so he has little time to study. “We are studying but we still have responsibilities waiting for us at home.
We are parents and when we leave, we have families to take care of. It is tough to study in your adult years; to get time for assignments is a sacrifice,” he says.
The father of two admits he is already reaping the benefits of education. “I can now help my son with his homework and he is motivated to study when he sees me studying.
I now stand in front of my church, read a Bible verse and speak with confidence, which I could not do two years ago,” he says.
Luckily for him, he only spends Sh100 to and from class. “Some classmates travel all the way from Thika town and it is a real sacrifice,” he says.
What does he do during tea and lunch breaks? He shows me a bag of ground nuts.
“Lunch isn’t a priority. I grind these nuts and eat at home. I save money because I need fare, exam fees and I still need to put food on the table and put my children through school. I part with Sh5, 500 every term and it is not a walk in the park,” he says.
Jackson enjoys science classes — mathematics, chemistry and biology are subjects he excels in. “I do not enjoy languages or humanities,” he says with a laugh.
He hopes to pass his exams next year, bridge physics since it is not offered at his school and pursue his dream of becoming an electrical engineer.