It’s late afternoon in the remote Kibos village, Uasin Gishu County, and the sun, with its unbearably hot vengeance descends on the innocent land. Under this unrelenting heat, Benard Kiplagat, a second year Mechatronics Engineering student goes about his daily routine. Not as a student though. He deferred his studies due to his inability to pay his fees at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Benard is here to earn his living, working as a house boy at someone’s homestead. Actually, houseboy is an understatement, for he is a jack of all trades of sorts. From tending to the livestock, to farm work and to kitchen chores, Kiplagat has no discrimination as to what he can do, all for a measly Ksh. 2,500 per month.
All too aware of the societal expectations and family obligations that awaited him, Benard had done his best in the KCSE examinations, scored a straight A, and was admitted to the University in September, 2015 to study Mechatronics Engineering. His engineering dream however took a nosedive in second year when he could no longer afford the school fees. His dream had to be deferred to an unknown eventuality.
Benard’s story was first highlighted on Citizen TV sometime last week, as he narrated to the reporter, one Patrick Igunza how he ended up in his current state of hopelessness. Determined but too aware of the futility of his best efforts so far to pursue his studies, Bernard detailed his struggles, his several casual labour stints since his primary school days, working from one homestead to another, and his fear that his grand dreams would be shattered to the dark chambers of oblivion. A third born in a family of ten, Benard has more than just himself to think about, and this made his burden the weightier. But this article is not that of empathy or decrying his sorry situation. It is one of triumph, of appreciation and a testimony to our human spirit of giving a helping hand.
Bernard’s dream received a much needed reincarnation when Kenya’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Dr. Julius Bitok reached out and offered him a full scholarship to accomplish his studies. The ambassador, who founded the Ambassador Bitok Foundation to help educate needy students, visited Bernard Kiplagat at their home this week and broke the good news. Giving his remarks immediately after the unbelievable u-turn on his otherwise sealed fate, Kiplagat had just one thing to say; “All I can say is that I’ll not let you down. I will do my best to accomplish the highest of my goals.”
Joining Ambassador Bitok in his philanthropy was the Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Mr. Ezekiel Mutua, who offered to complement the ambassador’s efforts to ensure the student enjoys uninterrupted study and stay in the University. He further commended Citizen TV for showing a positive side of the media. Bernard Kiplagat has since traveled back from home and is set to resume his studies in the University. In a world so full of cynicism and selfishness, such acts serve a pivotal role in reminding the society that indeed we can scale and reach greater heights of success if we were to give each other a helping hand at one point or another. It is said that the results of philanthropy are always beyond calculation, and so is the future full of promise that Kiplagat will be working towards going forward.
In the meantime, the JKUAT community expresses deepest gratitude to Ambassador Bitok, Mr. Mutua and all the other good humans out there who answered the call when humanity beckoned and came to the rescue of the soon to be Eng. Bernard Kiplagat. God bless you!