July 2021: Kenya / Nairobi: Paul, the teacher without a diploma

Paul, the teacher without a diploma

My name is Paul Otieno Onyach, born in Kisumu County, Manyatta Slums, my parents used to live in Kisumu before their sudden death that took all of them leaving me an orphan at the age of 9. Together with my younger sister we moved to our rural village in Kokwanyo, HomaBay County where I attended my primary school. I passed my examination very well and qualified to join a very good provincial school but I could not raise the school fees and therefore I knew that my education path was was no more.

Fortunately I got sympathy from a local Secondary school Principal who gave my a chance to study. I worked in peoples farms early in the morning to raise money for basic school requirements. I managed to get average grade but I could not proceed further.

After my high school I travelled to Nairobi City and stayed in the slums areas of Mathare and tried to get work to meet my basic needs. I had nothing and knew nobody in the town but the main challenge was to get a person who could host me. I we only 16 years old and could not get any meaningful  job since I was under age and also too young. I got myself a teaching job at an informal School in the slums as a mathematics teacher where I was paid only Kes.1000 / 10USD on a monthly basis.

I later got help from my backstreet friends who helped me to gorge a Birth Certificate to be able to get a National Identification card to allow me get a job as a Watchman/ Security guard. In my new job, I chose to work at night to allow me to continue teaching slum children mathematics. This helped be to gain confidence but more importantly enabled me to earn a little more to supplement my poor Watchman pay.

The children and parents appreciated my work and I started giving remedial classes to some children after their regular school to improve their grades in Mathematics.

My local church pastor offered me a chance to start an informal school in his church building. I founded Page Vision school for slum children whose parents are so poor to afford the requirements of the public schools like text books and school uniform.

Through this school and my community work in general, I met George Orimba who starred supporting my school with funds from the Peter Bachmann foundation. Since that time, things have been far much better as we get funds for our feeding program, sanitary oads for our teenage girls and sports clothes and materials for our children.

A PBF volunteer , Felix  Bentrup introduced our work to his parents who built for us 2 classrooms. With the continued help from PBF, we have built a branch of the school together with George out of the Mathare slums to help us cope with the effects and requirements of Covid 19.

Personally,  I want to thank the PBF for the support we get in the alums of Mathare and I would wish to be given support to study and qualify as a teacher to serve my community better.

Paul Onyach.

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