Starting out in life is never easy, especially for fresh graduates who complete their university education with dreams of getting a good job only to be dealt with the harsh reality check of unemployment.
This week, we feature two young people who shared their personal journeys into adulthood.
VIVIAN KISAKA, 24, ENTREPRENEUR
My life has been full of shocks and setbacks. I expected to get a lucrative job immediately after university, to make a lot of money, buy a house, a car and to be debt-free.
I even thought I’d be married and be happy. Well, life handed me a reality check. To imagine that I have debts on nearly all mobile loan apps dampens my spirit, but isn’t life about managing your struggles?
Luckily, I don’t have to worry about paying rent and meeting other household expenses alone. I live with my sister, and we share all household costs.
In terms of healthcare, I’m covered by my mother’s medical insurance company. But now that I’ll be turning 25 later this year, I’ve began worrying about how I’m going to take care of my own medical bills in future.
It’s natural for parents to expect you to support them once you are through with your studies. Often, the assumption is that you’ll get a well-paying job.
I don’t have a job yet, but I run a business so I can take care of myself, and also assist others where possible.
As a young woman who had lofty dreams of conquering the world, I sometimes feel like I’ve failed in life, but I know that I can’t afford all my heart’s desires.
For now, though, I count myself lucky to have a roof over my head, to be able to afford three meals a day and access to utilities such as Wi-Fi at home.
Other than travelling the world, I harbour big dreams, all which are tied to my financial well-being.
Because these goals sometimes scare me, I’ve broken them down into smaller, achievable bits so that I can monitor my progress every day.
And there’s always a price to pay, so I’ve had to make many sacrifices to get here. While in university, I could afford to go on drinking sprees because I didn’t have to work for my money.
But now, going to parties is among the luxuries I’ve struck off my list of priorities.
I’ve learnt that to live a decent life; one has to have multiple sources of income. Money isn’t everything, but it ranks high up in the list of basic needs.
In my search for financial independence, I started selling nutritional supplements online, and even tried online writing. I also have a small food kiosk in my neighbourhood.
I am open to all authentic, affordable and legal means of survival, and it has been an exciting journey so far.
Some of my friends and former classmates have made such huge strides. Many of them are financially stable and some have even started families.
Sometimes I find myself comparing my life to theirs and this leaves me quite frustrated. However, I’ve come to appreciate that everyone’s journey is unique.
For now, my priorities are to stay in good health, to achieve my career goals and to continue supporting my parents.
These objectives encourage me to work hard. I may not be where I want to be yet, but with God’s guidance, I will definitely get there.
KARUGA MUNYUA, 26, IT EXPERT
I thought I would have made it in life by age 25, but that didn’t happen. I am still trying to figure things out.
I come from a poor background, and the only thing my parents could offer me was education. So when I couldn’t finish college because of financial constraints, I was devastated.
I had to find ways of getting school fees. Thankfully, I was able to go back and finish my course. While growing up in my village in Kiambu County, I had no mentors.
Eventually, most of my peers got involved with either crime or drugs. Because of this, I was regarded as my neighbourhood’s shining star.
My biggest fear has always been to become a failure in life. After college, it wasn’t easy for me to find a job. I had no support from my parents yet I had to find some money to go to different offices to look for a job.
When I couldn’t get a job in information technology, I settled for one as a receptionist. However, I couldn’t stay there for long because the pay was poor and my parents looked upon me for support.
I remember at one point I had to sell chicken to keep going. On several occasions, the landlord threatened to kick me and my family out for defaulting.
Even with my diploma, I had to work as a casual labourer in different construction sites for nine months just so I could provide for my family.
Much later, my cousin approached me with a grand plan to go and find employment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), saying the prospects were better there.
I was nervous about this proposition because of the tragic stories I had heard about Kenyans being tortured, sometimes to death.
New lease of life
Most of the jobs she talked about were low-paying, but for a desperate person like me, it was a grand opportunity. I made up my mind to take the opportunity.
My friends and family members helped me raise Sh80,000 which I used to pay the agent who would hook me up with a job in Doha as a CCTV operator.
Coming to Doha gave me a new lease of life. I felt so much better. But soon, I realised that I had bigger responsibilities.
When you get a job out of the country, and especially when you come from a poor family, you’re expected to support everyone back home. Thankfully, I’ve been able to support my relatives to the best of my capabilities.
My parents have since separated, but I support both of them. My mother is a housewife and can’t work anymore, so I pay her rent and take care of her other needs.
I’m also supporting my sister through school. My relatives regard me as the biblical Joseph in their lives.
Luckily, I don’t have to pay my rent. The company I work for provides housing and transport. We live in an apartment with shared facilities, and my healthcare needs are covered by my employer.
That I don’t have any student loans to service is a huge relief. To get through college, I relied exclusively on bursaries.
Now I get paid depending on the number of hours I put in. I am supposed to work for at least eight hours, but sometimes I work for two or more hours to earn overtime pay.
I love my job but to some point I became scared of being stuck in this position forever, so I took a diploma course in fire safety.
I’m now a health and safety supervisor, and this has significantly boosted my income and career prospects.
One of the main challenges I have faced here is how to blend in with the natives, many of whom are Muslims. I have learnt to respect and accommodate everyone, even those from different cultures.
I am planning to pursue a course in criminology so that I can work in government when I go back home, and my mother keeps encouraging me to go for it.
I’ve had to make many sacrifices for my family. I didn’t have the luxury of going to parties as often as my friends did, but I don’t regret it.
I have also learnt that it is dangerous to rely entirely on employment for survival. To supplement my income, I have invested in some rental houses back home.
Also, I have a taxi business in Nairobi which is currently being run by my younger brother. My life has not been easy, but the future looks promising.