“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” ~ Elizabeth Edwards.
Mrs. Edwards’ quote sums up how Susan chooses to deal with the lemons life hands her. When Susan sat her KCSE exit examinations in 2019, she was sure of two things: she would ace the exams and would proceed to university in August the following year.
But, as we all learn, life rarely proceeds as we expect, and this proved true for Susan. While she aced the exams, the closure of learning institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic shook up her plans, and just like everyone else, she was uncertain when things would return to normal. She was terribly disappointed to learn that she would have to wait to start the next chapter of her education.
“I had applied for several courses in mathematics, accounting, and commerce, and I had received a letter of acceptance from Cooperative University to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce. My excitement knew no bounds,” she says.
Why commerce? “I have always been very good at mathematics and with commerce, I will be helping people make sense of their finances. It also allows me to pursue finance, accounting, taxation, and management all in one.”
Coming from an impoverished background, Susan knew she would need a good education to help lift her family and community out of poverty. She has seen it work for others and she is confident that it will work for her too. And so, it broke her heart when schools were shut down to curb the spread of COVID-19. To make matters worse, there seemed to be no end in sight.
Even though things looked bleak, Susan took a proactive approach. When it was clear that the virus would be around for quite some time, she enrolled in computer classes to equip herself with knowledge of IT. She also immersed herself in house chores while helping her younger siblings with their studies.
In the meantime, the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education was working behind the scenes to reopen schools safely. Institutions of higher learning were the first to be given the green light to reopen. “This was to be done in phases. The first phase would see first years and final year students report to school, then the second years and third years would follow,” Susan explains.
As a first-year student, Susan finally reported to university in September 2020. In her dreams, she had conjured up exciting and adventurous images of her first day in university. However, she admits that the experience was dampened by the strict protocols and general anxiety about the virus.
“That’s how I made my debut to university. Gladly, things normalized as we were able to avoid spreading the virus at school. Besides my schoolwork, I have learned a lot and made many new friends,” she says revealing that she likes playing volleyball during her free time.
Like everyone else, she is waiting with bated breath for things to go back to normal. In the meantime, she is happy to be dancing in the rain and making do with what is at her disposal.
“I look forward to being an accomplished accountant. I also haven’t forgotten where I have come from, so I will reach back and pull my family and community up to be with me. It can get lonely up here, you know,” she says with a smile.