By Sammy Akifuma
Earlier this year, I called Eden Grace of FUM Africa Ministries and asked her to give me the local currency equivalent of U.S. dollars to facilitate a shipment of 30 pounds of books to Belize Friends School. The request surprised her. She wondered what prompted me to think of sending that donation and if I even knew where Belize was!
I answered her that I had a teacher, in 1964, at Chavakali High School, named Dan Beane. When I saw him again in Kitale a few years ago, he mentioned the school in Belize. I felt obliged to give my small donation when I could, since the school was catering to students from poor families. I promised to give Eden a brief history of my secondary school education at Chavakali, which directly led to my commitment to God’s causes.
In 1962, I was in Standard (grade) 8, preparing to sit for KAPE (Kenya African Preliminary Examination). When it came to choosing the secondary schools to join after KAPE, my head teacher insisted that I was Alliance High School material and I should make Alliance my first choice. Two of my classmates, with whom I used to compete for class positions 1, 2 and 3, were told the same. We obeyed our head teacher and made Alliance High School our first choice. My second, third and fourth school choices were selected from Nairobi Province.
When the KAPE results came in the first week of 1963, I was shocked to learn that I had been selected to join Chavakali High School in Western Province. It was a shock because I was either supposed to join Alliance or one of the “Muzungu” sounding names of schools: Duke of York, Prince of Wales, Duke of Gloucester. It was disappointing because Chavakali was treated as a “harambee” (self-help) school in those days. And worst of all, it was a day school!
Three days later, I received an admission letter from Chavakali High School. The fees quoted in the admission letter were 400 Kenyan shillings (KSh); my parents were only able to raise 200 KSh. My two friends were also selected to join Chavakali High School. Our school had been denied the chance to send at least one student to Alliance, which had been the tradition for years.
On reporting day I presented myself to the bursar with the 200 KSh. He took the money and warned me that the balance must be paid in two weeks time. Indeed after two weeks I was sent away, but luckily I had been given all the text books. While at home I tried to read on my own. The subject I liked best and spent most of my time on was mathematics. Two weeks before the closing date of the first term, a fellow student came to our home and informed me that I was required to report back to school and take the end of term exams. The day I reported was the day the exams started. I tried my best, but the only subject I knew I had done reasonably well on was mathematics because it was my favorite. When our examination papers were returned, I had topped the class in math with a 98 percent. The second best student scored 76 percent. The end term assessment placed me at position 11 out of 38 students.
As we ended the term, my mind was wondering, Where will I get the balance of my school fees? Psalm 121 did indeed answer my prayers: “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121:1-2)
I made sure on opening day I reported to the school, despite having fee arrears. Before the end of the second term’s opening week, I was called out of my class and asked to see the mathematics head. Her name was Dorothy Gibbons. She expressed her concern that, despite my performing well in mathematics, my overall position in the class was not good. Her experience was that good math students were always within the first five positions of their class. I explained to her my predicament. She then asked me what my overall class position would have been if I had not been sent away due to lack of fees. I answered that I was sure I would have been in the top three. She told me she would talk to the school bursar and ask him not to send me away during term two to see whether I could fulfill the promise. Indeed I fulfilled the promise by attaining position two and moving to position one in third term. I was never again sent away for not being able to pay my school fees. I later learned that Dorothy Gibbons had asked some Friends in New Zealand and Australia to assist me with school fees as long as I maintained my promise of remaining in the top three positions in the class. I never let her down.
When I reflect back on my life, Jeremiah 29:11 always comes to mind: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Had I been picked by one of the four schools I had preferred, I might have dropped out after a single term. God had good plans for me and that is why he led the principal of Chavakali High School to select me.
The above episode explains why I always try to donate to a worthy cause with whatever little I can afford. I must thank my wife, Joyce, who has always encouraged me to make whatever donations I can afford. Through her encouragement we have been able to see one orphan boy through secondary school.
Dorothy Gibbons, before passing on, visited us in Nairobi in 1982. She was very happy to see me as a family man. I had hoped one day I would be able to meet one or two of the donors of my school fees so that I could thank them, but it appears I may never meet any of them. All the glory belongs to God the Almighty.
I challenge you to reflect on your life and ask yourself: What have I done for the Lord, in appreciation of all that he has given me on this earth?
Sammy Akifuma is chairman of Quaker Men International and a member of the FUM General Board.