Patrick Muriuki in one of his many school uniforms.
Though labeled the smiling boy, Patrick is one of those students who never had it easy. He excelled in his academics throughout primary school and into high school. As a freshman (form 1) he was even promoted to school prefect. This is a very serious role. A prefect takes the responsibility of making sure all other students are in line. They make sure the dorms are well cleaned and students are well behaved. In the USA, this role would be considered an asset. Students could use it on their college and university applications to heighten their appeal to the school intake board. But this is far from the case in Kenya.
Though an esteemed role, the students often dislike the prefect (if the prefect is doing their job). And it’s not fun and games with school management either. When something goes wrong in the school, not only do the students responsible suffer, but the prefect suffers as well. The school often believes that it was because of poor management on the prefect’s part that the offense occurred.
And so begins Patrick’s academic battle.
As a freshman, Patrick agreed to attend a school in a remote region far from home. The school lacked water and was populated by members of a foreign tribe. In his time there, Patrick came to love the tribe, forging unique and wonderful friendships. He was quickly voted prefect… and trouble knocked the door to his perfect world down in a thunderous crash!
Since discovering wrong doing in the school, the students accused were expelled…
…along with Patrick, our A student and class prefect. He was shocked. “How can this be happening to me?”, he asked me repeatedly, his voice hardly audible. “Surely there is no hope for me to go on.” But with reassurance, we built this incredible guy back up and found him a new school.
Problem? Once you wear the “expelled” label in Kenya, you might as well be marked forever. Patrick did all he could to rise above the challenges. He knew he had to keep clean: VERY CLEAN. Though the curriculum was ahead of his old school, he worked hard… staying awake late and waking earlier than anyone else so he could study. He caught up with the class and was soon back to achieving the “A”s he was used to. Patrick was admired and voted class prefect. He could not believe how good it felt to be appreciated for his integrity and hard work. Life was getting better.
Within a few months, Patrick was further encouraged for his role as a model student and his academic excellence. He was warded a field trip. And just when life felt as sweet as the juice from a pomegranate, darkness struck. Students misbehaved.
They were reprimanded…
from another school.
His heard sank lower than before. No one wanted to hear anything. With two expulsions, it would be hard if not impossible to find another school. We went to everyone we knew and told them this remarkable student’s story. We got a lot of “no’s” but we got a “yes”! A miracle occurred.
Patrick was accepted to his THIRD school in a very short time period. This was a mixed boarding school and he was used to being with all boys. He did not want to go, but, grateful for the chance to be educated, he was fitted for his new uniforms and a new journey began. Patrick’s academic excellence elevated him to the top of the class almost instantly. Teachers applauded him for his work and soon, they saw the integrity in this model student. He was appointed class prefect.
A group from another boy’s boarding school broke into Patrick’s school while others were in class. They tried to set fire to the boys dorm. Who got expelled? Patrick. You don’t even have to ask anymore, right?
I was in Kenya at the time this happened. I have to say, it was getting hard to believe that this kid was as good as I believed he was.. I mean, how could this keep happening?
I rushed to the school and Patrick arrived with his head bowed low…eyes fixated on the ground. He could not address me. He could not look at my face. After some emotionally painful hours, he revealed that he was breaking under all of these pressures. “Surely”, he cried, “there will not be a way for me to be educated now. What am I doing wrong?”
We felt as if we were running out of network – but God is never short of resources! We had to get to work immediately so that we could help this young man on his journey ahead. Schools closed their doors. But one boarding school of average performance agreed to take Patrick in. We knew a teacher at the school who promised to keep a close watch on him for us. Patrick assured us, “I will stay focused on my studies this time.”. Finally, a year passed. Time neared for the end of high school exams: KCSE. (Here it is our SAT’S) Patrick was shocked to learn that he did not perform as expected. His heart sank. Universities give scholarships to A to B+ students and he missed the mark. All of the weight for University acceptance rests solely on the KCSE scores.
We talked to Patrick and after much deliberation, suggested that he repeat his final year in high school at – yes – yet one more school. He almost could not stomach the thought… but after careful prayer and consideration, he released the control he was trying to foster on his own life. “I know what I want and the only place to get that is through education.” he told me. “I will go.” So Patrick spent this last year repeating his final year of high school. Again.
But what Patrick got out of school was far more than his academic excellence. Patrick was molded into a man. He was brought low and hard and to his knees. He was stripped of his ego and served heavy doses of humility. And he pressed on. The smiling boy won… Though today he is a smiling man.
I received this message from Patrick today.
“We must realize that leadership believes that nothing is impossible and that there is not just one way to solve problems. Leaders never surrender to limitations and are not afraid to fail. You will never do anything great unless you are willing to fail. People who are afraid of failure never accomplish success. Leaders are willing to try anything once. People who do not venture, never have an adventure. God is a God of adventure. He told Abraham that He would take him to a place that he did not know. Leaders engage the unknown with faith and courage. You have to be courageous to be innovative. This really blesses my heart. It challenges me to fight more and more – it reminds me that champions fight more than once…..it also reminds me that defeat never happens to me until I confess defeat.”
Matanya’s Hope is proud to be walking on this earth with Patrick. We are honored to stand by his side. To his sponsors, we salute you – for we could not carry this torch on our own. To Don and Karen, thank you much! To Patrick, you just keep going. God is not done with you yet – but what He is doing in you is breath taking, simply breath taking! I am so excited for you to begin University Patrick!