About Me - Thuita J. Maina
About two hundred metres from Starehe Boys' Centre in Nairobi is Pumwani Maternity where on the last day of 1987, a handsome, bouncing baby boy was born: me! After birth, my mother headed back to her home at Kiserian in Kajiado County. My father had acquired a piece of land there a year earlier (1986) and built a house on it. And that has been my home all my life.
I have very little recollection of my first three years of life, as it is with every person. The little I can remember was being carried on my mother's back as she took her friends for a walk around the home garden.
My awakening to life began in late 1992 when I vaguely recall hearing political campaign noises while in the home's small, sooty kitchen feasting on ugali. Back then, my home had no electricity, radio or television. Life must have been tough for my family as we had no access to piped water either. We depended on fetched water from a nearby stream.
I recall one time back in 1993 of Uncle Ndonga asking me to hold one of his hands as the other fetched water in a dug-out on the stream. Though I was a small boy, I wonder what led him to trust me that much. In that small size of mine back then, I am sure he would have dragged me into the dug-out had he, by some unfortunate turn of fate, slipped into it.
Anyway, coming back to the story of the family into which I was born in, I must confess I somehow loathed my family members when I was growing up because they were harsh on me and made me do household chores that I deplored. Like they would force me to go scavenging for firewood and harvesting beans.
But looking back, I have discovered God blessed me with a supportive family which inculcated me with a learning spirit given the books Dad bought for me and the example of academic excellence set by my elder brothers in school, especially Paddy and Joe Kagigite. And the family has granted me the freedom to be the person God intended me to be. Oh, how I appreciate my family these days!
On January 1993, I joined Naru-Moru Primary School, a two kilometre walk. I remained in the school for seven years until the third term of Standard Seven after which I was transferred to a private primary school of affluent families, Kunoni Educational Centre, where I finished my primary school education.
So well did I perform in 2001 KCPE exams that I was admitted at the prestigious Starehe Boys' Centre in Nairobi. If you remember, Starehe Boys' Centre is about two hundred metres from Pumwani Maternity where I was born.
Getting admitted to Starehe was one of those lucky breaks that completely altered the course of my life. And I thank God for it because it is at Starehe where I perfected my in-born goal of aiming high which resonated with the Starehe motto of Natulenge Juu (Let Us Aim High). I concentrated on my studies in the school with the focus of a laser beam that I managed to rise academically from the bottom of my class to score an A in the mighty KCSE exams.
My impressive grade in KCSE secured me an admission to one of the local public universities to study a course of my choice apart from the University of Nairobi's BSc. degree in Actuarial Science which I missed qualifying by one point in a grading system I won't bother to explain now. And I am sure I would probably have chosen to pursue that course but as later events would demonstrate, it was good for me that I didn't qualify for it.
During the gap year after finishing high school and before joining university, I pursued a Diploma in Information Technology at Starehe Institute where I became fascinated with how computers work. That fascination led me to apply for a degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University (JKUAT).
While I was in Starehe Institute, I also applied to four top American Colleges (MIT, Cornell, Dartmouth & Stanford). I really desired to pursue my undergraduate studies in one of those colleges but as fate would have it, they all rejected me. So I had no option but to matriculate at JKUAT where, as I have said, I had applied to pursue a degree in ELectronics & Computer Engineering.
I reported at JKUAT on a lovely day in May 2007. In my first year at the university, I spent my time attending classes but in the weekends, I would dash off to All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi where I sang with the choir and played the organ. I loved being part of that church's 9.30am choir because of its spiritually enriching songs and its buddy-buddy monthly fellowships.
And you know what? I didn't intend to finish my undergraduate studies at JKUAT because I couldn't dismiss from my mind the desire to study in America. So while I was still a first year student at the university, I submitted applications to four top colleges: MIT, Yale, Harvard and Stanford. I informed the colleges in their application forms as well as in my essays that I wanted to pursue Physics. When we closed at JKUAT for a long holiday in December 2007 that year, I thought that was the end of me in the university because I strongly believed and hope this time round I would be admitted to one of the top American colleges I had applied for admission.
How wrong I was! All the four colleges rejected me. So far, I don't think I have ever been hurt as much as I was when I received a succession of rejection letters beginning with MIT in mid-March of 2008 followed by the other three about two weeks later.
I therefore reported back to JKUAT for my second year in May 2008. For some reasons I will not explain now, I dropped out of JKUAT that year. Then reported back in 2009 to repeat my second year but again, I dropped out.
And guess what? I still couldn't dismiss my desire to study in America that I had fanned in my mind since my days at Starehe Institute. So I decided to re-apply to top American colleges I had applied two years earlier during my first year at JKUAT, but this time, I told them I wanted to pursue a different course unrelated to Physics and Engineering. I can't recall which course I intended to pursue in those colleges but it must have been Political Science or History having found Electronics & Computer Engineering (which is all about learning Physics) abstruse during my days at JKUAT.
The colleges I applied this time round in 2009 were Harvard, Yale and Stanford because I didn't want to submit a new set of recommendation letters and high school transcripts. Back then, I thought if I just submitted better essays and improved SAT 1 scores, I could greatly increase my chances of getting accepted. I would also have re-applied to MIT but a member of staff in the institute discouraged me from applying for the third time.
As it happened, the three colleges rejected me again when they released their decisions in early April of 2010. But this time, the rejection letters didn't hurt me as much as they had done two years earlier in 2008.
In June 2010, I decided to matriculate at the University of Nairobi to pursue a degree in Political Science, History, Economics & Public Administration. What struck me most about the degree is its simplicity compared with engineering, at least for me. There was room for self-expression as opposed to working with pre-defined formulas. For that reason, I loved my new course which I eventually had to stop pursuing because of financial constraints.
Besides pursuing my studies, I have ventured into politics. I unsuccessfully ran for my home area County Representative seat in the 2013 General Elections in Kenya. It was a good learning experience though.
With politics now aside, I am reconnecting with my passions (jogging, walking, reading, writing, singing, socializing, networking, piano-playing, story-telling & computer-programming) with the faith that something interesting will come up which will launch me to the life of my dreams. That's all I am saying.