From a former househelp to a rising scholar, Janeth Jepleting’s story is one of hope, hard work and grit.
Ms Jepleting is the first-born in a family of seven children in Kilibwoni Ward, Nandi County, and the only one with a university degree.
She was recently admitted to the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom to pursue a master’s degree in international security, which she says will enable her to play a role in tackling terror threats to the country.
She was born out of wedlock, and lived with her maternal grandmother, who died when she was in Standard Six, after which she lived with different relatives.
“After Standard Eight, they told me that was the end of the road,” recalled Jepleting, 27.
One of her relatives decided to marry her off, and a young man was brought to her so that they could get to know each other better. “When I discovered that I was going to be married off, I ran away. But by then I was already pregnant,” she said.
The pregnancy pushed her to look for a job since her mother could not feed her and a baby. So, at 14, she began working as a househelp for a family.
From her Sh1,500 salary, she saved Sh500 every month for furthering her education. After two years on the job, she felt it was time to move on.
“When I told my bosses that I was going back to school, they thought that I had found someone to pay me better. I did not argue with them, but left for home soon after to convince my mother to look after my son,” she said. Her mother eventually took her son in, but his paternal grandparents took him from her, hoping that Jepleting would marry their son after she completed her secondary education.
Ms Jepleting, who had scored 292 marks in KCPE and had received an admission letter from Kapnyeberai Girls School, could not go there for lack of funds. So she sought admission at Kositany Girls Secondary School.
“I did not have enough money for school fees and shopping, so I went from door-to-door, asking my neighbours to contribute. That is how I got my blankets, uniform and other things I needed,” she said.
She survived from Form One to Form Four by pleading with the principal to let her attend classes even when she had not paid school fees. She would work as a househelp during the holidays to raise school fees.
After KCSE, in which she scored C minus, she worked for eight months. When she was admitted for a diploma course in law at the Nairobi Institute of Business Studies, she left work, but not before her employers tried to get her a husband.
“I don’t know why they thought marriage would end my problems. I just told them politely that I would no longer work for them and headed to Nairobi with my savings to start college life,” Ms Jepleting recalled with a laugh.
Thanks to a number of philanthropists, she completed her diploma course and later joined the Catholic University of Eastern Africa for a Bachelor’s degree in political science.
“I really do not know where I would be without the kind people I met along the way,” Ms Jepleting said.
After her master’s course, which will take a year, she might pursue her political ambitions.
After completing secondary school, she briefly campaigned to be Kilibwoni Ward MCA, but put her political ambitions on the back-burner when she got the chance to do a diploma in law.