Guard at night, student in the morning: Story of Peter Aowa


Guard at night, student in the morning: Story of Peter Aowa
Peter Aowa at the Radio Citizen studio during his interview on Thursday, October 10, 2019.

Peter Aowa is a security guard in Dandora, one of the most dangerous areas in Nairobi where notorious gangsters sadly thrive.

During the day however, he is a student at a university campus located within the Central Business District.

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This is the story of Peter Aowa, as he shares his life struggles, seeking to inspire to the world that everything is possible with determination, hard work and hope for a better tomorrow.

On Thursday last week, he was hosted at Radio Citizen on the WaksTikiTaka show.

He narrated how growing up at his rural home in Gem, Siaya county, he never lived to experience the love of a father. The man passed away when Peter was barely 5 months old.

“My father left nothing behind other than five children. My mother took us to an aunt’s place where we were to stay as we went to school. I was with my eldest brother Tony but he passed away in 2013 after going to live in the streets,” Peter says.

Life became tough for Peter, growing up with a single mother who wasn’t financially stable and staying at a relative’s house. He was forced to leave school and look for money; he found a job making bricks.

Peter's mother Florence. PHOTO | COURTESY
Peter’s mother Florence. PHOTO | COURTESY

One morning, he could not bear the suffering anymore so he and his friends left for Kisumu, on foot; a distance of close to 60 kilometres. In the city, they turned into street boys and Peter says they would use any means available to get food, until one day when he escaped from the jaws of death.

“For seven months, we would wake up early to go get scrap metal but when my friends and I moved to Otonglo estate, we resorted to illegally acquiring the heavy metals. That was the last time I saw the four boys. I don’t know whether they were killed, I really can’t tell,” he says.

It was shortly after this near-death experience that he decided to go back home and also resume his studies. He also took part in athletics and surprisingly won a number of marathon contests from county to provincial levels. In 2010, he did his KCPE and joined secondary school a year later.

However, he had an epileptic condition which almost cost him his life, barely two months to sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams. “I was suffering from epilepsy but still at the early stages, according to doctors. I was put under medication but it was a trying time,” Peter narrates.

Peter (right) with some of his friends during the recruitment for night guards. PHOTO | COURTESY
Peter (right) with some of his friends during the recruitment for night guards. PHOTO | COURTESY

It was during this time that his elder sister also passed away. This was in 2014. Life continued with its twists and turns but he somehow managed to get admission at Rongo University. However, as fate would have it, he could not afford the school fees. In 2017, he decided to join the East African Institute of Certified Studies College for a diploma course in Journalism.

“I had not been to the city before. The only person I was sure would host me was another elder sister who was residing in Kitengela, Kajiado county. I had to part with Ksh. 200 daily for bus fare. This was too much for me. I decided to stay at Ngara Men’s hostel which was the only alternative I had. Unfortunately I did not manage to stay there for long and I was forced to quit my studies, yet again,” he told Citizen Digital.

Peter walking to work from school
Peter headed to work from school

Things became worse; no house, no food, no school fees. He reached out to a friend from primary school school who accepted to share a single room with him. He also tried to plead with the college administration to get for more time to raise fees but his plea fell on deaf ears.

“I would walk from Kayole to Moi Avenue to go to the college but even this did not move them. I had to shift from school to hustling. I ‘tarmacked’ for two months; walking every morning from Kayole to Industrial Area to look for any opportunity for a job but I wasn’t lucky. My friend who was hosting me had also lost his position and we were three adults in one room– jobless– since he lived with his fiancee.”

He decided to contact another friend who hosted him for close to seven months during which he secured a job with a security company. It is here that he started working as a guard at night and a teacher during the day at an academy in Mathare.

Peter is now studying a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication  at St. Paul’s University, Nairobi campus. At night, he walks to Dandora to work as a night guard as he seeks to raise money to ease his financial struggles. Rarely does he board a matatu because he has to save every shilling he gets.

“What is costing a lot of youth is pride. They have put a class and regard some job as odd. Life is tough and at times you must do things you even didn’t wish to. The youth should put pride aside and hustle, there is a better tomorrow,” Peter says.

He also gives some encouragement to his mother saying: “To my mother Florence Aowa, life will better and your efforts will not go to waste.”

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Story By Paul Ombati
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