If you ever thought your excuse was acceptable, listen to Sammy!
Sammy Gitau lost his father when he was 13. He has had no formal education since he was 13. He lived life on the streets…. but he is now completing his postgraduate program at Manchester University. I should allow you to read the major highlights of the story, as told by Roland Hancock in his 19th September 2006 article titled, How a dustbin held the key to new life:
“A former street kid from one of Africaâ€™s worst slums has turned his life around to become a Manchester University student… four years after finding a prospectus in a Kenyan dustbin. Sammy Gitau had no idea that his future was about to be transformed when he picked up the booklet, left on top of a stinking pile of rubbish in a back alley. He took the prospectus home in 2001, left it on a shelf for a further two years and applied only after a friend nagged him. Now he will spend the next 15 months studying for a masterâ€™s degree in international development â€“ having had no formal education since the age of 13 when his father died… Sammy, 34, had already managed to turn his back on a life on the streets and had been a charity worker in Nairobi for eight years. He was setting up outreach programmes for slum dwellers when fate set him on the long road to Manchester. [Sammy] said: Behind the smart restaurants and offices of Nairobi there are abandoned streets where people just throw their rubbish out of the window. Kids set up polythene shelters there and scavenge on thrown-away food. I went there to talk to kids about the project we had set up for them when and while I was there I saw the prospectus and had a leafed through it.
“The prospectus advertised Manchester Universityâ€™s postgraduate course in international development, which equips students to apply for international aid from charitable projects. Sammy took it home for two years until a friend finally persuaded him to send in an application, which was accepted despite his patchy education. The universityâ€™s Institute for Development Policy and Management and the School of Environment and Development which are run jointly with the engineering department, have a tradition of recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They were impressed by Sammyâ€™s work in the community. After flying to Manchester a week ago, Sammy is still getting used to life here. He said: All we have to go on when we think about life in the west is the movies, so I expected people to pull out guns and general rowdiness. But all Iâ€™ve found is warm, kind people. His journey from the desperate streets of Mathare â€“ Nairobiâ€™s biggest slum â€“ and eventually to the streets of Fallowfield began when Sammy was just 13, cradling his dying father in his arms… By the time he was 18 Sammy was on a Kenyan hospital ward recovering from a drug-induced coma â€“ and he decided his life had to change. He began to work with younger children, warning them of the dangers of a life of crime. Today the largest of his four outreach projects helps more than 20,000 people with programmes ranging from drugs awareness to sprucing up the streets. He said: People have the ability to get themselves into the worst situations, and I truly believe that they have the ability to get themselves out of them too.”
The article ended with this: Though Sammyâ€™s course fees are provided for, his living costs are paid by donations. To donate or find out more, contact the university at emailto: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, tell me what your excuse is… background, family, school, money, what? We all have some little excuse in our purses or breast pockets, but its high time we threw them out the window and disregarded the lid. Just as boiling water lets out steam that often gains enough energy to get rid of the lid, we can also release enough energy from our many circumstances (and some of them are quite tough, but not tough enough to keep tomorrow locked in the tear bags of yesterday or today) to throw off the lid. A big thank you to Sammy for reminding us once again that the lid is only there for those who care to honour it. You must remember the story of the monkeys who were kept in a room, and when any of them tried climbing the pole that held banana at its top, hot water was sprayed. One after the other, they tried and got the hot water treatment. After a while, none of them bothered about the banana — even when hunger was right in their eyes. One of them was taken out and a new monkey brought in. The new monkey tried to climb and had not even moved close to the pole when the other monkeys pulled him back! As new monkeys replaced the old ones, the same process continued… until all the monkeys were new (that is, had not been threatened at all with hot water) but none of them bothered to climb to get the food — because the accepted norm was that the lid existed.
Even in the face of hot water and monkey push/pull, I choose to ignore the lid… there’s only one plce for me — the top! See you there…