Self-belief inspires creativity, fuels determination that knows no bounds
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; one photo with four of my high school classmates in 1978 speaks volumes. I have cried for years whenever I see that photo. It was Dec. 7, 2007, about 29 years since that photo was taken, that I first attempted to tell the story of that photo.
It isn’t easy to write this piece. My inspiration to do so comes from the knowledge that an untold story can be a constant source of agony. When we don’t tell a story, we deny our fellow travelers an opportunity to acquire an aspect of life that might be all they need to reach their stars.
We were Form IV students (high school seniors) of Tala High School in Kenya — the place I consider my utmost steppingstone for not only academic endeavors but also where personal awareness and application of life lessons were lived. We learned that hard work, good relationships and caring for others lead to tranquility in one’s life that material things can’t provide. We learned the spirit of kwiminia (determination).
Not every student in Form IV was guaranteed admission to the next level. Over 80% of the students never made it. The struggles to achieve the required grades for admission in what was called Advanced Level, a two-year school before another exterminating exam that only a few (less than 5%) managed to pass and get admitted at the university, were phenomenal.
Our academic challenges at Tala High were confounded with the fact that we had to perform adult responsibilities. We lived in rented apartments. Sometimes up to six students shared a one-room apartment. We advised ourselves on when to study. We fetched water, shopped for our food, hand-washed our clothes, cooked our meals and managed the meager budget from what little our parents gave us for survival.
We had been studying as a group of five buddies when another student with a camera stopped by. We seized the moment and wanted memorial photos taken. One of us said we should point at the direction of Nairobi University. That was our vision. That is why we were hitting the books.
We kneeled down, each on one knee. We all faced the direction of Nairobi University, with the exception of one student who did not point at the direction of Nairobi. The rest of us did.
That hurts me to this day. He was the only one, out of the five, not to achieve the required grades for the next level. Three of us eventually lived our vision. The fourth friend who pointed with us passed the exams with flying colors but decided to get employed and help his family.
The student who didn’t point was a close friend of mine. We had been together in primary school. After I noticed that he had not pointed at our ultimate goal, I asked him, “Why?” He said something that indicated he didn’t believe he could make it. That left me with the burden of figuring what had gone wrong. He had been an academic giant. I had struggled my entire elementary school years, spending six years in three grades. His performance in the high school entrance exam was superior. But four years later, he had lost the fire that comes with self-belief.
What’s your vision? Do you believe in your capability? If you don’t, then know you don’t have a vision. And it is written, “Without a vision, people perish.” A vision cushioned by self-belief inspires creativity that is never limited by available resources and fuels determination that knows no boundaries.
Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org . The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.