[PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD]
By Vincent Bartoo
When people meet him, they show sympathy by offering him money, mostly hurling coins at him, which he declines to accept.
The well-wishers, puzzled why he should turn down their help in his condition, hardly stop to get to know him, least of all even ask his name.
But, Edwin Kipkogei, 28, an orphan, dismisses this as "misplaced sympathies".
Edwin Kipkogei who was born with just one hand and no legs, manages to do most tasks that able bodied people can do. [PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD]
"I wish some of these people who try to give me small handouts knew I am better off than some of them. But they have categorised me as simply another disabled person requiring pity and assistance," Kipkogei said when we visited him at Kobil village, Keiyo North District.
Kipkogei was born in 1982, without both legs and an undeveloped right hand. His only full limb is the left hand.We found him tending his tree nursery, which he weeds easily with one hand before cutting grass for his cow.It was amazing to watch him do, with one hand, all the tasks able bodied people can do. Despite his disability and growing under the care of relatives, Kipkogei has overcome many odds to improve from his condition.
He went through primary education at Kobil Special School in Keiyo North and scored 476 marks out of a possible 600 to join St Patrick’s High School Iten.
At St Patrick’s, Kipkogei attained ‘B’ grade that enabled him to join Moi University’s School of Business and Economics.
Although he had wanted to study law, he nonetheless graduated in 2006 with a degree in Business and Economics, Finance and Banking option."It was not easy, it was a daily struggle that I went through before I got my degree. I have only God and my sponsors to thank for my achievement," he said.
When he joined secondary school, Kipkogei said, his classmates were supportive, always pushing his wheelchair, donated by the Assumption Sisters of the Eldoret Catholic Church who also paid his fees."They would also help me with chores like washing my clothes and getting food for me from the dining hall. They made me feel accepted," he said.
The biggest test to his resolve to seek education, however, came when the Assumption Sisters offered to pay his university fees. "The first and second years of university were a torment. I almost quit, but I persevered. Everybody at university was too busy, socially and academically, and having little time for people like me," he said.
Felt lonely "Students showed off their latest fashions, had boyfriends and girlfriends, went to parties out of the institution, things I couldn’t do. I felt very lonely for the first time in my life," he said.
Kipkogei said Moi University’s administration building added to his woes as it lacked ramps for equal access by people with disabilities.
Added Kipkogei: "Because of the hostile environment, my performance in the first and second years was not very good. I, however, tried to make up for them in third and fourth years".He managed a Second Class lower division.
He says, however, he was a motivational factor at the university as most students were amazed to see him use one hand to scribble notes, do assignments, including browsing the Internet, eat, wash his clothes, make his bed and other tasks..
For his internship, the university deployed him to several departments where he carried out budgetary controls, compiled salaries and attended to employee claims.
However, though he feels he is a success story, Kipkogei is disappointed that three years since he graduated, he is yet to land a job even after making several applications to the Public Service Commission, banks and other financial institutions. "Our society is not fair. Look at me, after struggling and reaching where I am, no one can even offer me a job commensurate with my skills," he said.
He says many times he is called for interviews but, when the interviewers see him, they lose interest in him."I can tell from their attitude that they don’t want to employ a person like me, I wish they knew what I can offer," he says.
Kipkogei has no kind words for local politicians whom he accuses of ignoring him.
Still waiting. "One Member of Parliament was informed of my case last year during a function here. He told the gathering he was aware of my situation and he would do something about it. One year down the line, he is still looking into my case," he said.
Kipkogei wonders why the MP cannot even employ him at the local Constituency Development Fund (CDF) office due to his financial management skills.
"I would want to be independent. That is why I worked so hard to get my degree. I do not want to be anybody’s burden," he added.
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