This is a story based on a true story.
Her name is Stephanie. She was the second born in a family of three siblings. Each child had his/her own father. Her elder brother’s father was a drunkard whose home was the local bar. Stephanie did not know who her father was. No one spoke about him. As for her sister’s father, he was married and lived with his family in the next town.
Her elder brother was an exact replica of his drunk father. He took his first sip of beer at fifteen and did not turn back after that. He could not do without alcohol years on. And even then, the brown bottle also became his biggest nemesis.
Stephanie lost her older brother to Cirrhosis while she was fourteen.
For Stephanie’s mother, she relished drama. She loved confrontations. If you looked at her for longer than three seconds, she embarrassed you with witchcraft accusations. If you dared dish her some advice, even from a good heart, she publicly shamed you for not minding your own business.
They say beggars must not be choosers but Stephanie’s mother chose, even being the pauper she was. She could not take some chores offered to her. Like she could not be a househelp or a farmhelp.
“Mum, why don’t I try it then, I will get some money for paying my school fees.” Stephanie suggested. She was in the final year of her primary school. This was the seventh time she was at home, sent back from school for school fees.
“No! No child of mine will work as a maid. I will get a decent job soon and take you two to a better school.” She said with finality. Stephanie and her sister wondered when that day would ever be, their mother had sang those lyrics for too long. Now they were spending the third week at home while their neighbours were covering syllabuses at school.
“Meanwhile, sneak back to school tomorrow and if anyone asks you, tell them I am coming to pay all the pending fees, including next term’s.” She said, addressing Stephanie. As for the younger sister, their mother did not think Grade One pupils really studied.
“There’s nothing much they do at school but to play, sing, eat and sleep. And you can do all that here at home.” Their mother said of the young pupils.
Stephanie sneaked in but her presence was too conspicuous to be obscured.
“Go back and come back with your mother. You will only be allowed in class when you pay the fee balance.” That was the headteacher’s command.
Such was the school life of Stephanie. In and out but out being more until the headteacher,out of pity, invited her to come to school and sit for the national exams to avoid repeating a whole year.
Stephanie sat for the exams and on the third and last day of exam, she joined the rest of the pupils in celebrating the end of a long eight year primary life. As they jumped and ulululated, she did too. Then the headteacher summoned her to the office.
The headteacher instead of a stern visage and a dispraising tone, displayed right the opposite. She woke up and went to meet Stephanie at the door then held her hand and asked her to pray with her.
It was a short prayer that asked for strength and guidance for Stephanie at this terrible time. When the headteacher was through with her prayer, she asked her to go straight home and keep God close to her.
Her mother had died. She had been involved in a conflict and the insults she cast at the culprit had vexed him so much that he ran and picked a machete and then killed her. He ran away after that and appeared three days later at the police station.
Stephanie’s mother’s death marked the end of her school life if there were to be any. Help from people came in small and rare portions. The two sisters now joined their sickly maternal grandmother to stay with her.
Being poor too, their grandmother had very little offer so Stephanie took the responsibility of taking care of herself and both her grandmother and sister. She plucked tea leaves in rich men’s farms for a meagre wage. Other times she picked mangoes from trees in their homes or bananas and sold them by the roadside to passing drivers.
And for a few years, the three survived from hand to mouth. If they did not sell enough bananas, they ate them for supper. But for most days, they had a decent meal. Stephanie’s knack for business favoured them.
Then on a certain Christmas season, Stephanie visited the local market to watch able village local girls flounting their Christmas attires. As she passed by one shop, she overheard a conversation between a woman and a shop keeper.
The woman had parked a stylish car near the shop. Stephanie listened as the woman asked the shopkeeper to find her a good househelp, preferably a young girl , someone who was in need of a job. The shopkeeper asked how much she would pay and the figure excited Stephanie. She imagined how life would change for her, her sister and grandmother with eight thousand shillings a month.
Stephanie could not let the chance go. As soon as the woman got in her car, Stephanie was by the window, smiling politely. She confessed she had overheard the conversation between the two women and she fitted the job qualifications. The wealthy woman was skeptical of Stephanie.
“Do your parents know about this?”
“My parents are both dead.”
“Where do you live?”
“With my grandmother and eight year old sister.”
The madam asked Stephanie to hop in the car and direct her to her home.
Her grandmother was elated at the news that her granddaughter would be working in the capital. Stephanie promised to send enough money for both of them. The next day, she left for the rich city.
The madam’s house impressed Stephanie. She was more excited by the library. She missed school. All her primary school friends had joined secondary school. Some were now in colleges or universities. At nineteen, Stephanie could not go back to school.
“You might be bored by my books. There are no novels there. Most of them are about Business.”
“Did you study Business in univeristy madam?” Stephanie asked.
“I did. I have a Degree in Business Administration. Because of it, I am a Buiness Consultant in Tallaxo Company.” She replied.
Stephanie was glad she found this woman. She would ensure she siphoned all the knowledge from that home and learn everything she could as she worked for her in the most diligent way possible.
So Stephanie worked a routine. She ensured she did everything per Madam’s preference. She cleaned every corner, attended to the two preteens whenever they needed her, cooked the meals in time and when she finally had time to herself, she took a book from the shelf and got drawn into its wisdom.
Stephanie learnt that even though every book gave her something to learn, almost all had some similar terms; passion, hardwork, start small-grow big, risk.
She pondered a lot over those words especially the term passion. She reflected on her life and concluded her passion revolved around children and she knew that she would pursue a business involving children. Moreover, her employer’s children adored her and she also loved them to the moon and back.
She was not sure when she would start her dream business but a breakthrough came when her employer won a green card to the US. It was a sad goodbye but a new lease of life for Stephanie.
Even though she had kept her promise in sending her grandmother some money evey month, she had saved a good amount to start a day care. She remembered the term, start small-grow big.
At first, she was the one that took care of the four children that were entrusted to her but her dedication and skills were soon noticed by other parents. She took care of the children as if they were her own. Her first employee was thoroughly vetted one would have thought Stephanie owned an international company.
Then their grandmother passed on and Stephanie decided to call her sister to the city to pursue her studies and give a helping hand during her free time.
In the following years, Stephanie’s day care had an additional wing, a kindergarten. She employed qualified personnel with passionate personalities and this helped raise the reputation of the centre.
Needless to say, the kindergarten so big that she was short of space. It was time to take a risk.
Armed with all the grammar in her head, a business plan that had been designed all night, a black coat with a matching skirt to resemble a suit and a pair of heels, Stephanie approached her bank straight to the Credit Manager. With a strong aura of confidence, she presented her case to him and left him nodding at her every request.
Months later, Stephanie had her own land where buildings were being placed for classes and offices.
A few years later, Stephanie’s school could only admit a few every year. The classes were full and the demand was too high since word about its excellent performance spread far and wide.
“Guests, The school board, parents, teachers and pupils, good afternoon.” It was the school headteacher on a prize giving day.
The School’s Director, Madam Stephanie sat on the podium listening keenly to the headteacher’s speech along eveybody else.
“Many of you do not know this but our school owner was once my school mate back at primary school. She seldom finished a week in school. We called her ‘homie’ because she was always at home for lack of school fees.
One would have written her off as another girl who would get married early and struggle with endless pregnancies and a bad marriage or marriages. But here she is, a CEO of a school with students from even neighbouring countries.
If you hear her speak, you will think she attended a university abroad but she does not hide her educational background. I doubt she even picked her school leaving certificate. Ironically, I who climbed all levels of education ended up being employed by her.”
The crowd laughed as the headteacher comically said it as if seeking sympathy for himself.
“Let every person learn from our School Director. The power to fly is within you. Nothing should hinder you from gaining wings. Allow me to welcome the School Director, Madam Stephanie to present the prizes to the students who have been doing well in school.”
The crowd gave a standing ovation to welcome the woman who had achieved so much with so little in her hands.
Her story should not only inspire but should also challenge those that have it all. The power to fly is within you.