I was brought by two strict women. How many of you can related to this and were brought up by a strict parent? Had mine not been strict I would probably not be where I am today and accomplished what I have so far. I grew up in a poor, bad neighborhood in Eastlands, Nairobi. My mother and grandmother were both single parents. They were also very hardworking. Though the neighborhood was very poor, we had food on the table and clothes on our backs.
As a little girl, growing up in the slum, I was not allowed to go and play outside with other children. I spent most of my early childhood inside our house or not too far from the house which essentially was first really just one room. Looking back as an adult, I understand… The dangers were too great. The two main trades immediately around me were selling illicit brew and prostitution. In our slum in particular prostitution happened openly during the day. You can imagine the myriad dangers that accompany these two trades including: so much foul language all around (you’d be shocked at the curse words I knew at the age of 4); children got to learn about and engage in sex way, way too early – and I don’t mean teenage; and there was little to no positive influence or role model, in fact there was way too much negative influence.
Though she did not get a chance to go past standard 7, my mother valued school very much and took us to schools in the neighborhood that were deemed better than the rest. School played a big role in who I ended up being. I am a product of positive influence from school, not home. I went to Baptist nursery next to Burma market, Our Lady of Mercy Primary in Shauri Moyo, Pangani Girls School after that, and finally to Kenyatta University.
In University I enrolled for a Bachelor of Education degree and had two subjects to choose from and I picked German. I had done German in High School for four years and that makes a total of 8 years. I will pause here and speculate that you would then think my German is fluent right? Have you lost a language for failure to use it? Yes… I am ashamed to announce that I lost my German because I did not use it practically. That is one of my great regrets. One of my bucket list items is to be able to spend six months in Germany and spend time relearning the language.
I worked for a year and a half after university and then got an opportunity to pursue my Masters degree in London. I started off with a Masters of Arts in Marketing and early in the programme the lecturers introduced us to the 4Ps of Marketing. One P was People. They brought us a HR lecturer to explain how employees influence the buying decisions of customers. This was the most exciting class in my entire school life. So much did I enjoy that class that I went to ask the Dean if I could change my Masters to HR. I ended up doing an MA in Marketing with HR. And that right there is how I ended up in the HR profession. I worked for four years in a small business as the HR Manager and for the past eight years I have worked as a HR consultant, which I enjoy immensely. I am currently writing a book on HR for small business owners that will be out in a month’s time.
A person’s early childhood is important and sets them up on the right path playing a role in who they become. Everyone who has an influence in a child’s life should strive to provide them the right foundation. It is important however to not let your childhood define you if it was challenging. You can be anything you want to be despite your childhood experiences. Education and going to school is an important intervention towards creating a bright future. Any opportunity that one comes across to help educate a child or improve their learning experience, do it. It goes a long way. I have come a long long way….
As Charles Dickens wrote in his famous book A Tale of Two Cities – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I have seen the worst and the best of Nairobi… In my case though, it is One City, Two Tales.
Kevina Nyambura is a HR Consultant, Fanisi HR Solutions and loves to work with business owners and managers in Strategic and Technical HR aspects of their businesses or functions. She passionately supports teams to maximize the value of their people resource from the point of recruitment to exit. Her dream is to see Kenyan and other East African employers create workplaces that motivate employees to be and give their best. She is found on firstname.lastname@example.org