“I Can Be Anything I Want in the Future”: Joshua Ong’eta’s Journey through School—and Beyond July 7, 2015 by Carolina For Kibera
By: Scott Weathers, CFK Intern, American University
Many aspects of life in Kibera—both the awful and hopeful—are often said to be tied to good or bad luck. As described by Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, people in low-income countries sometimes use the term “stupid deaths” to describe accidents that result in the deaths of poor people. Alternatively, when something good comes around, people commonly treated as second-class citizens often attribute it to fate. For example, recent graduate Joshua Ong’eta said that he felt incredibly “lucky and surprised” to have won a Carolina for Kibera scholarship through CFK’s Education Program.
Yet, Joshua’s success cannot be tied to just luck. On the contrary, Joshua’s hard work over four years of high school speaks volumes regarding his work ethic, drive, and potential. In high school, Joshua succeeded in a range of courses, including Swahili, German, chemistry, and physics, which he names as his favorites. Outside of school, Joshua certainly kept busy. He has been involved in virtually every extracurricular activity available to him, ranging from drama and music to soccer and the Kenya Scouts Association (similar to the Boy Scouts of America). Through the Scouts, he undertook many service activities in Kibera, earning him an award from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last year. On top of all this, he is also one of CFK’s longest serving volunteers, somehow finding time to work on various CFK projects, including helping with CFK’s data collection system and other community outreach projects.
Joshua’s future goals are similarly diverse, spread across engineering, politics, and charity. In college, Joshua says, “I want to run for Class President or Senator. That way, I can begin to develop the connections and skills that will help me run for office when I return to Kenya.” Although Joshua plans to work initially as an engineer, he continues to look beyond his next step when planning for the future. For example, once Joshua has improved his own economic standing as an engineer, he hopes to pursue other projects that will allow him to give back to his community, like running for higher political office, starting a charity in Kibera, or owning a Kenyan soccer club.
It’s easy to see what makes Joshua so ambitious. When I asked him about the most valuable lesson he learned in high school, he simply replied, “Independence.” Joshua attended a boarding school, which meant spending months away from home and his large family at a time. He said, “I love going to school with all different kids of students, rich and poor. It’s amazing to know that no matter where I am right now, I can be anything that I want in the future.”
Acting on his determination, Joshua is applying to undergraduate engineering programs in Kenya, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. From Joshua’s case, it is clear that “dumb luck” has nothing to do with his success. Rather, talent and opportunity in Kibera can thrive when it is supported and nurtured. In Joshua’s words, “There are so many bright minds in Kibera. It is only our job to support them.”