Dear Corona KCSE graduate

Summary: This article contains advise and stories of different Kenyan professionals. It has been compiled by Sarah Nyakeri. Photos are only for decorative purposes, thanks to hikers afrique.

I was in the business of finding advice from different people for you when someone got so negative akakula block. First lesson: Don’t entertain negative energy. Positive energy makes you productive and thrive in whatever you want to do. Your mental health comes first!

Yes, You have been on my mind. I do not want you to go through the same thing every university or TVET graduate is or has gone through. In short: I do not want you to be jobless or unhappy simply because you did not choose your path.

I am sure you have seen stories of graduates who don’t have a job and it might have made you think so hard about enrolling in a university. You might have come across articles advising you to take TVET courses and start earning in a few years even if you got an A. You must be confused on what exactly works either internationally or in the Kenyan market.

There is this news item of citizen interviewing the medicine aspirants who came from different backgrounds and something struck me. Did you notice that one seems to have done his research and had actual reasons why he has chosen to do it in Kenya. Second lesson: Do you due diligence. Research on the career you want to pursue before you step into class. As a consumer, I still haven’t come across a business that has solved the “Do not the trust the fundi” issues when it comes to Plumbing.

To avoid repetition, Let’s hear from some of the people who responded. Trust me, its juicer in their own words.

Leaked Conversations

Cynthia says

  • Look at the results in clusters rather than overall grade. So which subjects have you performed best? Is it Humanities, Sciences, Languages or the technical and applied?
  • Then list what you are interested in doing? What would you enjoy?
  • Then analyze whether you meet the requirements to do the course if you wish to go through a government sponsored program. If not, can you pay for yourself?
  • Also look at who are most successful people in that field? What sets them apart. If you can, job shadow them to learn more. Ask a current student to tell you more about that course
  • Then focus on what skills you can learn so that you can be an industry leader. University shouldn’t just be about classwork like high school. Think of the clubs, societies, sports that can build you into a wholesome individual
  • Then be open-minded to learn more about your chosen path as you go. If you choose law for example, you have many paths, as a litigator, a judge, NGO world, government etc.
  • Also don’t take a course just cause it is expected of you. For example, if you have an A, you don’t have to do medicine. You can do something you will thrive in

Like follow  a professional to work for a couple of days to see what they do. So like a teacher, you could go with them to school, see how their day is on a day to day basis

Job Shadow

Patrick Says

To work on…

  • Basic computing skills i.e Ms Office
  • Graphic design
  • Develop social media accounts such as YouTube, Twitter and TikTok and also build their profile on LinkedIn
  • Utilize every opportunity available to visit new places, meet people, learn new languages/culture/things/
  • Document their experiences in a contemporary way as much as possible

Caleb Says

If you performed to your expectation, congratulations! You have completed a stepping stone to the next step of your career. Take a breathe, and celebrate what you have achieved. I’d like to share some pointers to making the best of what you have attained:

  • Celebrate, you have done yourself proud, and all those around you.
  • Do not let it get into your head. Reflect on what got you there, the work ethics, etc. then aim to grow that
  • Think very carefully about the next step you will take. There are many who have gone before you. Take advantage of their experience and ask. Seek out those who are in the field you would like to get into and get their advice. Learn how they spend their days, what motivates them, what drives their success. Specifically, ask them how you can set yourself for success from the beginning.
  • Know yourself, your personality, your temperaments, etc. and align your career to that
  • In addition to choosing the course, choose the university very carefully. Research them, check the websites, check the staff profiles, the kind of research they do, the opportunities available, etc. reach out to them to see additional advice.
  • Even if you qualified for University. It is better to take a diploma course if that allows you to get the course of interest. Do not get a degree for the sake of it.

If you did not perform as you expected, I am sorry. But that is not the end. You did your best, if not, you have learned. Take the lesson, reflect, and then dust yourself and explore the next steps. Most of the advice above still apply to you. Start small, where you are. You will ultimately attain your vision if you are focused.

Cindy Says

I won’t tell you what the best course to study is, because there is no such thing. I’ve seen successful people who’ve studied courses you’d not choose or not even been to school long. And some who’ve studied the so called best courses and got stuck in a rut. I’d give you general life principles that will help you get around no matter where you find yourself.

  1. No one really knows what you should do. So, as you collect advice from people in this period, listen to the wisdom in their words but make the decision for yourself on what you should do. Because, everyone is just winging it. No one has it figured out. We old grown ups out here are just trying things out. The only advantage you can gain above the rest is to listen to the still small voice, connect with your creator. God will lead you to your right place if you let Him. Growing up is about discovering no-one knows better than you do.
  2. Continuous Learning: If my guess is right, you’re about 18yrs old. You have 7more years to adulthood, 7more years when you can learn faster. After 25yrs, the brain becomes less plastic., learning requires more effort then. Only at 25 are you an adult, because then, your prefrontal cortex is fully developed. What’s the prefrontal cortex? It’s  the decision making center of the brain which enables you to reason and not go along with your animal instincts. (enough of brain science). Use these years of your life to learn anything, read, experiment….and in the process, you’ll find exactly what you were created to do.
  3. Develop people skills: I hated those words. All speakers who came to my high school said these. Being an introvert, I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult life would be. (I didn’t know about introversion then, I just knew talking to strangers, too much talk, noise and people weren’t my forte). Take this advice from someone who never wanted to even hear it but now knows it’s true value. You’ll find your way if you put your mind to it, work on it, read and get out of your own way. People Skills is emotional intelligence(EQ) and unlike IQ, you can increase your EQ. EQ determines one’s success more than IQ does. ( it’s where the cliché that A students work for C students comes from I guess). Without the ability to work with people, your academic grades won’t do much for you. So, whichever path you take; art, music, surgery, entrepreneurship, science, politics, you need to work extremely well with people to succeed.
  4. Discipline and hard work: I know, the biggest clichés of all time. Hard work pays. It’s been repeated too much and seems to have lost meaning. I like to look at it differently, so it stops feeling old: bringing your entire self into everything you do. Doing anything you do to the best of your ability. Anything; brushing your teeth, making your bed. It’s excellence in the mundane stuff. Discipline is doing what’s right, in the right way, at the right time. Easy, right? wrong. I have been thinking lately and I think that’s why success is not a destination. You never arrive, it’s a continuous pursuit because discipline is not something you can ‘achieve’. You’ll never figure out how to always do the right things without struggling: wake up early, exercise, eat right, not waste time. You’re stuck in a war with yourself.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. Negotiate with yourself and fight to do what’s right. Everyone  knows what’s right., it’s why people try to justify wrongdoing.
  5. Find yourself: Find out who you real are. The sooner you do, the better. Society( i hate that word) will try to standardize you. Apparently, there are all these steps you ‘should’ ( another word i hate) take. I have watched people painfully try to fit into societal roles and it’s excruciating just to watch. Be who you are. Be honest with yourself and the world around you. Stop trying to fit in, you weren’t created to fit in. How do you find yourself? Start with who am I?, try to answer that without attaching things, people, accomplishments to your answer. You’ll find you can’t put yourself in a sentence because you’re not just a daughter, son, teacher, driver…you’re so much more. It’s what people call potential. All that you could be in within you now. Introspection, looking within yourself, observing yourself is also a way you could use to find out who you are. Again, this is a life long quest, you’ll never really know who you are. I’d say, life is the pursuit of self knowledge. Know thyself.
  6. Responsibility: How your life turns out is all on you. Not your circumstances or other people. You can blame the government (aren’t we so good at doing this though), blame your parents, the country you’re born in, the list is endless. Take responsibility for your actions, do the best you can, make life better for yourself and others. Nobody is coming to save you. You’ve got to figure it out on your own. 

To all those who received their KCSE results, I’d say in conclusion, you get to choose how your life turns out. With the few principles I’ve shared along with all the advice you’ll get along the way, I hope you find the courage to bring who you really are into the world, then, your life and the world around you will be worthwhile.

Kelvin Says

Let students choose courses based on passion and how they got the grades rather than grades they got: Some students are drilled/ assisted in a way to get some results. A student might have achieved say A- through drilling but if he/ she was on him/herself the grade could have been say B or B-. Such students might not perform in a course that require A- student

All approved university courses are marketable and marketability depends on the individual students.

A degree is generally to prepare the mind of student to be trainable. The training can be in the field of study or in other fields. We have bankers whose first degrees are biological sciences, we have successful artists with engineering background and many others. We have doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers etc. who are currently not employed But that doesn’t mean that the courses they did are wrong or bad.

Chris Says

  1. Take it easy, take time to choose what to do. A lot of advice coming along their way might end up confusing to many.
  2. Research as much as possible about their career. And not just about how marketable it is
  3. Allow progressive growth. For those who didn’t make campus points starting off at polytechnics and college is still a path.
  4. Stay open minded. What one studies in campus or college might not necessarily be the primary career they undertake but it’s a foundation for their entire career life.
  5. Grades are not everything. Our mental capacities are different and we haven’t figured out a grading system for each and every one. How one performed at the exam is not the final determinant of life’s outcome. There is more to life and career

Betty Says

  • To start thinking about the college-career connection early on. I think I passed through 4 yrs of campus without knowing why I’m studying what I’m studying and what I want to be.
  • They can get a mentor to help them think through it. On how they can secure a mentor.-These could be people in their circles, friends to parents/guardians, people from church and other community organizations, sport orgs. etc. even former teachers or people they know in various workplaces. The real work is deciding who is going to be  a mentor.  By deciding the kind of the person they want to be/career they want to enter, they can identify the person who seems to match their goals the most. Someone they look up as role models. Speak with them to establish some sort of rapport or even friendship. And use the opportunity to consult. hey can even ask someone outright if they would consider being their mentor, as long as their is a mutual agreement to play the mentor and mentee roles.
  • Study the work market to find what skills are in demand, and ask themselves what they need to study to learn those skills

Calvin Says

As an older brother in this life. Please do note the following:

  1. Get a job as early as possible. Don’t mind which just get the job. Learn the skills and earn money to support yourself and family pre- college.
  2. The hype of getting good results and the despair that comes with not so good results should not be occupying your mind. Just move on and thank God and your folks for all the efforts.
  3. Career choice…please do note the following: the govt wont employ you. At least until you are around 40yrs. So, traditional very good occupations like Medicine, Engineering, Law, Teaching etc. will not guarantee a job for you. Agriculture has been systematically discouraged in this country due to poor public policies and entrenched corruption. Self employment is even worse coz of the tax regimes implemented. And this isn’t going to change anytime soon now that the same crop of leaders are still the ones in charge and will continue to be in charge for the next decade at least ( all factors ceteris paribus). What’s the recourse? Choose a career path that will guarantee sustainability, self employment, dynamic and cross cutting… TVET course are well known for this. I will give you examples, healthcare, food industry, agricultural value chain addition, IT and security, biotech will be the next frontier in the region on the next decade.
  4. To succeed in life in whatever field, you must have exceptional social skills, the art of influencing others, sales, marketing, lead generation and ice breakers must be your charm in life.
  5. Do not, and I repeat, do not admire quick riches without hard work, determination and consistency backing you. It will always end in premium tears. Wash wash, fake gold, sugar mummies, illegal deals, drugs, corrupt deals will make you lose your morality and hence humanity. And of course, ultimate untimely early death.
  6. Above all, love and fear God. Respect, love and care for your parents and siblings. Lastly, be humble and considerate to your peers; they will genuinely give back by showing you the way.

Hezz Says.

With high rate of unemployment, I think its good for students to think outside the box. Find opportunities they can start something. Apply for grants and participate in hackathons with those ideas. There might be no money to start but in a hackathon one could get funding.

Then there are several venture capitalist platforms online. In Africa there’s VC4A where one can share their idea to investors in the platform.. If it’s good, it will be taken up by someone. Aside from that the platform has an academy that offer me training for startup founders.

Another thing is read and invest in knowledge that is not taught in school. Financial Literacy etc.

Stephen Says

My advise to the KCSE students would be to go for short courses to acquire skills that would propel them into their careers. As they wait to join university, TVET, colleges, they should acquire e.g. computer an IT skills, learn foreign language, get into volunteer program that empower the community and in a way give back to the community that supported them to excel.

Some can go back to where they did KCPE and see how best to give back to the society.

Excelling in exams doesn’t mean you will make it in life but the small things one does to improve the society have more impact to those less privileged counts most.

Israel Says

  1. Passing or not KCSE is merely an opportunity to start the journey. Success in life / career is entirely another matter.
  2. In school discipline was enforced by the teachers. Out of school they have to walk the long and narrow. Self discipline which is defined as the ability to regulate one’s conduct through high moral principle rather than desire, impulse or social pressure.
  3. The grades now give way to discipline, commitment, perseverance and determination. Getting an A or D may not necessarily translate to success or failure in life. By default many grade D’s end up as successful businessmen and women employing the services of the A’s as Lawyers, Engineers, Doctors etc.
  4. The grades have given a reflection of their latent abilities. The time to carefully choose their career path is now.

Val Says

  • Do something you are passionate about, something that stimulates your creativity so that you can come up with new ideas that will lead solutions and inventions.
  • Avoid applied science courses by all means😂😂😂, unless they are passionate and ready to fight their way through. If you choose a biology-related courses for the sake of getting a job, fanya medical lab or medicine. If you are sure that they want to go into research then only then can they do these other science courses and be ready to go all the way to at least a masters degree to thrive in the field.
  • Align your career objective towards the sustainable development goals. Whichever field you choose, they should aim at solving existing problems, not just getting a job and stagnating for life
  • Consider going for courses that equip them with skills which they can use on a day to day, to earn e.g. Culinary arts, Programming, Web design etc. I have friends who are applying these skills and wanapata doh, while still in campus.
  • The business world is welcoming, same to the IT world. Science, law, media and engineering will require someone to be extra extra creative and aggressive.

Dan Says,

Hang around people who show you how to get money instead of showing you they got it.

Michael Says

If you didn’t attain the cut off points to enter the university and especially the ones that weren’t good in books not to shun a course on a technical course. Don’t be afraid of what your friends or peers will think about the course they have chosen. They should be encouraged to go ahead and do the courses and get hands on skills and strive to be the their best in their own trade because when they become the best, in future, they will be recognized for their workmanship.

Christine says

It is just the beginning of life. Whatever degree you will be called for, don’t limit yourself to that.
That thing you are passionate about right now, follow it even if you are enrolled in a different career..
Don’t worry about the grade you got, just follow what you love..

If maybe you have not found passion, don’t worry it will find you with time..

University is a great place but it wont teach you what you need to know about life.. So don’t come out college thinking you will get a job easily.. And getting a job is not making it either..
If I was doing this whole campus thing all over again, I would definitely think more entrepreneurship (not in the classical sense since I am heavily introverted).. Just more introverted forms of entrepreneurship..

Definitely read books and biographies and speeches from successful people.. This helps alot

Also, dont be afraid to make mistakes and fail.. Be afraid not to get out of your comfort zone.. I mean aside from school.. This is a great time to start thinking of building yourself into an independent human being esp personal financial literacy .. So that life wont hit u as much right after campus..

And, always set short term and long term goals and track them over time

The most important is stay close to God.. Always..

Jos Says

The results are out and is just a mark representing about 1% of their capabilities.
To take this period with great wisdom as it is that point in life that they are transitioning from ‘system education’ to ‘passion education’. Let them now follow their passion and go study what they like to practice in life. For once they have a choice! But, it is harsh out here, they should take time to study and harden for a rude shock out here.

Joshua says

For those who passed or failed according to theirs or societal expectations should know this is not their destination. What you do after this really matters.

There is pressure to chose certain courses according to the society or your parents but that is not important. The most important thing is your passion. Find a way to be guided on what you are passionate about. You can score a straight A but your passion is not on medicine or engineering but your passion is somewhere else.

Do something you are passionate about so that you enjoy what you do in the future. Ask yourself, would you love to spend your entire life doing what you have chosen to do? This will help you avoid changing courses several times in campus.

Mike Says

Before enrollment to the university, visit different fields and get short attachments like a month or two. Monitor what experts in the fields like medicine, fashion, Transport, research, banking, media etc. Choose like three fields, go to those companies and see what they do before making a decision. Be confident to approach these institutions and request those kind of monitory attachments, after all you are not working just observing and I don’t think managers of these institutions can have reservations about this.

Candy Says

Ajue life sio smooth huku nje achangamke😂😂

Questions? I will find someone to answer. 0718-896-962 or Meanwhile, I would like some guesses. The advises above come from a Professor, Construction worker, Procurement officer, Scientist, Model, Engineer, Business owner, Pharmacist, Education ambassador, NGO Director, Science journalist, Professional Hiker, Research Consultant, Sales person, Science Application specialist, Driver, CEO- Media, Lecturer, Marketer and a Mechanic. Some have more than two roles. Who is Who?

Third lesson: Connect, Network and be zealous. This is my story. Most of these people, I do not know them personally thanks to LinkedIn app and Social activities such as hiking. Find where people are meeting and go there. Make meaningful connections and don’t shy from saying what you do – FYI, I am an introvert.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished school. My boyfriend then who was in university already chose for me. I even dropped off a Platform that helped students get scholarships because I did not know my passion.

One night as a Mono in high school, I told Brenda, my Bunkie (Slept in the lower bed) that I did not know what to do once I was done with school. She seemed focused and knew what she wanted to do once she finished her form four that year. She had just come from down-school and the other two roommates were asleep. Form 2 and 3. No two form 2’s. Not sure why we didn’t have a form three like other rooms in our hostel.

“What do you like to do?”

That wasn’t a had question. We had moved from big to small to big to another simply because my parents struggled to pay rent.

“I like arranging the house once we move from one house to another.”

“I also like to draw.”

“I love physics.”

At the time, I was not performing in Mathematics. I had just moved from working questions from choices to question in primary school to high school where they needed the whole story of how I got the answer. No multiple choices. I had to learn mathematics all over again.

I heard the word architecture from her the first time. Come form four, I did not perform well in physics but still my cluster points allowed me to do Landscape architecture at KU. The government chose Biochemistry for me at TUK, My last option. I had heard the word biochemistry from the examination officer as I was walking out of school after picking my results slip.

I still remember that moment. It was outside the school fence along State house road. I was walking down still shaken and surprised by my results. You see, I got a D- or D not sure during my post mock and here I was my face plastered on the wall of State house girls as the few A-‘s.

No No, I did not study hard. I had learnt myself after 4 years. I was doing it the wrong way. My brain hates overworking. All through high school, I was not a great performer. The mistake was I worked too hard. My face was known in music. People knew I would be a musician. I was given offers by producers to be their recording artist.

Come Mock exams, I had given up. Totally! I was done with this education thing. During the exam period, I did not study. Come results, I had my best grade since I started school. I was excited and worked even harder- as compared to the rest of high school- during my post mock and had my worst grade. I was confused!

Sarah, What did you do right during your Mock? I took a risk. Attempted my ” Skip preps or go to preps with your sheet and sleep.” The exams were crazy. I even told my mom earlier enough that she shouldn’t expect much. Getting my KCSE made me understand why in class 2, I got everything out of everything after moving from a private school where I used to be number 26/29 all the time. Staki pressure.

Fourth lesson: Learn yourself. Know what environments help you shine. We are not the same.

Then he said, Nyakeri, how are you. Congratulations. This is someone we never exchanged a word all my schooling life. He knew my surname. He knew that I passed. Wow. I used the opportunity and asked what course I should do. He said Biochemistry. He had done the same thing and was a high school teacher, I thought. Why not do the same. It was scam! Though it explains why I did change my course which was about 1k or sth to change since I was enrolled in the best Engineering university in Kenya.

He told me what he was exposed to. Fifth lesson: Expose yourself to what is out there. Talk to people ahead of you. Ask questions. Read books. What youtube and vimeo videos on how things are done and happy. Read articles. Study free courses online. Audit some. Take all you can.

I chose to ask the department to find me a place and know what this biochemistry was all about. Six years later, I do not regret taking a biochemistry cause. I have written about how 90% of biochemistry graduates who some happen to my friends don’t get opportunities but the truth is the industry is saturated. If you are not passionate and do not fight for yourself, you will hate it. Its a fact, applied sciences do not have a market in Kenya. That doesn’t mean their is no gap elsewhere. In the short period I have gotten many internship and job offers which some I have rejected simply because there is something I was chasing that I finally got.

Just last week, I learnt that PhD scholarships advertised in Kenya have very low number of applicants. Why? We are not zealous enough. Sometimes, I am not zealous enough.

Don’t do it for your parents. They won’t be there to pay your bills. My parents were not happy when I broke the knew that I had quit work to go back to school. I wanted to be happy and after sorting for advise from people who had thrived in the career I wanted, I had made my decision. To date, they still have no idea what I did in school both BSc and MSc but they are very proud of me because I look happy and seem to love what I do. That’s what parents want. They want to see you happy but do not necessarily know everything.

Would have I thrived in architecture? Maybe? Would I switch careers to photography or Influencing or science journalism. I have no idea. I recently learnt that I can make a good hiker and make money out of it. Everyday is a learning process, there is no defined destination.

Other people’s stories

Juliet’s Story

I left high school in Nov joined campo in May the following year, I was 17 and had no clue what I wanted to do. I could have asked to wait because after all my parents choose parallel degree but I felt that I was wasting time and so did my parents. I ended up doing an expensive course I hated for 4 yrs….thinking in retrospect a few more months could have helped build more clarity and saved all of us 4 yrs of torture.

I did Food science Nutrition…now i am a sales and marketing person in the IT & power sector and i enjoy it very much

My advice:

  1. I think the first is that it’s okay to not be sure of what you want to do with your next phase and it’s okay to take a minute to think about it…. I think the whole idea of rushing in to campo/college is a lot of undue pressure.
  2. Listen to your gut on your choice, be bold with it and defend it if you have to (mostly to parents)…it’s so costly financially, emotionally and mentally to go through 4+ years doing something you don’t want.

Mercy’s Story

I remember waiting for announcement of KCSE results those many years ago. I wasn’t scared, that’s the bit I remember. I had an underlying feeling that I had done well. I got my results early afternoon and it was jubilation all afternoon. I remember calling an aunt I hadn’t spoken to in months to tell her how well I had done.
The excitement lasted a week or so. I had to now figure out if I would be selected for the course I chose. We had the cluster subject’s paperwork used by the then Joint Admissions Board for selection into University. I knew as early as then that I didn’t qualify. With my parents, we explored the possibility of joining the course on module II but that didn’t sit right with me. That would be a massive investment, high cost to my parents who had already invested heavily in my education. I didn’t feel it was the path for me. After a lot of consultations, we decided not to take that route.
We went through the options that were available and the information my mom had gathered from friends and relatives and had two alternatives to choose from. I thought through it and wondered which was best for me. I prayed about it because I knew God is all knowing and He had insights into the future we could never see with our limited human minds. That’s how I landed the course I studied, by the grace of God, I was chosen for my first choice course at my first choice University.
What do I think as I look back, I have seen quite a bit and reading the news yesterday, I couldn’t help but think “but their life is just beginning”.

Brian’s Story

I was slightly disappointed with my performance, but turned out I had perform okay. I missed my courses of choice, and had to go and select others. Ended up with my last choice. But during the waiting period, I had a chat with many people who were ahead of me, including visiting a nearby university to talk to a lecturer.

I was clueless.

It was a real struggle figuring out what next. I had no manual really; I doubt any exist. We take it as it comes. Make the best decisions based on the information we have, and all will work out well in the end.

There is space for everyone as long as you are guided by integrity, honesty and work ethic. Don’t wait for the government. Do your thing. As long as you work hard in whatever line you chose, don’t stop! If you want to be a billionaire, you can’t find that while employed. Start a business, now! If money is not your goal, find other things that can pay your bill and make you happy even if it turns out to be a business. if you are stuck, ask people who are already doing it. Kuuliza si ujinga. Reality though, not everyone will be nice and receptive. Be ready for that so that it doesn’t make you feel less worthy or discourage you from asking. Press the ignore button and keep going. I am yet to hear stories of people who succeeded and happy because they drank all kinds of alcohol and had sex in all positions. If you find them kindly share with us. We are open-minded.

Other stories:

2 Cents: Corona KCSE graduate Career ‘Manual’ | Sarah Nyanchera Nyakeri

Why a Biochemistry Course is a Bad Idea in Africa – Science Media Africa

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