My name is Edith Olwande,I am the daughter of Jane and Francis; I was born in a polygamous family in the year 1992, 14th of April. My father had two wives, the first wife had two kids, Ann and Moses and she divorced. The 2nd wife is my mother, she had four kids, one died, that leaves Nancy, Caroline and me. I am a total orphan; my mother died in the process of giving birth to me. My father was a cleaner in Highlands school now known as Moi Girls High School in Eldoret, Kenya. He took care of me up to class four and, later when he died, and we were forced to move out of the school compound, we moved to Munyaka slums. After Dad’s burial my stepsister Ann became so harsh to every one in the house; she beat up everybody in the house and denied us food. Moses resolved to go to Busia to Father’ s ancestral land to start his own life, and Caroline and Nancy got married. Caroline was in class six & Nancy class eight. I remained with Ann as I was so young and innocent I could not go anywhere.
My stepsister Ann became so harsh she would chase me out at night and deny me food; she wanted me to get married too, like my sisters. I would sleep in culverts, people’s bathrooms and latrines because I feared to go into people’s houses. Despite all this, I used to wake up and go to school. I used to feel different, unwanted and unloved; I became a thief and I stole other pupil’s books and pens because I wanted to learn and I had no one to help me. I used to pick food in the dustbins at lunch time and sometimes supper and then I would go back home to recieve my daily caning. I’d cry the whole night if I happened to sleep in the house such that I actually became a street girl who never left school. I would go home only rarely. I finished class eight at the age of 12. After class eight, I wanted to become a house girl but I was so tiny no one wanted me in their house; then Caroline appeared after a good four years; she said she had come back for me and as she didn’t want me to be a house girl, she took me to her place in Kakamega
Caroline asked me to go back to class seven and learn for two more years so as to be bright and bigger both in size and age. I went back to school and I worked so hard and I got so much support from all my teachers and my sister that, in the end, I became the first girl in the school with 392 marks out of 500marks. I was big but I didn’t want to be a house girl or a wife; I wanted to learn and unite my family and help my sister Caroline who was not happy in her marriage. Somebody told me about CHES, Canadian Harambee Education Support and my headteacher took me there; I did the interview and I got a scholarship! I was so happy! I wore my first pair of Bata shoes at the age of 15 and a new uniform and guess what? I went to a boarding school! Mukumu Girls’. I wanted to become a woman of substance; I joined handball and I became the best player, and I became the best artist in the art class. At the end of four years I got a university entry grade but I didn’t qualify to be sponsored by the government, however, I still wanted to learn!
[Edith is at Teacher's Training College now thanks to sponsorship by Norm and Cheryl Filipenko. She is learning to sign while volunteering at a school for the deaf and she helped interpret at the Harambee Centre during the interviews with scholarship applicants from this school.]