In a breath-taking blog, Student Ambassador Stephen reflects on his journey so far. From a daily two-hour walk to secondary school, to life at Maynooth University, Stephen is relentless in his quest for lifelong learning and knowledge. He thinks of the resilience and strength that education brings to communities and shares it all with us…

Seated in the library, I stare at the window and then at my screen for long stretches. My eyes are dead, my mind blank. Two chapters of my thesis and an advanced gender studies assignment are due. It’s 7:30pm, and the sun still shines bright. The end of March 2022, the heydays of a springing spring. The best I could hope for. Since I arrived here, the weather has been unrelentingly cold. I am then reminded by the meteorologist forecasts it will rain the following day, and I should enjoy it while it lasts. 

Stephen at Maynooth University (photo: Stephen)

I then decided to take a break from my thesis and write this blog. As I do, I reflect on my journey. A journey that started three decades ago in Kenya’s hot and humid coastal region. I think of the daily two-hour walk I took for four years to get my secondary education. I think of my family. The last born among nine siblings and the only one who had made it to the university. I go down the memory lane of the long-holiday jobs I had to do to supplement my university education fees. My mind then wanders through the sacrifices my parents and siblings had to make to support my journey. Finally, I think of my relentless desire to be more fully human. My quest for life-long learning, for knowledge. A journey that has brought me here. Maynooth. 

Community learning in Kenya (photo: Stephen)

My new home. 

I reflect on my experiences in the Adult and Community Education classes, and a bridge comes to mind. A bridge to the “other” side. A side of possibilities and opportunities. Bridging the gap towards self-actualisation. A chance to impact the community in ways more than one. I then reflect on the diversity in our class and the nuanced multiple social realities that shape and enrich our discussions. My own transformation as my “frame of reference” is constantly challenged. 

Working in the library (photo: Stephen)

I think of the question I was once asked by the first friend I met through Maynooth campus connect. “Bro, what opportunities are there in the Adult and Community Education field? 20 years from now we will not be in need of teachers, our children will be learning from the comfort of our homes”. I am then reminded of the vital role Adult and Community Education plays as an instrument of change. Her “empowerment for a better world” mantra. Her transformative nature. An ozone layer that serves the interests of all other sectors. From developing pedagogical approaches used in the universities as adult education institutions to providing second chances to youth and adults who never attended formal education. I think of the continuous workplace training that ensures staff remain productive in a fast-paced environment. Finally, my mind drifts to the global citizenship education initiatives that equip communities with skills to tackle contemporary issues such as climate change, inequality, environmental issues, and poverty. 

I think of the wings that adult education gives individuals and societies to remain resilient and be more equal and I am tempted to opine that immobility is the greatest existential threat to humans. We are all on a journey towards better selves that should draw sustainability from the springs of lifelong learning. 

Well, I’ve been immobile in this seat for hours on end, a fatal threat! Time to go to my apartment. 

Stephen is studying Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University.