I was born to a single mother of four sons in 1985 in Molo, Nakuru County in Kenya. Growing up, we never thought we lacked anything because everyone in the village seemed to have exactly what your family had. If you ate ‘Chapati’ or rice, life was great! We played in the mud and tore our pants in the process, trapped birds, and went swimming in the river.
As a young boy, I spent hours and hours propped up on my elbows, listening to radio. My favorite football commentators were Ali Salim Manga and Jack Oyoo Sylvester of KBC. I wanted to be like them. When they talked, people would listen. Once when I was 11, an elderly lady from our local church caught me imitating them. But instead of telling me to quiet down, like others would normally react, she told me I had a voice for radio. I knew from then on that I wanted to be a journalist.
The truth is, being a single mom of four boys can be quite rough when you are the mother, father, provider and mentor. It’s not easy raising young men, giving each one of them full attention, while also providing for them. Despite the steep mountain before her, my mother was a strict disciplinarian whose guidance helped us a lot. Even so, I struggled with identity crisis as a result of growing up without a father figure. I wondered why I was the only one without a father coming home to our house at the end of a working day. I was often frustrated and spoke out of turn. My loudness was interpreted as rudeness, so I was branded as an attention seeker. I did not take any directive as a gospel truth, I questioned my teachers and mother alike. I had a mind of my own and I was not exactly what you’d consider a bright student, either. As a result, I grew up suffering from issues to do with self-esteem, decision making, assertiveness and interpersonal skills.
Nearing high school, I was fascinated with the orderly structure of the military — something I lacked. I decided to sign up for the local scout movement. This angered many of the people involved. They thought my past behaviors spoke to the fact that I couldn’t keep up with such a disciplined group. But I was committed and took much pride in the group. I learned so much from the leadership, though I had not fully shed my rebellious spirit. On Valentine’s Day in 2003, I decided to play one last prank in my last year of school as the Scout Movement leader. Every Monday and Friday the school hoisted the Kenyan flag before a school-wide assembly. So, I rolled all types of flowers inside the flag, so the flowers would beautifully sprinkle on the students below. Turns out, the whole school went berserk. In our days, corporal punishment was the in-thing. I was thoroughly beaten by the teachers, only to head home for another round of beating from my mother.
Unfortunately, my top choices for university were proving hard to come by. I had not performed well enough to join Journalism College. Meanwhile, my younger brothers were both in boarding high schools, and my elder brother had spent two years without joining college due to lack of tuition fees. My mother was feeling the burden of educating us all. I knew it would take a while before joining college, so I convinced myself that I’d educate myself rather than wait for so many years.
My mind wandered back to my days as a scout leader, when I dreamt of serving in the military. I told myself that I would prepare for every opportunity on the horizon. I trained in martial arts, making sure I would be ready in case that the military would come calling. And so out of desperation, I joined Kenya Police with one thing in mind; save enough and go back to school and study journalism.
During my training, I needed a creative outlet. Kenya has set books that students study in the upper grades of school for their exams. For students to better understand the content of the books for the literature exam, there are theater groups that act out the set books who would travel to different school with crews. After high school, I decided that I would take a chance and audition for a role — and was selected. For years, I struggled to be noticed, and now I was on stage in major arenas. I actually thought that I would find my place in Hollywood. However, I soon learned that acting did not pay as much. Jobs were scarce, and it was almost impossible to make a living from the craft. That’s how I found myself in Kiganjo in December 2004, undergoing a thorough recruitment process.
I served the government as a police officer for three years. In 2005, I was posted in, the then, Eastern Province, Sericho station in Isiolo Division. I arrived in Modogashe town when there was relative peace after years of the Shifta War. Because there weren’t many threats or cause for alarm, we watched a lot of football and read newspapers hours on end. It was a good time.
While in service, I enjoyed solving cases. Seeing that a dispute had been resolved and putting criminals behind bars was satisfying. We would conduct raids in criminal dens and exchange the blows of fire arms with the enemy, risking our lives because we knew every civilian life secured through our work was worth it.
The downside however was the lack of government’s support in the police welfare. Our living conditions was no better than prisoners of wars dens. Leaking houses, really poor pay, poor working conditions, and lack of uniforms which led to rampant corruption. I believe God was who helped me navigate the temptation of taking a bribe. But life was very difficult with such meager pay. The sad part is, many years after I left, most officers today, still live the same life including low pay and a huge workload.
However, the distance from home, the harsh weather conditions and being lonely had a toll on me. After three years of service, and after so much sacrifice, I felt I had saved enough cash to go back to school. I applied for a certificate in Broadcast Journalism at Kenya Institute of Mass communication. The college used quota system in picking its students and I was very blessed to be among the top three students who got the chance to study there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. KIMC is a prestigious institution known for training broadcasters in the whole of Eastern Africa Region. I quit my job as a police officer and pursued my first love.
Life at KIMC is was memorable! From the very first day, I joined the drama club known in the whole country as “Power House.” We would whip many colleges in the national drama festivals and for the four years that I represented my college in the national fest, we never went back with less than 20 trophies from different categories. After my certificate, I returned a year later for my diploma. I finally found my love of broadcast journalism.
I have had different stints at different work areas since my graduation in 2011, but now, I use my loud voice not only to transform the lives of my listeners, I share my testimony, my faith, and the love of the one whose service to mankind is incomparable. I am Radio Presenter and practicing journalist with Radio Maisha, currently rated as the most listened to Radio Station in Kenya.
Looking back on my life, I realize that I spent too much time wanting to be accepted by those around me who could not see my potential. What they did not know then, was that my outspoken, comedic nature would be my greatest gift.
This is the story of Fredrick Muitiriri
Fredrick is a Radio Presenter working with Radio Maisha currently, 2018, rated as the most listened to Radio Station in Kenya. He hosts a gospel show every weekday from 4 am-6 am. He is also a political reporter. He met his wife, Ann back in 2012 during a radio audition in Nakuru and three years later, they married. They are blessed with 2 children. He attributes most of his growth to the influence and mentorship of his wife who challenges him to dream big. Together with his wife, they spread the gospel in high schools through their church’s school missions.
Life Log #111
This story first touched our hearts on July 5, 2018.
Read the story on our website: https://ourlifelogs.com/2018/07/24/speaking-louder/