Last year in August, history was written at Connecticut University, however much it was not publicised by local media like in the case of Peter Tabichi, a Nyamira-born teacher who won Sh100 million in Global Best teacher awards in Dubai.
But for Dr Fridah Mokaya, who as hails from Nyamira, her dream to achieve a rare academic achievement, PhD in Nuclear Physics, remains the best ever award at the American University for a black student.
It all started at Pangani Girls where she scored an A grade in Physics before proceeding to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. At the institution, she picked Physics as her main subject of interest.
“One thing I will never forget is that in all this, my Dad did not talk much, he just told the teacher that I was his daughter and he knew me and what I can do and he had no doubt that I will excel in physics. This was the turning point.
"My Physics teacher Mr. Orinda, saw how distressed I was and knowing my potential told the deputy principal that he had allowed me in the Physics class on condition that I had to perform. Let’s just say that I worked hard and it paid off. I got an “A” in Physics when I sat for my KCSE exam. Looking back, I know that were it not for the deep belief that my parents and teacher had in me, I may not be where I am," she said in an interview with Africa Magazine.
“I did my four years in campus with very good grades and just a few days to graduation when the graduation list was out, lo and behold my name was on the second-class honors lower division list. I had never felt so distressed in my life. All the arduous work I had put in, including the late nights for a second class lower?” she said “I was very heart broken.”
As fate would have it she ended up pursuing her master’s degree (M.Sc. Physics) in the United States at the Binghamton University (SUNY). Then moving on to the PhD Program at the University of Connecticut where she conducted research in the field of Experimental Nuclear and Hadronic Physics.
After years of hard-work, Fridah was awarded a PhD in Nuclear Physics, but becoming the first woman from Kenya to have such an auspicious achievement. She says that achieving something unique may not be easy but one must work hard and never give up.
“I want everyone to know that anyone can achieve anything you want in life… Challenges along the way should propel you to keep going and not discourage you.”