Anthony Roktok Cherop was born on 4th July 1996 as the second born in a family of five. He was raised in Torr village in Baringo County in Kenya, a place bordering the Pokot community. Together with his siblings, they were raised by a single mother; after the parents separated because his father is a drunkard. He spent his entire childhood in the semi-arid Baringo County performing the normal boys’ chores in the culture of the Kalenjin people. As a young boy he used to look after the animals alongside his brothers. His elder brother taught him basic alphabet and simple math while out in the fields. After studying for 2 terms in nursery school in the year 2000, Roktok joined class one in Barwessa primary school which was the nearest school, just about five kilometers from home. He recalls,
“We used to study in mud-walled classrooms which we sprinkled water on the floor every morning before sweeping to avoid dust which could prevent teachers from attending lessons. During the rainy season the classroom walls collapsed and our parents had to come to school to repair them. I remember one particular incident when I was in class three and the tin roof of the whole school was blown by wind and we had nowhere to study for some weeks before a charity organization came to our rescue.”
Anthony was chosen in his class to be writing letters to the organization so that they would assist build better classrooms for their school. When in class five the school improved a great deal because new classrooms had been built by the organization. Schooling had its challenges because Anthony says his school was located near the Pokot community which used to attack the villages and raid cattle and sometimes kill people. With memories still fresh, he says, “I remember one particular time when we were forced to take our cattle to the police station at night to prevent the Pokot from stealing them. This situation even when I was in class six worsened and most people in my village transferred their children to boarding schools far away from home. My mother took my elder brother and I to Poi primary school which is about thirty miles away from home but was comparatively safer than home.”
Even with the challenges, Roktok sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E), and managed to score 374 of 500 marks, an unlikely score with those conditions. In February 2009, Anthony was admitted to Kituro Secondary School, a mixed school in Baringo County and which he says was associated with chaos because not a single year would pass without the students going on a strike. During the first year in the school, Anthony thought of leaving school because of the extreme bullying they experienced from the senior students especially in the hostels. In one of such occasions he recalls bitterly,
“We used to even wash their clothes during the weekend and the worst which happened to me was when I was forced to sing one of the form four boys a lullaby at night. None of the new students dared report the bullies to the teachers because they threatened to even kill and go to jail.”
With these challenges also came strikes by the students which interrupted studies. A few weeks to the national exam, the teachers also went on strike forcing students to study on their own. After sitting his KCSE examination, Roktok scored a straight $ with a mean of 84 points becoming the best male student in the county and the school was ranked the 14th best in the county. Because of his performance Anthony was employed at Equity bank and worked at Kabarnet branch. Later in 2014 he was admitted to the prestigious University of Toronto, St. George campus through the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. He travelled to Canada to study and often comes back home to be with the family.
Anthony is currently in his final year pursuing Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology. He wishes to pursue a career in clinical pharmacology or environmental toxicology in future. He hopes that every young person can use the opportunities they have to succeed, “I’d advise people to have a plan to succeed, work hard for it and pray to God for that success. Helping others in the process also helps you get closer to that goal.”
Last year Anthony was interviewed by Alex Chamwada for his feature story on #DaringAbroad. The story, and many more stories of Kenyans daring abroad will air on KTN News beginning February.