The only thing I share with John Ngoru is bad handwriting. But I can write and sign cheques, just in case you thought my handwriting is illegible. The thing is, it’s just bad but legible. It appears to have confidence issues and overwhelmingly dependable on my moods. Speaking of which, it bothers me how much energy and focus I apply just to write nicely. Writing a letter at a time with its own breathing and personal space is, to say the least daunting. I mean, where does the patience to write endearingly come from? In my thinking, one should write as fast as one constructs the sentence in his head. Writing shouldn’t be slower and perfect. It should have some sort of ego and shrubs of beards, especially men handwriting. What I’m I driving at? That it’s an offense for men to have cute handwriting. Back to Dr.Ngoru, our similarity can only be enforced by our handwriting and not perusing medical journals and burning the mid night oil reading bulky books that do not trigger any urge to live a happy life. That aside, I jokingly enquired from him if there is a particular handwriting doctors learn in Med school. And he confirmed not one he is aware of.
Of course, it is intimidating interviewing somebody who is not only an alumnus of the envied Nairobi University School of Medicine but a lad who was among the creme of the class. How on earth do you top in Med school? To be more precise, he was the best final year student of the University of Nairobi in the class of 2013. You now get the drift!
I met Doctor Ngoru for the first time in the year 2004, in Nyahururu High School, both of us as Form Ones; timid and hugely over-monolised. We were classmates right from Form one to Form four. Speaking of monolisation that ranged from cleaning our uniforms in the dirty sinks, never mind without buckets, because buckets were a privilege especially for Form ones, to reverting to the dormitories after 12 am after the lethal bullies had not only retired to bed but fast asleep. It was more baffling for me in the sense that, my bucket and I departed ways right at the administration block, few minutes after my mum had stepped out of the school gate, when a face I couldn’t make up later, volunteered to assist in carrying my bucket only to melt into the crowd.
That notwithstanding, Ngoru, didn’t only top in our class, but the entire stream of over 150 boys so consistently for the four years of our high school course. And you’d think, he was such a book warmer. Certainly not. I know of fellows who studied harder and for longer hours than him. Dr.Ngoru was just an intellectual in a class of his own. He was a genius who was and is still shy to admit so. In fact, he tried to transfer school three times in high school and succeeded in getting admission to schools that were way better than Nyahururu High. Unfortunately, his parents couldn’t afford to transfer him to those schools even after being served with admission letters since they were way expensive. And so as it would appear, this didn’t thwart the efforts of Ngoru to study much harder even after fate looked grim and unrewarding.
And to put light to his childhood; Dr. John Ngoru grew up like any typical village boy then born in 1989, in a family of five siblings, as the firstborn in Kajiado District. His dad was a driver with the Ministry of Trade and Commerce based in Kajiado but sadly, lost his job controversially. What this meant is that Ngoru and his family had to relocate to their native home back in Nyandarua County. Having a jobless dad and a mother who was practicing small scale farming didn’t add up to much, in terms of family welfare. To add salt to injury, his dad had a responsibility of taking care of his parents and siblings (Ngoru’s grandparents and uncles/aunts).
What type of a kid were you? “I was a quiet kid who loved reading a lot. I moved to top the class from standard 4, where I maintained number one position from then to class 8.” Ngoru, spent his school holidays and weekends grazing his dad’s livestock in the far fields of Lake Ol Bolossat. Which brings me to the point; Andreaders should make a point of visiting Lake Ol Bolossat which for a fact, is the only lake in the former Central province. Here, you can enjoy the beach-like atmosphere and it can be very windy in the evenings. You will enjoy watching hippos from a safe distance, boat riding in the placid water body and peering at the bird life. For your information, there are very competitive villas and vacational homes with ample accommodation spaces. It is quite mesmerizing sipping your cold beer, eyes fixed on the calm lake that extends its wings to the sleepy Nyandarua Ranges.
Dr. Ngoru cleared his primary school in a local private school where he managed to garner 441 out of 500 marks, which was a massive record that fourteen years down the line, no one has managed to break it. He aimed to join Mang’u High School but that proved quite elusive. Who should we blame when one garners such impressive marks only to find oneself in a low caliber school?
What was the feeling when you ended up in a provincial rather than a national school? “Initially, it was very demoralising but I accepted my fate by 2nd term of Form One course. What pushed Ngoru to be this aggressive in his performance? “All I wanted back then was to get my folks off the poverty line.” Which tricks did he use to remain top in class all the way from Primary school to Campus? Ngoru politely dismisses the question of tricks or strategy. “Really no tricks. I was just a normal kid doing what was expected. All I can confirm is that; I rarely forget once I read something. It only has to be once.”
What were your highlights in High school? “As I said; Maintaining position One expect for once, from Form One to Four; Participating in Science Congress up to the National level; Being part of the Music Festivals group that proceeded all the way to the Provincial level; Earning favour from the school principal for being consistently the top student and for my discipline. I also participated in numerous Mathematical contests and I recall being involved in a road accident at one time coming from a contest in Nyeri High School where by the grace of God, I suffered only minor injuries.” Some of your projects that found their way to the National level include? “I fondly recall one that was about a Water pump fitted on bridges. The weight of vehicles driving over the bridge would pump the water. This particular project performed very well at the National contest. Unfortunately, I never pursued it after that. It’s one of those things I regret of.” As for me, I tried presenting a project to the Science Head of Department teacher in the safe company of my deskmate one Lucas from Kinagop who was far better than I in sciences and to our shock, the suggestion which couldn’t befit a project was easily disqualified at the school departmental level for lack of substance. Auuuch!
What’s amazing is that even after Ngoru’s parents were unable to clear his huge school fee balance after clearing Form Four in the year 2007, the school was patient enough to wait for 7 years, after Ngoru had settled in the job market whereby he settled the staggering balance. For the record, he scored an A plain (82) in his KCSE results which is a record Nyahururu High School has yet to break, ten years later. For the two years one would wait by then to join campus, he undertook a certificate course in ICT and moreover, commenced his CPA studies which he managed to clear in under two years. And as you’d expect, he scooped an award for being the top student countrywide in June 2009 exams.
Dr. Ngoru started off his Bachelor of Dental Surgery course in October 2009. By then his dad had secured a favourable job while his mum was running a small business which meant, they managed to send him some pocket money for him to survive in the city under the sun. Ngoru having participated in the 2009 census exercise, had managed to save some cash too which again helped him push along. He quickly established and acclimatized himself as a top student where he further vied and won to be the Vice – Chairman of NUDSA (Nairobi University Dental Students Association). He was also a representative of University of Nairobi Nyandarua Students Welfare Associations (UNNSWA); He wrote and published two articles in the East African Medical Journal; Represented University of Nairobi at the IADR (International Association of Dental Research) East & South African Division where he emerged top and won the Hatton award (2013) in South Africa; Represented IADR East and South African division at the global meeting in Cape Town South Africa in 2014.
As mentioned earlier, he emerged the top final year student of UON in the class of 2013 and was awashed with awards from Nairobi University, Colgate Palmolive, Dentmed and Elida Ponds Foundation. He proceeded to enroll for an internship at Kenyatta National Hospital which he completed in 2015. He was then posted to Lodwar District Hospital under the County Government of Turkana where he still works on part time basis occasionally flying from the Wilson Airport. I quizzed him about Lodwar ambiance? “It’s very hot with temperatures ranging from 35 degrees, at times going as high as 45. Lodwar is a cosmopolitan town.” From what I gathered it has no hill leave alone an anthill and happens to brag of two iconic geographical features; River Turkwel and Lake Turkana. Ngoru attests that the latter has white beaches only comparable to Diani’s water-front.
In addition, Dr. Ngoru tried his luck at the prestigious Karen Hospital where he was hired as a resident dentist. While there, he had the rare opportunity of serving the high and mighty in the society. His clientele included former presidents, some of African First Ladies, Cabinet secretaries, Governors, Senators, Members of Parliament, Senior judges and so forth. He would later quit to launch his own state of the art dental clinic at the onset of this year. Clearly, Dr.Ngoru has no regrets for quitting to self-employment since Dental Access has grown in leaps and bounds to be a power house in matters dental health. It is located in the heart of Nairobi at Cardinal Otunga Plaza.
I indulged Dr.Ngoru on Kenyans uptake in matters dental hygiene. This is because I visited a dentist for the first time ever, this year when I battled an excruciating pain for nearly a week. For many years, one of my molars had endured a tooth decay which I toyed with for long, that it could undergo a root canal. Months ran into years and the day of havoc had finally knocked on my doorstep without bulging. The unrelenting tooth ache that was especially worse at night had coincided with my exams dates. Since it was always less severe during the day, I would reassure myself that the pain was dead and gone only to resurface from about 11 pm when retiring to bed and not let go. Not once did I sleep holding my right cheek till morning, sporadically fetching over the counter painkillers that had now been outsmarted by the sheer cold, solid and penetrative pain, leaving me with no choice but to vow that I’d visit the dentist first thing in the morning only to develop cold feet and postpone the whole mission. My fear of the dentist was all about stigma brought about by my mum when she boxed a dentist for a tooth extraction that had gone bad. It appeared the dentist was a quack who made my mum endure all the pains of extraction since she was not properly numbed.
Bwana daktari, how’s Kenyans dental hygiene? “The uptake is impressive. Gradually improving mostly in the cities and urban settings. Kenyans have realized it’s imperative to have regular check ups on matters of their dental health.”
Why do toothaches worse at night? “There are many schools of thought that include; low temperatures at night trigger tooth aches as opposed to the warm temperatures during the day. But more importantly, it’s worthy to appreciate that when one lies down, more blood rushes to the tooth exerting pressure and thereby bringing inflammatory mediators with it.”
Away from dentistry, Dr. Ngoru has managed to set up a poultry farm for his parents in Nakuru producing more than a thousand eggs in a month and about 600 broilers every two months. This is an enormous credit to him for investing in his parents with a sustainable wealth of such magnitude. Is there pressure attributed to first borns? “Yes, the pressure is palpable. Be it endeavoring to being a credible role model to the younger siblings and dealing with insurmountable expectations from the parents. Of course hailing from a typical Kenyan family, the burden of taking care of one’s parents and the younger siblings is inevitable.”
What’s your word of encouragement to the youth who’ve lost hope in life? “Two things; Whatever you do, whether by fate or choice, do it to your level best. Avoid idleness and associate yourself with people who believe in constructive ideas.”
We end it on that note congratulating Dr.Ngoru and his wife for the blessing of a bouncing baby boy to their lives. May he grow to fill the size of daktari’s shoes in matters intellectualism, humility and dignity.