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China-funded railway helps transform lives of Kenyan youth

04 April 2016, 18:54

Nairobi (Xinhua) -- While growing up in a farming village in central Kenya, Simon Njenga drew inspiration from local elite who credited higher education for their material endowment.

As a young boy, Njenga was constantly reminded by his parents and teachers that success in life could not be handed to him on a silver platter, but through hard work, discipline and resilience.

The 22-year-old graduate of plant operations from a local university is among a growing number of skilled Kenyan youth currently working for China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in its flagship Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project.

During an interview with Xinhua, Njenga said working in the modern railway project that will link Kenya to its east African neighbors is emotionally and intellectually fulfilling.

"When an opportunity to work for SGR project came calling in 2014, I felt a sense of joy and fulfillment since I was still young and not sure what the future held for me," Njenga told Xinhua.

He is a supervisor at section 2 of the SGR project and has a good working relationship with Chinese and Kenyan colleagues.

In November last year, Njenga and several Kenyan colleagues benefited from a one-month training program in China sponsored by their employer.

While in China, the youth learned the evolving dynamics of railway engineering and vowed to utilize skills gained in the exchange program to support Kenya's infrastructure modernization efforts.

"While in China for the seminar on railway construction and maintenance, we also had an opportunity to visit several big cities and obtained a better insight on how the country developed," he said.

27-year-old Jacob Mutua was also a beneficiary of the training program in China.

"This seminar was very useful to someone from a developing country that is on the cusp of revolutionalizing its transport infrastructure and in particular railways," Mutua said.

The SGR project has opened a floodgate of opportunities to skilled and ambitious Kenyan youth, who, with exceptional skills, have occupied the front seats as construction of the project is in full swing.

Moses Mapelu, a laboratory technician at the SGR project, has vowed to utilize skills gained in railway construction to participate in Kenya's modernization.

Mapelu comes from the pastoral Maasai community, but his passion for education secured him a career in road construction a decade ago.

"After completing high school, I had set my sights on any other career but herding cattle. For ten years, I worked in road construction until December 2014 when CRBC employed me as a lab technician," said Mapelu, adding he plans to mentor youth from nomadic communities and nudge them to take up modern careers.

Immaculate Nduku, a 27-year-old human resource graduate from a local private university, was elated when an opportunity to work for the SGR project came knocking in March 2015.

While growing up in the arid Makueni County, Nduku aspired to work in a field that had an element of human interaction and is contented in her current job description at CRBC.

"My day job involves a lot of interaction with local and expatriate workers, and the experience gained from cross cultural mingling has sharpened my life skills," Nduku remarked.

She disclosed that her age mates in the ancestral village looks up to her as a role model.

"To be honest, there are very few young women who have broken through cultural and economic barriers to secure well paying jobs. That is why my peers back home are proud of my achievement," Nduku told Xinhua.

In the near future, Nduku says she intends to start a career mentorship program for the youth in her hometown.

- Xinhua

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