Goodbye Home…I Am Going Home!

As a boy, the best gift ever was the collection of C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. The books introduced me to a world of imaginative thinking and as early as ten, I was already building my own daydreamed-empire. No mythical beasts or talking animals but every passing day, I kept visualising myself, many times during boring torturous Mathematics classes, as a journalist. The arrival of 2014 for me brings what is no doubt the most exciting chapter of my life’s journalistic journey, which long ceased to be fictitious. A chapter that starts with me leaving home, saying goodbye to many familiar faces and stepping out into the vastness that is Nairobi, Kenya.

Unbeknownst to many, I am currently degreeless. Yes, this 23-year-old is yet to earn his first degree.

At the end of my Greenhill Academy high school days, my evidently abound interest in becoming a journalist just couldn’t let me do the obvious. For a person who had grown up overdosing on the World Service and 24-hour TV news channels to a point that I knew most jingles by heart and can up to today name almost all long-standing faces and voices, enrolling for the staple Mass Communication degree offered by many Ugandan institutions just didn’t excite me enough. After years of an education system that bored me to hell and back, I wanted more out of school. I was beyond the study-and-get-done excitement. The fact that some institutions’ chances of closing indefinitely are beyond 90 just didn’t help in my search for that school. I explored options of studying beyond home but the money factor was a high hurdle. Next move? I decided to look for work and raise money. Even my understanding parents couldn’t stop me.

I knocked on every door that had any possibility, however slight, of taking in an ambitious boy whose only experience as a journalist was a few stints at magazines that died faster than the iPhone battery. But people inside the rooms I entered just kept throwing slices of how the world works in my face. One comment inspired me to search on. This hot day I knocked on an ageing door that let me into the most dreadfully untidy office I have ever endured. Between struggling to swing on her squeaky swivel chair, haranguing me and endlessly smiling at her laptop, she blurted, “all you have is ambition…I have seen many like you and I’m sorry to tell you, you will need about five years to ever climb the ladder.”  Months later, that same person was to unknowingly ring a stranger (me) proposing that he joins her new workplace as a newscaster because she’d listened in and loved what she heard. I have never enjoyed saying no to anyone.

The truth is, I was no ordinary nineteen-year-old. I have never been. Unlike many my age, I had the resolve, I already knew what path I was to take (was even already shunning those I felt didn’t pass my expectations)…I even had four years of experience as a school assembly news reader during my days at Kitante Hill School. I wasn’t about to give up. Frustration drove me to take a job as an office assistant at a child care organisation. I hated every day. Before long, I convinced a manager at a Christian radio station to give me a chance to go on air. Before long, I was a sit-in anchor, an anchor…then the weeks flew by.

Prior to that job, I was willing to even work for free but four months after I went on air, I wanted the money.

The first paying opportunity came when a budding radio station called me for a newscaster job. The past two and a half years at Radiocity 97FM changed me. They proved further that my calling, my vocation was in the newsroom. That I managed to garner the success I did during the last three years also proved that the journalist is more likely to be made by what they bring to the table when the spotlight shines down on them…not whether they hold a degree in journalism. Or not. Contrary to common reality that whiz kids are exploited, my salary soon doubled to what most radio anchors in the city don’t take in, it arrived on time and everyone treated me as an equal.  I had no option but to thrive.

Screenshot of my profile on radiocity.ug

Screenshot of my profile on radiocity.ug

But as I cashed in, the idea of school lingered heavily. Especially, when my aspiration to venture into television met opportunity. When Victoria University added a Media, Communication and Journalism degree program to its menu, I was in. But before I could graduate, 2013 delivered the most frustrating news. VU closed in what later turned out to be a decision aroused to fruition by the now-passed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As much of the world around me went on ignorantly praising the institution for standing by the “accepted moral standards”, I was deflated. After working very hard to get in, I was back to the school hunting game. Buckingham University’s decision to severe ties with Victoria University victimized a few hundreds but as I went on air with the news that January 8 afternoon, I realised how much of a victim it had left me. My job cushioned much of the low moments that ensued.

And 2013 wasn’t done with its ‘almosts’. From a D.C World Bank opportunity that nearly swung my way to many other such opportunities, I gloomily waded through the year searching for any opportunity that would quickly get me back on my feet financially to aid my return to school. I even auditioned for a singing competition whose $50,000 prize seemed reachable. Later, I couldn’t appreciate enough that I never proceeded any further.

One of 2013’s best moments was when my name was read out as winner of the “Best News & Information Personality” category at the maiden Social Media Awards.

Truthfully, I expected NTV Uganda’s Maurice Mugisha to take the award which also had KTN Kenya’s Joy Doreen Biira, my friend Raymond Mujuni (URN) and David Muwonge. The award re-ignited the hunt for a way out of my educational limbo. On my way home, I remember asking God to guide me to the best solution out of my educational dilemma. Not like being degreeless had ever bothered. Not at all. But I wanted it out of the way yet I was keen on not just getting it out of the way. I wanted it to be a real experience.

The very month I won the award, I started my application into the John-Allan Namu-producing United States International University which on December 19th returned positive news.

My acceptance into USIU (B.A Journalism) meant I had to leave my job at RC that I dearly loved. But I more than anyone know that the journalist I see myself being in five years requires that I make this detour. I deferred school to make money. That money – of course coupled with parents’ and friends’ support – is taking me to school.

Born to a Kenyan-Luo man and growing up in Uganda, the journey to Nairobi, arguably the media capital of the region, is a chance to experience the land of my father beyond the short trips from my childhood. It takes me away from a pair of eyes I wish I could see everyday, it distances me from my comfort zone and promises to stretch my abilities to points I have always yearned for. The challenge of being thrown in a larger pool means I must work extra hard lest I am swallowed by the crowd. I would never have imagined or accepted a better challenge.

I am grateful for my ever supportive family that long accepted my fate. To my few but special friends that have always diversely cheered me on, thank you. Special thanks to Lisa Edmisten, my first journalism teacher, you might never fully know what getting to know you did to this journey. To everyone who gave me a chance to prove myself including the people and organisations that boosted my income by paying for my social media knowledge, asante! And to myself, thank you for dreaming. And thank you for never tiring from working towards that dream. To Kenya, be kind to your son. At least try.

Goodbye home, I am going home.

Follow @SongaStone

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11 Responses to “Goodbye Home…I Am Going Home!”

  1. Thank you Sam for all the work that the Lord has enabled you acomplish so far and I wish you all the best.

  2. It’s been a good journey, methinks, and it’s not over yet. Keep going at this pace and you will conquer the world! That’s not just a cliche, it’s good hope that I will be connected to you when you do. Enjoy Nairobi!

  3. Atuhaire Juliana Says:

    Safe journey ATSSM

  4. You leave a big hole/gap in my heart but i am happy because i know an even better you will come back to us. The very best of luck and despite the distance i still got your back. Study hard, live life to the fullest and oh a first class degree will not kill me.

  5. All the best !!!! Come back Bigger and Better !!!! RC will miss u !!!

  6. Songa Samuel-Stone , wish u the best. the words we exchanged have always inspired me…

  7. Bagaya Sandra k.aka Sandra Adyeri Omubitokati Says:

    Stone,this story hmmmmmmmmmmmm has left me speechless about to cry,so interesting,so touching,have never met you in person but I have heard a lot about you.Praying for the very best to come your way. I will personally miss you and hey thanks for social media we still have you…………..

  8. All the best Stone. The perception of news delivery surely changed in yo tenure at RadioCity.

  9. Don Maasa Says:

    all the best Stone, there is no limit to your ambitions.

  10. wishing you a happier and prosperous new year. Congratulations on your recent successful endeavors.

  11. very inspiring blog…thanks boss…all the best of luck

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