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Our Rights, Our Voices


A father’s journey to become a better dad

By Kinyanjui Kombani, Creative Writer

My son has always had a deep voice.

His vocal prowess was distinct from birth. A decade later, we are still amused by his bottomless deep tone?

His birth was life-changing yet initially, the thought of being a dad ‘paralysed’ me. The second and third time weren’t any different. I was confused, excited, exhilarated, shocked and challenged.

A race of thoughts hit my mind with the birth of all my children.

“Will I mess up or disappoint these little fellows?”

The melting point

Fatherhood is new to me; my daddy was absent.

I have always struggled to take up his second name as my surname? He was not my dad!

It was most profound as a candidate awaiting to sit the Kenya Certificate Primary Education at Molo Academy in Nakuru County.

Our class teacher, Mr Mwangi had issued registration forms to fill-in our parents’ administrative details. I left my father’s details blank because I didn’t know him beyond mum’s brief tales to my brother and I. They had separated three months before my birth.

I stepped out of class and shared the dilemma with one of my teachers.

“Sir, I don’t have a father,” I said to Mr Mwangi pointing at the blank space.

“What do you mean you don’t have a father? Everyone has a father; even Jesus had one,”

“Urmmmm……my mother and father separated before I was born,” I responded timidly.

He gave a fixed answer.

“He is still your father.”

I went to class very troubled.

I never shared with my peers that my dad was never in my life. I creatively explained the prolonged absence even at school meetings.

“He is a very busy and wealthy businessman in Nairobi,” I responded every time they prodded. Ironically, I perennially had an unpaid school fees balance.

© Kinyanjui Kombani
Kinyanjui Kombani with his children (left to right) Zahara 5yrs, Naomi 7yrs and Ethan 10yrs.

My brother and I also lacked basic amenities like books, stationery, shoe polish among others. But we always proved to be quite resourceful. My big brother, Karis, discovered that the soot from the roof of our tin lamp worked perfectly as shoe polish.

Any questions on the dull shine on my shoes, attracted a rehearsed answer. “It is a special kind of shoe polish from my cousin in the United States of America.”

I met my dad the first time in 1994 before I sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, the terminal exams before joining secondary school. My mother was ill and we went to see him in Kapsabet to seek financial assistance. He declined.

Mum died shortly after this meeting but I was determined to make her proud. His appearance was the same as the photos back in our one-roomed house. He was a tall, dark, barrel-chested man.

My parents were wealthy but when marriage didn’t work, the family businesses also failed forcing our mother to take care of us single-handedly.

The rebirth

The next reunion with my father was as a university student when my brother and I lived in one of the informal settlements of Nairobi. Mum had been dead for four years and we learnt to survive in the big city under the sun, Nairobi. We shared food, clothes and a miniature creaky bed that filled our modest one-roomed home.

Our father tracked us down and promised to sell a piece of land in the village to uplift our lifestyle. He vanished again. However the third meeting was a brief reconciliation on phone before he died a fortnight later.

I want to be a different kind of dad.

When other children proudly declare that their dad is a pilot, engineer or lawyer, I want my children to assert; ‘My dad is Kombani.”

My wife, Alice, and I read to our three children every day, play and pray with them. We share their joys and pain and strive to nurture their unique talents.

Fatherhood is a learning opportunity to view life from the child’s perspective. It moulds both the child and the parent.

Fatherhood is getting involved in your child’s life.

Happy Father’s Day.

Kinyanjui Kombani

Kinyanjui Kombani is a creative writer and banker based in Nairobi. He is a father to Ethan 10yrs, Naomi 7yrs and Zahara 5yrs. He partnered with UNICEF Kenya to celebrate Super Dads through the Early Moments Matter campaign.



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