From 253 KCPE Marks to Earning PhD: Inspiring Journey of Tahira Mohamed

Tahira Mohamed is a shining example of perseverance and the power of education. Despite scoring only 252 marks in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam, she has become one of the youngest PhD holders in Kenya. On January 25, 2023, she graduated from the University of Sussex, Brighton with a PhD in Development Studies.

Tahira was born into a large family in Moyale, Marsabit County. Her father was mentally disabled, making her mother the only source of income for the family. Tahira had to work alongside her mother from a young age to help support the family. Despite her difficult circumstances, she persevered and was determined to get an education. With the help of bursaries, she was able to attend Moyale Girls Secondary School, but unfortunately had to drop out after Form Two due to financial constraints. However, her sister eventually used her HELB loan to pay for Tahira’s schooling, allowing her to finish her education and graduate from the University of Nairobi with a first-class honours degree in Anthropology.

Tahira’s success earned her a scholarship to pursue a Masters of Art in International Studies, where she conducted research on human smuggling across the Kenya-Ethiopia border. She crossed borders, visited police stations, and conducted sensitive interviews for her project. Her hard work paid off and she was accepted into the University of Sussex for her PhD, which she completed in three years.

Her PhD research was based at the Institute of Development Studies, and she was the only Kenyan selected for the Pastres Project, which teaches pastoralists how to manage various challenges like drought, animal disease, and conflict. Her thesis was on ‘The role of the moral economy in response to uncertainty among the pastoralists of Northern Kenya’, and she studied how pastoralists have coped with different forms of crises over the past 45 years.

Tahira wants to continue her studies and research to help her community, combining their local perspectives with external support like humanitarian aid. She believes that most projects implemented in pastoral areas are designed from the outside and don’t take local perspectives into account. She hopes to use her research to better understand the role of moral economies, social relationships, and solidarities in managing crises and to help her community sustain their livelihoods.

Tahira Mohamed’s journey from a struggling young girl to a PhD holder is a testament to her determination, resilience, and the transformative power of education.