Things will work out

13th January 2022

Isack Kibet writes from Kenya about his journey with stammering, from schooldays to finding employment. Having faced occasional prejudice, it's a tale of perseverance and determination to succeed.

I'm Isack, I'm 26 years old and I'm from Kenya. I have a stammer and my journey from childhood to adulthood has not been easy.

During my early education I would sleep in class and cover myself with a jacket because I couldn't speak. Every time I tried to, other pupils would laugh and imitate me. When the teacher was going through the register, we would answer "Present, Sir/Madam", but in my case I would say, "Pre…pre…pre…se…nt, S…ir".

When I was at lower primary, I met at teacher who changed my life. He took me to the staffroom and told me to speak in front of the teachers. I stammered through it but none of the teachers laughed. From that day on I accepted my stammer and learned to live with it.

English and Swahili lessons were a nightmare because they involved reading aloud. But since I had accepted my condition I would stammer whilst reading, even though it took more time. The teacher was patient with me. I still stammered throughout my four years at secondary level studies and qualified to go to university.


I enjoyed university life because the students there were accommodating. No one laughed at me and I was voted class rep in my economics class; this meant being a bridge between the students and the lecturers. Even though I would stammer, everyone gave me time to explain myself. 

This proved that leadership is not all about eloquence, but actions.

In my third year as a student I felt that I should nominate myself for an elective position at the campus. I was competing for the role of finance director and there were six other competitors. The campaign was very competitive and some tried to boo me during the campaign because I stammered. But I kept speeches short and brief, and at the end I was voted the finance director at my university. This proved that leadership is not all about eloquence, but actions.

Job hunting

I completed my studies in 2019 and returned home, where I tried to look for jobs without success at first. Eventually I went to a local tea factory to look for casual work and I got a job. During my first week there I had bruises all over my hand and couldn't cook or wash my clothes, since the work was manual. It involved loading and unloading tea sacks from lorries; I had never done such work before.

I continued there for a few months until I said to myself enough is enough, so I resigned. My dad didn't like the idea, but I told him I had to look for better paying jobs, and in the meantime he gave me space on his land to grow and sell vegetables. I used the funds I received from that to go to Nairobi to look for work.

I would like to encourage others in a similar situation to try and accept your stammer. Do your best to live with it; with time, things will work out.

When I landed in Nairobi I had little money, and not  enough to travel back home. I called one of my friends, who recommended me to a private security training academy. I enrolled there and later worked as a night security guard for three months. 

Later that year I went back to Karatina University for my graduation, where I got a bachelors degree in economics and the next month I went for an interview at a debt collection company. I had prepared well for it but when I entered the interview room, everything evaporated and I stammered all through the process. However, later I received a phone call telling me that I had passed my interview. I was super excited because I would be working in an office, not as a security guard anymore.

What to do next?

I worked there for six months until I moved on to another job as a credit controller at a consulting company. The experience was good at first but in the second month I had to present a report to the board of directors. I stammered throughout the presentation and they were not impressed and laid me off. That was the worst day of my life; I felt I was just worthless. I went back to the house and thought about what I should do next. I decided I should try speech therapy classes. I found some but they were too expensive and I couldn't afford it. After sharing this with my dad, he told me not to give up.

The next month I received a phone call from a company I had applied to earlier for the job of debt collector. I went for the interview and was successful, and I worked there for four months, but moved from that to my current job as a risk and relationship officer. I am very happy here and I want to stay; my workmates are okay with my speech and sometimes I even chair the weekly meetings.

I would like to encourage others in a similar situation to try and accept your stammer. Do your best to live with it; with time, things will work out.

If you've enjoyed reading Isack's article and have found his experience helpful, please consider making a donation. Donating to STAMMA means that we can carry on sharing Your Voice stories from members of our community which inspire and encourage others on their stammering journeys. Read more inspiring stories.

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Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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