A muddy 5 kilometre drive from Silibwet town of Bomet County in Kenya leads to a rural Kapng’etuny village ,the newly crowned home of the County’s only radio station.
Invent Radio, which has been operational for over seven months started as a project by 25-year old Nathan Kirui and it also serves as the County’s only radio station covering a distance of 5 kilometres.
Unlike most of his peers who lacked the finances to attend College, Kirui concentrated on developing his dream radio station which has become the talk of the County.
Kirui’s two- bedroomed wooden house currently looks like a tourist destination with people from all walks of life thronging into the compound to witness and even get a chance to talk on live radio.
And although he has never been to any radio station, studied in any College or even gone beyond Bomet County on any school trip, the Form four school-leaver attributes his invention to Physics practicals and Mathematics he learned from a local day school which he attended for his high school studies.
However, Kirui did not perform very well in his KCPE[a matriculation exam] but he managed to join a local day school where he nurtured his dream.
“I have always liked playing with damaged radios since I was a young boy but when I joined high school, I realized I had a keen interest in electronics. Most of my free time was spent either in the physics laboratory doing practicals on different things or doing mathematics,” Kirui narrated.
However, Kirui said although the school never participated in inter-schools science congresses, he would sometimes sneak out with his friends to nearby national schools to check on what big schools had for presentations.
At one time in 2009 when he was in Form three, Kirui decided to make a radio station so that he could present it during the science congress but it needed a lot of time and thought and so he put it aside.
“Although I had put it aside for a while, I would work on it at home in the evenings and during the weekend where I had all the raw materials including unused cables, wires, dry cells, unused radios and firewood for welding.” Kirui said.
Finally, Kirui embarked on his project after sitting for his KCSE in 2010. Although he failed twelve times before successfully building his Invent Radio station, he finally got it done.
“I always put down every step on paper. At some instances, everything could burn up completely leaving me with no choice but to start from scratch and my drawings were a great help.”
Due to his complicated project in the village where he could not even access enough power, he opted to use firewood and dry cells which in turn earned him criticism from those around him.
“I was no longer social; I always spent time calculating complicated mathematics in my mother’s kitchen where I could access fire to fuse some things. Others thought I was running mad but I kept on doing it.”
It took eight months of intensive work for Kirui’s first project to work. Although it only covered 30 meters, he was relieved that his project had finally worked.
“It just needed a small upgrading and manual calculations to fit in to the system so that it could cover a wider area.”
His second successful trial, also covered 30 meters while his final trial, which he currently operates, covers 5 kilometres and uses rechargeable batteries.
But his greatest challenge still, he said, was determining the frequency of his radio station. He had to manually determine the unoccupied frequencies while noting them down so as not to interfere with other radio stations.
After getting the frequency, he had to set his station to fit into the unoccupied frequency before setting up a booster manually using applied knowledge from Physics. He also made his own arresters to resist lightning.
Although he has not commercialized his radio station, it has greatly benefitted the surrounding villages in making advertisements, announcements like weddings, fundraisers and funerals as well as entertainment for children and religious programs.
Although he has become a County celebrity, Kirui still dreams of going to College one day to pursue Electronic Engineering so as to expand on his skills to invent more useful things.
“With some skills from College, I believe I still can even invent a TV station,” he says.
You have to admire his tenacity and optimism; we hope he goes to College soon…who knows this could be the greatest Physicist the world has ever known!
Carolyne Chebet, is a 25-year old Kenyan Journalist who likes creating her own peaceful world with creative words. She has been a practising Journalist since 2011. Find her on Twitter @corriecarol or Facebook/CorrieCarol