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Friends and colleagues remember award winning scholarship student

Published: 31 August 2023

A female wearing traditional masaii dress and jewellery looking to the side

In memory of Valentine Nashipae Resiato Nkoyo, award winning student from Kenya who touched the lives of many at the University and broke down barriers to education.

Valentine Nkoyo was a student at York St John University from 2009 to 2011, arriving from Kenya on a Spark (Securing Potential and Releasing Knowledge) scholarship. Now called alumni-funded scholarships, the Spark scholarships supported a range of students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education. Growing up in a Kenyan Maasai community, Valentine did not receive the same educational opportunities as males and faced a battle to access education. Her family supported her plight and she eventually gained a place at Kabarak University in Kenya and subsequent scholarship to attend York St John University. During her time at York St John Valentine studied for a Diploma in Creative Writing and Documentary Film Making, a Degree in Business Management, and also played a significant role in supporting fellow students and working within the University’s Alumni team.

This tribute is written by Valentine’s close friends and colleagues.

Remembering Valentine Nashipae Resiato Nkoyo

This profile of Valentine Nashipae Resiato Nkoyo is a snapshot of her life through the people who knew her, loved her and who were touched by her brilliance during her time in York. She made an incredible impact and not only graduated with a first class degree but won several awards, recognising her academic ability, tenacity and determination. She had a far-reaching impact in her short life. She was and will always be someone we celebrate and are inspired by. Valentine’s Maasai name was Nashipae which means ‘happiness’ or ‘happy person’.

Education journey

Her journey to York St John University had been an uphill battle as she had to fight for her right to an education. Growing up in a Kenyan Maasai community, Valentine was not permitted the same educational opportunities as her brothers. All she wanted was to go to school and learn. She knew that speaking to her father would be difficult, so she decided to write him a poem instead titled Take me to school father. On hearing the poem her father cried for the first time in his life and gave her mother permission to sell his prize bull to pay the fees for Valentine's education. Sadly her father died shortly afterwards and Valentine had to continue to fight for an education facing many failed opportunities until she was finally offered a place at Kabarak University, Kenya.

At an academic conference at Kabarak University, Valentine met a senior member of staff from York St John University. This chance meeting eventually gave her with the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to come to York St John. In 2008, she arrived in York having secured a scholarship for a semester of study for a Diploma in Creative Writing and Documentary Filmmaking.

In 2009, she was awarded the first Inspire Spark Scholarship which enabled her to complete a Degree in Business Management.

Valentine’s impact at York St John University

Valentine was special to and a big part of the Alumni Development Office during her time at the University. She gave a lot from participating in telephone campaigns to shaping a new volunteering scheme which brought in international students. She set up an international chapter of YSJU in Kenya and a Kenyan Student alumni branch in York. The impacts of this work are still felt today and live through the many people whose lives she touched.

"Valentine arrived in true Maasai warrior spirit with how she was so brave, determined and so willing not just to be part of a new group but an influential team player and leader. Her personality shone so brightly in everything she did as if she could touch everything with a bit of magic. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with her and witness her remarkable achievements as a friend and guest on several occasions. She will always be one of the most inspirational, brave and fun people I have ever met and I'm proud that we were very close friends. She did so much to help me and the development office as a friend and volunteer but also never let me down and always gave more than you could ask of her."

Brett Arnall (former Alumni Development Manager from 2003-2013)

She was also a Student Ambassador and Student Warden and an active part of the international student community in York.

"I am still in utter disbelief that you are no longer with us, my sister, Valentine. I remember our escapades in York... it seems like just the other day, but it was 12 years ago. That's how much time flies. Your memory lives on in me and everyone you touched. You will never be forgotten."

Mary Jimoh (York St John University alumna and friend of Valentine)

Award winning student and ambassador

During her time in York, Valentine won several awards; Adult Learner of the Year, Yorkshire and Humberside Region Award Winner of the British Council Shine! Awards for international students in recognition of her involvement in university life, volunteering activities and giving back to the local community and her community in Kenya.

In addition to all of these achievements, she gained a first class degree in Business Management. At her graduation, she was awarded the C&B Rouse award for outstanding contribution to student life.

"Back when I was studying and working at York St John, I remember Valentine being one of the most warm and welcoming faces on campus. She brought people from across the world together, creating spaces for the seeds of friendships to be sown. I credit Valentine for introducing me to someone who continues to be one of my best friends over a decade later, and I can't imagine just how many more cherished connections she helped create. She did this with a disarming charm that couldn't fail to bring a smile and comfort to anyone fortunate enough to cross her path. She was sorely missed after moving on from York St John, and will no doubt be sorely missed as she moves on from this dimension, but she'll be remembered with a deep fondness, forever."

Ynda Jas (Volunteering Officer from 2011-2012)

Valentine’s time after York St John

Valentine went on to volunteer and work with the International Service, supporting partnerships between volunteers in the UK and organisations in the Global South. She also worked as a Research Assistant to the Deputy Dean of the Business School, supporting her in her work with two Kenyan Universities.

After leaving York St John University Valentine moved to Nottingham to pursue her Masters in Business Administration and continued trailblazing. Her story and work was featured in a book by former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu’s Agape Love Stories.

Valentine’s friend and colleague, Professor Judy Muthuri, Professor of Sustainable Business and Development at Nottingham University Business School, said this about Valentine’s time in Nottingham:

"Valentine became a well-known grassroots community leader and mobiliser who worked tirelessly and passionately on causes that were close to her heart such as anti-slavery, anti-Female genital mutilation, youth and women empowerment and more.

Her community work, and most significantly her anti-FGM efforts, led her to be recognised by the late Queen Elizabeth. She was invited to Buckingham Palace to have an audience with the Queen – a treasured experience and one of her most cherished memories. She also received numerous awards in the UK and globally.

Valentine was a valued member of the Kenya Nottingham Welfare Association (KNWA). She was instrumental in advancing the welfare of members as a long-serving passionate member of its Executive Committee. She was also a member of the Maa Community Global, and a great cultural ambassador.

The East Midlands community fondly referred to her as their ‘Maasai Princess’. She used her culture to advance her cause including inviting the Maasai Cricketers to play cricket matches in their cultural regalia to drive the anti-FGM message home.

Thank you Valentine for being the light of the world. You lived a short but very impactful life. You will be dearly missed. Shine with the angels!"

Take me to school father - Valentine Nkoyo, Kenya, 2004

Take me to school, father! 
So I may be like Elizabeth  
Who drives the red car  
And who is always happy  
For was she not a girl like me?  

Take me to school, daddy!  
So I may not be like Naserian
Who has now five children  
Strands of wire covered by skin 
Is what they have for bodies  
Skinny, scrawny, skimpy with teary eyes  
They gaze despairingly at their mother  
Who has naught to offer  

Take me to school, father!  
For those children haunt me  
Will I end up like Naserian  
Whose husband whips her daily  
For is she not his sixth sheep  
And by the way, a present from a  
Grateful age-mate?  
Why was I born a girl?  
To become a symbol of gratitude?  

Take me to school, father!  
You tell me I’ll deviate and I shame you with bad manners  
Is rejecting an old man bad manners?  
Is declining initiation bad manners?  
Is dressing smartly bad manners?  
Is planning my family bad manners?  
Is being a girl child bad manners?  

Take me to school now  
For the symbol of pleasure, I detest!  
The symbol of labor, I detest!  
The symbol of gratitude, I detest!  
With the help of Maasai Education Discovery  
In collaboration with EDDI  
I will become an electrical engineer  

The girl child is mouse no more.  
She’s a tiger, ready to work for her rights!

Valentine Nashipae Resiato Nkoyo

Sunrise: 21 February 1984

Sunset: 26 July 2023

A GoFundMe page has been set up with the aim of honouring Valentine’s wishes to be repatriated to Kenya and buried in her homeland.

With thanks to Brett Arnall, Kate Freeman and Anu Priya for their time and knowledge in compiling this tribute.

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