What you need to know:
- About 1.8 million children in both urban and rural areas have dropped out of school.
- Many of them end up giving up on their dreams and ambitions altogether.
Lack of school fees has seen many students miss out on education. Poor students are often forced to miss school for days or weeks whenever they are sent away due to lack of school fees, which may lead to poor performance or increased numbers of school dropouts.
It is estimated that about 1.8 million children aged between six and 18 in both urban and rural areas have dropped out of school, or never joined at all.
This is according to a report by UNESCO Institute for statistics covering Sub-Saharan Africa.
Due to challenges such as low income in families, some of them end up giving up on their dreams and ambitions all together.
One of the ways one can revive their dream of finishing school is through seeking scholarships, or funded education.
We had a chat with five students who have succeeded in their careers through help of sponsors.
Abednego Osindi Birundu
BSC in Forestry from Kochi University, Japan
I hold an MSc in Forestry from Kochi University and a BSc in Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources Management from the University of Nairobi (Kenya). It was a full scholarship courtesy of the Japanese Government. It included a return air ticket.
The scholarship I received was called African Business Education Initiative. I got to know it through my lecturer at the University of Nairobi. Before getting the scholarship, I went through an application process which included a series of both oral and written interviews.
Getting my Master’s degree has been my longtime dream and even if I had not secured this scholarship, I would have explored other opportunities to make my dream come true.
Studying outside Kenya exposed me to various experiences that influence how I carry myself even today. For instance, I am a better and more innovative worker, and I handle relationships better. I think we need to put in place policies to ensure that beneficiaries of such scholarships stay in this country. We could do this by creating an enabling environment to guard against brain drain.
I’m currently working in Kenya, and doing my best to make an impact in my line of duty and in the society.
Joan Nateiban Orre, 23
Graduated at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
I was born and brought up in Samburu County, and I’m passionate about real estate. I developed an interest in this field when I was 14 years. I used to watch The Property Show every Sunday evening, and I was always fascinated by the palatial home and office spaces. I also admired the topics being discussed each week on the show.
My passion led me to study real estate at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). I graduated in June 2022. I was among the beneficiaries of the Absa Scholarship Programme which ensured my learning was uninterrupted. The team at Absa catered for my tuition and upkeep. It was a full scholarship.
They also took us through sessions like the Ready to Work Programme’ which helps students prepare for the transition into the world of work.
Being selected as one of the beneficiaries was a big deal for me. It gave me renewed hope and changed my perspective. I got to understand that whatever is meant to be yours will always find you. Also, I now know that it is possible for someone to extend a helping hand while expecting nothing in return. This has greatly inspired me, and I hope to someday do the same for others.
Another lesson I learnt was to always make use of every opportunity presented to you. I became a beneficiary because I took the initiative and applied for the scholarship.
However, there still exists a challenge when it comes to academic sponsorships. As much as we have organisations and programmes that offer student grants, we need more of these so that more students from poor backgrounds can achieve their dreams. I am already working at a real estate agency, but I’m open to bigger and better opportunities that may come my way.
As a way of giving back, I regularly engage in different charity events, such as donating clothes to the needy. My hope is that one day, I will be in a position to pay for a poor student’s school fees.
Kelvin Mwirigi, 25
Working at Missions of Hope, Nairobi international, a non-governmental organisation.
I was born and raised by a single mother in Nyambene in Meru County. I attended nursery school in a church. One room in the rooftop church hosted three classes for two years before the owner of the building decided to close both the church and the school.
I joined the nearest public primary school which was about 15 kilometers away. I was privileged to join a boarding high school later, and successfully acquired a university entry grade.
My mother died while I was doing my exams so I wasn’t privileged to join the university because I didn’t have money for school fees. To raise money for registration fees at the university, I sold my one of my grandmother’s chickens. Luckily, I got a full scholarship opportunity which catered for my school fees and upkeep.
Throughout the four years of study, I attended many seminars and webinars. That, plus my interactions with other students who had received the scholarship really shaped my entrepreneurial skills.
Currently I’m employed by Missions of Hope international, a non-governmental organisation which aims to help disadvantaged children and families in Kiamaiko.
I also run an organisation whose aim is to enable poor children attend school. I have employed six young people to help me with that. Additionally, the nearest primary school in my village is 15km away, so I plan to start another school there to serve children from disadvantaged families.
Shanton Butichi, 21
Student at Cooperative University
I went to Complex Primary School in Mumias where I did my KCPE. Thereafter I joined St Hannah’s Girls High School in Karen. I am currently at The Cooperative University taking a Bachelor’s degree in Community Development.
My mother heard about the Logos Scholarship by Nairobi Chapel while attending church. She enquired more about it and was asked to apply. At the time our family was enduring tough financial times. My mother did not have a job, and my twin brother and I had just completed primary school. We both needed money to proceed to high school.
When the managing director of Minet Kenya, Sammy Muthui, heard my story and the scholarship programme he was touched and decided to sponsor me and seven other students through high school.
My twin brother, Glen, did not get the scholarship that year. However, the following year he was luckier.
Without a sponsor, I doubt I would have managed to go through high school because there was just no money. My dreams had even began fading away.
One of the lessons I learnt through this act is generosity is that God uses other people to bless us, and when we give or help others, we should be humble.
I feel sad because I know that there are so many students who are able and willing to further their education, but they do not know how to go about it or where to get help.
The available scholarship programmes should reach more young people. We should create more awareness so that more people can apply and be helped to finish school.
Currently, I am a volunteer intern at the Turning Point Trust in Kibra. The organisation has a school that offers free education to vulnerable children in Kibra. I teach the young children about the bible, and offer mentorship to older children.
Spencer Lugalia, 24
Graduate of History and Religion with IT from Maseno University
I am a Bachelor’s degree holder in History and Religion with IT from Maseno University, and I completed my studies through the help of a sponsor. I got to know about the scholarship opportunity online, even before I joined Maseno University in August 2017. I was immediately interested and by that time, I had already applied for my Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).
I thought I would receive the loan before opening day in September, but I did not. After reporting to school, during the orientation ceremony, someone said that Helb officials would come to collect more information about the potential beneficiaries.
I was accepted, and awarded a full scholarship which catered for my tuition and upkeep throughout my stay in university. During a visit to my home where she met my grandmother and I, one of the scholarship’s administrators told me, “Spencer, you have been empowered so that in future you can also empower others.”That statement has stayed with me to date.
The scholarship money would come once a year, and this grew my ability to handle money. I had to meticulously plan so that I could live comfortably in school throughout the year. Through the scholarship, I have created a network of individuals who have helped me in various things such as mentorship and securing attachment opportunities.
I think the scholarship opportunities in developing nations are not enough. There are so many people who are poor and need help to finish their education. So many Kenyan students end up dropping out because they are unable to afford school fees. We need more companies to provide scholarship opportunities.
I am now employed at a good company, and I am determined to grow individually so that one day, I may be wealthy enough to educate someone else as a way of giving back.
Already, I have begun giving back. At Maseno University, I formed an association for students living with disability with the help of the university management. The body aims to ensure that the needs of every student are considered. I want to invest more time to work with people with disability.
I am determined to make a difference in someone’s life.