More than 14,000 students in secondary schools and technical institutes from disadvantaged backgrounds have been gifted with a solar unit that includes a radio, a lamp and a mobile phone charger as well as a monthly stipend to empower them to continue learning during COVID-19 lockdown.
The students, all numbering 14,600 are beneficiaries of scholarships provided by the Equity Group Foundation (EGF), the Mastercard Foundation and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program under the Wings to Fly and Elimu scholarship programs
“We wanted the scholars to have an equal opportunity through continued access to their class lessons during this difficult stay-at-home period. With many of them coming from financially challenged backgrounds, access to a radio for purposes of following the classroom lessons was going to be a big challenge,” said Dr. James Mwangi, Managing Director and CEO of Equity Group Holdings, and Executive Chairman of EGF.
Secondary school Scholars have been provided with a solar powered device to ensure continued access to their lessons currently being aired on Government-owned radio and TV stations.
Additionally, each of the 13,800 secondary school students and 800 alumni of the Wings to Fly scholarship program currently in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) will receive a monthly stipend for June through August to enable access to essential food and personal items.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all academic institutions in Kenya were closed indefinitely in March 2020 and delivery of the curriculum moved to broadcast channels and digital platforms.
Beryl Sheryl Owambo, a Form Four Wings to Fly Scholar from Migori whose household uses kerosene for lighting said the solar lamp has come in handy to help her keep up with he classwork.
“Actually, I was using kerosene lamp for my studies and at times we had no kerosene so I could not study after dusk. In addition, I use spectacles, so it was very hard to study with the dim lights of the kerosene lamp,” she said.
Because each household contains 5-6 students, it is estimated the program will reach 70,000 learners with the curriculum as well as COVID-19 public health messages and advisories. EGF distributed the equipment through the Equity infrastructure of branches and its agency network across the country.
Daniel Hailu, Regional Head, Eastern and Southern Africa at the Mastercard Foundation said the impact of COVID-19 requires the foundation to be intentional about how it ensures the pandemic does not exacerbate existing gaps in education.
“In fact, this is the opportunity to seek out and promote innovative technology-driven solutions to bridge emerging gaps and even leapfrog the capacity and quality of educational delivery across the continent,” he said.
The stipend of Sh3,000 per scholar per month for three months will contribute to household needs for food and other essentials. The stipends will also allow the beneficiaries to have airtime and data for mobile phone usage where possible.
“Against a backdrop of a still uncertain trajectory of COVID-19 in Africa, students are facing prolonged school closures of unknown length. At a time when the continent is making traction on its education goals, when the most vulnerable children can least afford to stop or delay their education, this is the time when we must step up to help them,” said Equity Group’s head.
He added, “These young people are our future and we must not fail them during their hour of need if we want to shape the future we want to see.”
Dr. Mwangi further appealed to parents and guardians of the students to take up the role of mentoring the students during this prolonged period at home, to observe the health protocols and to use their time constructively by pursuing their studies through the delegated broadcast channels.
“During this period, we appeal to parents, guardians and the scholars to continue working together to ensure the safety and protection of the scholars, from all distractions including staying away from vulnerabilities such as drug abuse, early pregnancies and early marriages which have become a real threat to the lives of the youth,” Dr. Mwangi concluded.
The Wings to Fly Scholarship provides comprehensive secondary school scholarships to academically promising, yet financially disadvantaged youth.
Since 2010, 17,304 scholarships have been offered to scholars selected from across the country through community scholarship selection boards. The scholarship covers school fees, transport, books, pocket money, mentoring, psychosocial support, and leadership development.
Elimu Scholarship Program, on the other hand, is run by EGF on behalf of the Ministry of Education and the Government of Kenya. With financial support from the World Bank, the program provides comprehensive secondary school scholarships 18,700 primary school graduates from 110 sub-counties and 15 urban centers with informal settlements.