Equity Group Foundation and Mastercard Foundation dignitaries pose for a photo with chief guest Dr. Fred Matiang’i and the Wings to Fly beneficiaries at the Kasaranai Stadium.

Beneficiaries urged to make good use of the opportunity accorded to them and ensure smooth completion of their studies with a view of transforming lives

By Amos Wachira

While thousands of students across the country were attending secondary schools for their very first time after excelling in  last year’s KCPE exams, Shadrack Lemuyak and others made their way to the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi for a life changing event.
For 11 year old Lemuyak who hails from Baringo County, a chance to proceed to high school has always remained a pipe dream, despite his sterling performance in the 2016 KCPE exams. Lemuyak comes from a humble background where he learnt to fend for himself at an early age.
As the eldest child, he had to help his mother shoulder the burden of raising his 6 siblings after his father died. He worked hard to support his widowed mother but meals were still scarce, and water hard to find. Together with his mother, Lemuyak burnt and sold charcoal for a living. However, the hardships did not deter him from pursing his academic goals and rising beyond adversity to succeed in his primary school education.  He scored an impressive === marks. But when he received his admission letter to the top performing Karbanet High School in Baringo, he fought off a sinking feeling that he could not make it to high school due to the biting poverty that he had been accustomed to. He represents many other students across the country who come from disadvantaged households who despite being bright, lack the resources to advance their studies past the primary school level. It is for this reason that Equity Group formed the Equity Wings to Fly Foundation to provide an opportunity to Kenyan children to advance their studies.
Equity Group Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation with additional funding support from USAID, UKAid, KfW, Equity Bank, individuals and institutions under the Wings to Fly program has been implementing a comprehensive secondary scholarship support program for top performing yet needy (orphan or vulnerable) students in the sub-counties across Kenya.
On the 9th day of January 2017, Lemuyak and other students converged at the Kasarani Stadium for this year’s edition of the Equity Wings to Fly Foundation sponsorships.
The significance of the event could be felt from far. The students’ songs of joy, jubilation and their cheerful disposition greeted visitors.
The Equity Group Foundation commissioned 1700 Wings To Fly scholars as they join various secondary schools across the country to further their education.
The Wings to Fly Program, which has so far benefited 14,368 deserving students, will see the eighth cohort of 1,700 students this year get full sponsorship for the four years of study in various secondary schools that they have been selected to join across the country.The 2017 Wings to Fly class is funded by The MasterCard Foundation with support from KfW and Equity Bank.
Presiding over the commissioning of the Wings To Fly, Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Fred Matiangi hailed the program for playing a critical role in supplementing the government’s effortsin providing education for all:
“The Wings To Fly program has transformed many lives since its inception and as a government we recognise the complementary role this program has played to support us to educate needy and bright students. As a result, we will be looking at ways of strengthening our partnership under the new policy framework,” said Dr. Matiangi.
The initiative by Equity Group Foundation and The MasterCard Foundation with additional financial support by other Wings to Fly partners, offers comprehensive secondary school scholarships to academically gifted children from needy backgrounds which covers: tuition fees, books, school uniform, accommodation, pocket money, transport costs among other expenses.
At the same time, Dr. Matiang’I also launched the 2017 Equity Bank Paid Pre-University Internship Program for the 2016 Wings to Fly graduates who scored an A and A- (minus). The Equity Bank Paid Pre-University Internship Program enables the scholars to pay for their University Education while undergoing leadership, coaching and mentoring. This year 569 Scholars will join the Program. They comprise of 286 scholars from the Wings to Fly program and 150 top boy and girl from each district in Kenya where Equity has a branch, who attained a minimum score of A-. Equity Bank also extended anexceptional opportunity to all the 141 students who scored an A plain in the KCSE exams in 2016 nationally (of which 8 are Wings to Fly scholars) to join the program. This will bring the total number of scholars who have benefitted from the Equity Bank Paid Internship to 5,059.
Dr Matiang’i said, “These Programmes are a great inspiration for the furtherance of cooperation between the government and the private sector in our efforts to support the education pillar as enshrined in our economic blueprint, Vision 2030 as well as supporting the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The Wings to Fly Programme has inspired other organizations in Kenya to start their own scholarship programmes targeting academically gifted children who are economically and socially challenged.Indeed many other corporate institutions have followed in Equity Group Foundation’s footsteps and come up to support the education of underprivileged and disadvantaged students from many areas within the country.
Dr. Matiang’i also implored upon the beneficiaries to make good use of the opportunity afforded to them, and ensure smooth completion of their studies with a view of transforming their lives as well as those of the community and nation at large.
On his part, Equity Group Foundation Executive Chairman, Dr. James Mwangi reiterated that there are many needy students who require the necessary support in order for them to pursue their dreams.
“This year alone, we received over 25,000 applications from students who are unable to afford secondary school but were only able to award 1,700 scholarships. Although we strive to offer opportunities to the most deserving cases, we still feel that there is need for more collaboration between various stakeholders to achieve the dream of universal quality education in the country,” Dr. Mwangi said.
“We are encouraged by the performance of the Wings to Fly scholars.So far, four cohorts of Wings to Fly scholars totalling 6441 scholars have gone through secondary school with a 98% completion rate. 5476 have attained university entry qualifications, being an 85 % transition rate. Out of these, 2,343 have joined the Equity Bank Paid Pre-University Internship Program(Equity Leadership Program-ELP) and benefited from paid internships in Equity Bank before proceeding for their university studies. The scholars have remained true to their commitment to work hard, excel in their studies as well as actively participate in problem solving through taking up leadership roles,’ added Dr Mwangi
At the same time, Reeta Roy, President and CEO, The MasterCard Foundation confirmed the continued support for the program and called upon the students to embrace the spirit of discipline, hard work and tolerance in order to be successful in life:
“The MasterCard Foundation is impressed with the transformation of lives through Wings To Fly and we will continue to give our support to this program. We believe through our partnership many students will have an opportunity to change their lives and their communities. We recognise the importance of education as part of socio-economic development.”
On the other hand, the German Government through KFW, also reassured Wings To Fly students of its continued support as it implored on students who do not make it at the university to take advantage of technical courses:
“We have supported the Wings To Fly program because we believe in its net effect on social economic development.We will be supporting students from Wings To Fly who have not attained the grades to make it to universities to access tertiary and technical universities to further their studies,” said Dr.Klaus Liebig, Director KWF.
At the same time, the Wings to Fly programme is assisting part of its alumni to join vocational training colleges, commonly known as TVET programs, in a bid to equip learners with the necessary hands on skills in technical subjects.
Equity Group Foundation (EGF) in conjunction with its partners; the German Government through its implementing agency KfW, Equity Bank, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) has launched a youth empowerment programme that will see the entire group of nearly 3,000 Wings to Fly graduate scholars who sat for their 2016 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (K.C.S.E.) Examinations transition into Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions countrywide.
The objective of this initiative is to provide the Wings to Fly alumni (whether headed for further education, employment, or entrepreneurial opportunities) with life and employability exposure and skills. While some of them will enrol for 3-month certificate courses, others will be admitted to longer-term diploma courses with a scholarship covering their first 6 months and thereafter apply to the Higher Education Loans Board (H.E.L.B.) to finance the rest of their education.
Speaking during the launch, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Fred Matiang’i said that the ministry is committed to investing in the development of technical and vocational training to address the skills gap in the country’s work force. These efforts align well with the Government’s agenda on embracing the role of tertiary and technical training in national development as well as EGF’s vision to transform the socio-economic lives of the people of Africa.
“The Vision 2030 has placed new demands on Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as a leading engine that the economy must essentially rely upon to produce adequate levels of middle level work force that will be needed to drive the economy towards the attainment of the vision. TVET institutions offer opportunity for many young people to gain tech skills both for self and formal employment.”
Kenya has over 60 public and private TVET institutions and another 70 are under construction, which offer a wide range of training programmes from certificate to diploma levels. They offer a variety of courses including building construction; carpentry and joinery, commercial-based fields; engineering, textile-based programmes, catering, hospitality, plus information and communication technology.
EGF’s Chairman, Dr. James Mwangi announced that the 2,818 Wings to Fly alumni have already undergone a 3-day induction to sensitize them on TVET as well as career advice aimed at positioning their mindset on employability and informing them on appropriate choices of courses to be pursued. The initiative has offered an opportunity to highlight public-private partnerships as well as demystify technical and vocational training as an avenue for building employability skills. It has also demonstrated the commitment to support quality education as enshrined in Kenya’s economic blueprint, Vision 2030, as well as supporting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Wings to Fly programme, continues to impact thousands of households in different parts of the country.  The vision for the program is to provide a safety net that enhances transition of academically promising students from disadvantaged backgrounds, from primary to secondary level education and develop them into social transformational leaders of the future.