Faith Vosevwa, Paza Program Lead, Akili Dada, writes about how important scholarships are to ensuring that young people are able to fulfil their academic potential.
You will agree with me that in the lives of individuals, groups and organizations at large, information about scholarships is very relevant to students from underserved communities who have completed high school and are in transition to university yet lack financial aid. Because we believe in service to humanity, university preparedness for the young girls we work with at Akili Dada is a key component for us when nurturing them to transition effectively. So how did we do it this year? This year attracted a cohort of 15 young girls who had qualified to join Kenyan universities. Given they had come from disadvantaged communities, information on financial aid was vital in ensuring their full transition. The three months’ journey started with training on 21stcentury skills, going for job shadowing in order to gain a better understanding of the careers they intended to pursue in the future and starting the process of applying for scholarship opportunities.
Luck seemed to be on our side as we applied for scholarships to universities in different countries. Four students received full scholarships from a university in India. India had not been one of the countries where students had anticipated going on a full scholarship. “I expected that I was going to USA, Australia and South Africa but clearly this is a good surprise,” echoed one of the girls.As a career counselor, I learnt that we need to make our beneficiaries aware of the various opportunities available to them outside the countries they have set their mind on.
“Going to university makes sense for me and, with the financial aid received, I will pick up the opportunity, learn from it and open doors for other girls who would be interested in studying in India too,” echoed another student who had received a full scholarship to study in India. Being away from home and family as they were accommodated at our safe house and seeing these young girls pick up the opportunities and make decisions by themselves was an indication of how they had grown into young women who were ready to transition and nurture themselves into career women. Culture shock sessions were also important at this point to prepare the students for transition. While we were still in the celebration mood, two of our students also received scholarships; one to study in Rwanda and another in South Africa.
Walking the journey of transition with the 15 young women also served as a platform for me to learn from them. Our interests differ at an individual level and it is best if we learn how to accommodate each other. Transition to university either abroad or locally should not be coerced but on an individual’s willingness. Forcing a student to study abroad because she received a scholarship may bring more harm than good. What if they drop along the way because we did not listen to them too? This is the question as career counsellors we should ask ourselves. As we closed on this year’s group, we were all smiles as transition to university both locally and abroad was rated at 100%. Five received full scholarships outside Kenya while ten transitioned to local universities on government loans through their Higher Education Loans Board (HELB).
Akili Dada is an award winning leadership incubator, nurturing young women and girls from underprivileged backgrounds whose commitments to the undeserved will transform their communities. We do this by focusing on three main pillars: mentorship, financial investment (to ensure they complete school) and leadership development. By focusing on these pillars, we envision African women leading and participating in the decision-making process across different sectors.