Project #2585

Young Leaders Program in Kenya

by Global Education Fund

Suzanne is currently in Kenya to support the GEF Kenya Advisory Board, Staff and Scholars. She has been updating everyone here at GEF of all of the great experiences and students that she has encountered. Everyone here at Global Education Fund is excited to share Suzanne's tales from Kenya, enjoy!

In the US, field trips are sometimes viewed as one offs for students to get a break from school, but it appears to be more of an integral piece to a holistic educational experience than anyone realizes. In February, GEF Kenya Scholars from Nairobi, along with mentor university students from ANU traveled to visit two hydroelectric plants. The objective for students was to see for themselves how these plants work, to learn from an engineer that works there and to spend time with their mentors. Luckily, the students got a lot more out of the experience than just this. In 2008, GEF organized an extended field trip for its Kenyan Scholars to spend a few days at the experiential learning center called Batian’s View. This continues to be the most talked about experience among those who went. Not only did they get away and broaden their world but they were experiencing things that, as one scholar put it, “had only seen previously on TV.”

In the educational system in Kenya, students attend primary school (grade 1-8), take the primary school exam (KCPE), then attend secondary school (form 1-4) if they are able to get into a school and afford the school fees. At the end of form 4, in the fall, students sit for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE). Exam results are released in February or March of the following year. Students who score a B+ or better qualify for a government subsidized spot in a public university. Those who score a C+ or better qualify to attend public universities although they are responsible for covering all the fees themselves. Of course the qualifying scores for university are adjusted every year depending on how students perform. Waiting for the KCSE results to be released can seem like a lifetime for students, and once they are known, there is still a period of waiting and figuring out what to do next. For students who get a subsidized spot, they have to wait for another eight or nine months to start university. For students who don’t get in, they have to figure out what they are going to do next: if they can come up with the funding for university than they go in the fall; if not than they have to figure out another educational opportunity they can afford, find a job or anything else. It’s definitely a time of negotiation and trade offs.

Suzanne has been impressed that most of the 19 GEF students who sat for the KCSE last year have been busy working or actively job hunting, starting up small businesses or have already taken the initiative to apply for short-term vocational courses. Few of them were doing the KCSE waiting game; they were taking their lives after secondary school into their own hands while hoping that their KCSE results would offer more opportunities beyond what they were already finding for themselves. This is the third GEF class to complete the KCSE and it’s apparent that the students who have been with GEF for longer have benefited from the program in terms of confidence and creative thinking beyond secondary school and the KCSE. The class of 2010 did well on the KCSE. GEF is proud that many of the graduates have qualified for university and three have qualified for subsidized spots! This is a significant accomplishment. Congrats!

Primary school (grades 1-8) in Kenya is free, but fees required for high school (grades 9-12) are far too expensive for underprivileged Kenyans. Global Education Fund has recognized that tuition costs pose as an insurmountable obstacle to the poorest children and in 2011 GEF will continue to provide funding to help deserving young orphans and vulnerable children overcome this barrier and greatly increase their opportunities for a better life.

The Leadership Program is based on the belief that a combination of rigorous academic preparation, practical training and strong relationships will enable participants to reach their full potential and improve the lives of others. The practices that have made GEF successful around the world are reflected throughout the Leadership Program: local community leaders manage the day to day work; local civic and business leaders act as advisors; strong partnerships are in place with high schools, the Africa Nazarene University and several non-profits; and careful selection, monitoring and evaluation systems have been implemented.

GEF is also continuing its partnership with textbook publishers in Kenya this year in order to purchase more books onsite in addition to sending books from the United States.

In the New Year, GEF will look to provide its current students and graduates with more resources and opportunities to build bridges to employment and provide them with the tools they need for the next stage of their lives. All of us at Global Education Fund would like to thank you for your continued support and interest in the Leadership Program. We are excited to serve even more students and continue to make a positive change in the lives of impoverished youth in Kenya in 2011!

“My life has taken new direction and I can now perceive myself a different way. You have turned my pessimism into optimism.” – Frederick Tongi, GEF Leadership Scholar

We are proud to announce that GEF currently has 12 proud graduates of secondary school and an additional 20 to graduate this year!  This is an extraordinary accomplishment given that only 8.3% of all young Kenyans ever complete secondary school, and particularly for GEF scholars who live in poverty and are either orphaned or come from families stressed by poverty, HIV/AIDS and violence.   

Four promising girls and boys who graduated last year have been awarded GEF post secondary grants to enable them to attend trade schools or community college programs.  Margaret graduated top of her class and has now enrolled in a course in music video production. Violet wants to become a social worker to help children and others less fortunate than herself.  With a small internship stipend from GEF after she graduated, Violet volunteered for six months at an orphanage to better assess her aptitude and the training she would need for this type of work.  Violet has just entered a 12-month diploma course in community development. Elizabeth was accepted as an intern at the GEF Kenya office following her graduation from high school in 2009. She used her internship to familiarize herself with the tasks required for office work, particularly bookkeeping and the use of computers.  Today Elizabeth is studying accounting at a local vocational school.  Finally, Freddy has enrolled in a computer course to build his already amazing computer skills.  We are so proud of each of them!


Julie and Suzanne recently returned from Nairobi where they visited many of the schools involved in Global Education Fund's Kenya Leadership Program. They met with the Kenya directors and students to continue to learn how to better help and advance Global Education Fund's work in Kenya. Anisa, a Form 4 student (Senior), acted as the representative scholar contributing to the strategic planning meetings. After the initial meeting, she remarked: “I had no idea there were Kenyans like this” - a reflection of how isolated many of the students are, and how important strong, local leaders can be as role models in the community. We launched the program in 2008 in response to the great need for high school scholarships, as well as skills training - particularly entrepreneurial and financial training - so students could better leverage their educations. Kenyan advisors also suggested that young adults would benefit from a broad foundation of support and advice. Through peer support groups, university student mentors, and adult coaches, the program seeks to provide a network of supportive relationships for each scholar.

Global Education Fund is proud to announce that more than 100 students have participated in the Leadership Program, and continue to serve their communities even after graduation. Global Education Fund graduates have now formed an alumni association that meets regularly. These graduates continue to work with their university student mentors and have created their own mentoring program to support younger students in the program. Several graduate scholars have entered Global Education Fund's internship program as well. Their voices have become an influencing factor as the Kenyan and US Boards consider the future direction and growth of Global Education Fund in Kenya.

Everyone here at Global Education Fund would like to thank you for your continued support and interest in the Leadership Program. We look forward to serving even more students and continuing to make an impact on the lives of impoverished youth in Kenya in 2010.


Kenya Leadership Program Update

Global Education Fund is now in its third year of supporting the Kenya Leadership Program and is currently accepting new applicants! The Leadership program helps impoverished Kenyan orphans (particularly girls) to reach their full potential and enable them to improve the lives of others. The program includes student lead community service projects, workshops to build personal skills (finance, health, conflict management) and experiential learning opportunities-all aimed towards preparing students for success after completing school. The Leadership Program has continued in its efforts to develop job skills and entrepreneurial spirit in its scholars and now has 12 graduates. These graduates have pursued the mentorships they developed with members of Kenyan Universities as well as developed their own mentoring program for other scholars currently in the leadership program. In addition, several graduated scholars have entered into GEF’s internship program, two of whom are interning in the GEF Kenya office and three of whom intern with other organizations. The Staff at GEF and the Kenyan Scholars thank you for your continued support.

"When given the chance I can do something for the people and the community around me." Chimwani Mercy Mwende, GEF Scholar



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Organization Information

Global Education Fund

Location: Boulder, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Global Education Fund
Boulder, CO United States

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