Kenyan operator Safaricom’s M-Pesa Foundation Academy has launched an eleven-month, post high school programme for its Form Four leavers to be hosted at the newly launched Uongozi Centre located inside the Academy.
The Thika-based facility, an initiative of the country’s leading mobile service provider Safaricom, opened the doors of Uongozi Centre to its first batch of 96 students who concluded their secondary school education last year.
The Academy CEO, Les Baillie said during the launch that the giant company will spend Sh100 million for the programme that is hoped to nurture the students’ talent and business acumen in ICT, business development, science, artistry and life skills.
The state-of-the-art, co-educational and residential high school offers the Kenyan National Curriculum. It has been spending Sh600 million yearly to run the facility, according to the CEO.
The academy is driven by leadership, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation and serves talented but economically disadvantaged students with demonstrated leadership potential. The CEO said the motive behind the centre is to incubate students’ business ideas, introduce them in the work world, broaden their minds and prepare them to be leaders of tomorrow.
“The initial thought around Uongozi Centre’s original plan is that we didn’t want to put our students through four years of very good education and then just push them into the big wide world. We didn’t want our students to waste time because we felt that most of them after completing their KCSE, then they spend a year before joining Universities or colleges,” he said.
Baillie was accompanied by Uongozi Centre director Steven Walker. The Foundation has partnered with corporate organisations, including banks and Universities such as Moi University, to train the students.
“We will be having corporate entities like banks send their officials here to train the students on matters financial management and economics for a week or two. We are creating an environment for our students to learn from already and well-established entrepreneurs,” he said.
While noting that the students who have joined the Uongozi Centre will be trained to be part of the problem-solving lot in Kenya and Africa at large, the CEO said the scholars will visit African countries, especially in East and Central Africa, as part of their training.
“They are not being trained to go and be leaders in the US or Europe. they are be trained to be tomorrow’s African leaders. They will be visiting other African countries to learn about their resources, philosophy, literature, politics and religion. They will look at their development projects, education as well as health projects so that they can broaden their knowledge base,” he added.
Baillie also noted that the Foundation is keen on one-year training because not all scholars will join universities. Some students would want to establish their own enterprises.
An investment committee is set to evaluate and scrutinise business ideas that will be presented by the students and once proved to be viable and sustainable, they will receive seed capital to improve their ventures.
“Once the business ideas are approved by the investment committee, the student behind it will receive a loan amounting to Sh20,000, which they will repay once the business improves. They will be facilitated with seed capital. We are training people who will be employers and not employees,” Baillie said. “The committee will follow up with those who will establish their own ventures and ensure that their projects are well thought-through and are sustainable.”
Some of the beneficiaries welcomed the programme saying it will offer a platform for sharpening their skills and imparting requisite knowledge required in the entrepreneurial world.
Bezzy Makena, who deals in artefacts, said she is determined to study further to improve her artwork. During her school life at the Academy, she has made Sh200,000 profit from the sale of her beadwork.
“On completion of the one-year training programme, I look forward to expanding my venture in beadwork because it has proved to be a profitable project. Being employed is already out of equation for me and I hope to employ people in my beadwork empire in the near future,” Makena said.
Breda Mwelu, a 17-year-old tech guru who has been training on robotics, said a better future lies in technology-related fields, hence he will venture into it to solve some of the problems facing society in health, security and education areas.
The centre’s managers are upbeat that learners will be equipped with useful life skills and create jobs for themselves and others.
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