David Kimani is not your ordinary 20-something year old. While most of his peers are trying to figure out life, he has a vision for an educated future; one where knowledge acquisition has no time frame, where adults get a second chance at life.
His goal: to achieve 100 per cent literacy in Kenya, through his Second Chance Learning Centre.
Born and raised in Nyandarua, David grew up overcoming different setbacks on his schooling path, all of which helped shape his ambitions.
“For me, it has been through the help of others that I have been able to afford education. I started school in 2003 under the (government’s) Free Education programme. But I stop to think about those who were in school before the free primary education rolled out: people who came from humble backgrounds and low-income families,” he says when we visit him at his learning centre in Kilifi.
“Many dropped out of school due to financial hurdles, among other reasons. I am giving them a platform where they can redo their exams for a shot at gainful employment,” he adds.
Through his edupreneurial venture, David focuses on the transformation and growth of adults who for some reason or other were not able to complete their education. He is helping them to not only attain KCPE and KCSE certification: he is slowly rebuilding the confidence often eroded by failure to complete one’s schooling.
According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of statistics, about 30 per cent of students who enroll in class one fail to finish the eight years of primary school, with more boys than girls dropping out.
It’s a challenge that is close to David’s heart, whose own circumstances were likely to turn him into a dropout had it not been for his determination to complete his education – and the willingness of relatives to help.
Today, David is paying it forward.
“I started my business, Second Chance Learning Centre in a small room, with one teacher and two students. The fact that I had no money to start the business did not discourage me. While in Pwani University studying Computer Science, my HELB loan came in handy. I used to budget very wisely for it and purchase stationery to be used by the teachers and students,” he says.
In 2016, while still in university, he attended a mentorship summit sponsored by Safaricom’s youth network – BLAZE. Dubbed the BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) Summit, the event brought together thousands of youth from Mombasa and its environs for an afternoon of networking, learning and socializing. It also featured auditions for the first season of the BYOB TV show.
“I auditioned for the show. At first, I didn’t think I would fit in but that never stopped me from trying. Throughout the first season, I always challenged myself to perform better with every challenge. I ended up taking 3rd place in the finale,” he says, smiling with a hint of nostalgia in his eyes, before adding: “BLAZE empowered me by believing in my dream and to date, I am still working hand in hand with them to nurture my business. Through the show I didn’t just expand my network and receive funding for Second Chance, I gained a lot of business skills that are now helping us to grow.”
A sub-brand of Safaricom, BLAZE is a mobile platform offering innovative products and services that cater to the youth’s unique needs. The brand was launched in 2016 and seeks to empower Kenyan youth through its BYOB Summits, creation camps and TV show, which offer opportunities for mentorship, networking and employment.
Since his appearance on the show, David has focused on making greater impact, transforming the lives of communities in Kilifi by fast-tracking their access to education, and consequently delivering economic empowerment.
With his KES700,000 win in cash and business support, close to two years’ worth of mentorship and business training, David expanded his school, which now has 33 adult students studying for their KCPE and KCSE exams.
The Second Chance Learning Centre uses a personalised approach to education, offering affordable classes that feature one-on-one teacher-student sessions that are inspiring the community to pursue academic knowledge.
“I dropped out of school a long time ago, in 1984,” says Ali Juma, a 46-year-old student at Second Chance.
“I took a technical course in jua kali mechanics after that. Despite the fact that I am skilled and experienced, it has been impossible for me to get a better paying job,” he adds.
Juma is pursuing level 2 (form 3 and 4) of secondary education and will sit for KCSE towards the end of the year.
The father of four works casual jobs at the Kilifi County government offices. He says he has worked in many professions, including masonry and as a driving school instructor, but he has always known that education could lead him to greener pastures.
“I have missed out on many opportunities because I don’t have a high school certificate. So I have decided to set aside a little time from my bread-winning activities to attend classes,” says Juma.
Another student, Lucy Michael, 20, is optimistic about her future once she completes her A-Levels at Second Chance. She joined the centre in April, after dropping out in 2014 due to lack of fees to enable her join secondary school.
“I’m glad that the school gave me another chance to pursue secondary education. I am working hard so I pass my KCSE exams come 2019. I also hope to continue with college after completing the course,” she says.
It’s statements such as these that ignite David’s passion for education, and the opportunities it presents. His learning centre’s motto – Rewriting the Future – hints at his ambition, and those of all his students.
“My mission is to have a literate society in Kenya, as this will help the country’s economy to grow. This is what drives me,” he says, adding: “My other key accomplishment would be to have an online platform that delivers top notch educational content. This is a work in progress. I am relentlessly chasing my dreams because Greatness Requires Internal Toughness.”
This message of relentless pursuit of one’s goals, what the youthful brand calls GRIT, is repeated often during our conversation, giving a glimpse into the mind of a young man determined to create a better future for the 22 per cent of Kenyans considered illiterate.
His word of advice:
“I encourage the youth to take advantage of opportunities presented to them, just like I did with BLAZE. Maintain self-discipline and be adamant when chasing your dreams. Be patient with yourself and those around you because I can without a doubt tell you from my own experience that nothing comes easy.”