2019 was a crucial year for the inaugural class of the M-PESA Foundation Academy.
It was the fourth year of the institution’s existence and with it came the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.
The examinations would help establish how well the students had performed in their studies and mark a rite of passage into the next phase of their lives, and they were remarkable: 76 out of 91 students scored grades A to C.
But the results were not all that mattered as the school’s focus was to nurture well-rounded learners who would place as much emphasis on their studies as they would on music, sports, community service projects, entrepreneurship, the arts and other extra-curricular activities.
On the extra-curricular side, the class of 2019 had 16 student enterprises that were successful and had an average turnover of KES500,000 annually.
The release of the KCSE results marks the end of secondary school for most students in Kenya but for those at the M-PESA Foundation Academy, they will not be pushed out into the world. Not yet, and that is why the Uongozi Centre was recently launched.
This is where the bright students from last year’s KCSE will be hosted for a year-long Entrepreneurial Leadership program. It is a bespoke entrepreneurship program that is meant to widen the students’ perspective on Kenyan and African issues while providing them with skills to further broaden their minds in their chosen fields in university.
“The thinking behind Uongozi Centre was to work out how to best launch these young people into the world of work after being here in the academy, and to make sure that they do really return to Kenya and Africa as leaders of the future because we have invested so much time and money in education in these young people that there is no point to become leaders in the US or Europe,” says Dr. Stephen Walker, Director Teaching and Learning at M-PESA Foundation Academy.
He continues: “One thing we want to do is open their eyes to the African continent and get an awareness of the African culture across the whole continent and how diverse it really is, to get some idea about music, literature, poetry, politics, its resources and of course its problems. So that, once embedded, will give them a foundation, the anchorage to come back and help and be leaders of Africa for tomorrow.”
To empower them with knowledge and skills, the M-PESA Foundation Academy has partnered with several institutions and charities to ensure the program is realised in a qualitative way.
Tijani Bello, the Academics Programme Manager at Uongozi Centre, says they have partnered with Moi University’s School of African Studies, which will primarily look at how to empower the young learners with the knowledge of Africa, its history, philosophy, culture and development issues as well as its challenges and opportunities.
The program will also partner with Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) to help the students learn about leadership, critical and creative thinking. Students will also get an opportunity to visit an African country and take part in a development project.
Further, an International Computer Driving Licence will help to equip them with their computer needs while Strathmore Business School will assist in developing their entrepreneurial ideas. The curriculum will also entail outdoor pursuits like hiking, kayaking, yoga and driving.
“As you know the continent is gradually coming together and we would like our scholars to take advantage of that. They won’t be able to do that unless they are very confident about the continent and about themselves,” says Tijani.
Umulkheir Yussuf, an M-PESA Foundation Academy Form Four graduate, is looking forward to the Leadership and African History courses, which of course will be accompanied by the trips to different African countries. She wants to study Environmental Law or International Relations when she goes to university.
“This is the best place for me before I join university because of the courses that will be offered, especially the leadership course that will prepare us to be transformational leaders for Africa. I’m looking forward to the trips in African countries and learning more about different cultures,” she says.
And for the students who are not interested in going to university? There’s a plan for them as well.
The Academy has been helping students incubate business ideas and community projects. Students form groups and come up with their own enterprise and a business plan. They then present it to the investment committee and if it is a viable project, are given a loan. They are expected to pay that loan back as the business improves.
“We obviously want our students to be academically good, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of everything that we do here. We want to produce students who are going to be employable,” says Les Baillie, CEO of the M-PESA Foundation Academy.
“We know that some students will not want to go into university. Some will create their own businesses, so we will be looking at providing the seed capital for that business, assuming it’s one we believe will be sustainable and hopefully one they will be able to build on once they leave here and become an employer rather than an employee.”
It will cost KES100 million a year to run the Uongozi Centre, but Baillie feels every shilling is being spent incredibly well because it will enable the students to go out into the world well prepared.