Expanding Access to Higher Education in Kenya:

In January of 2012, Kiva, a microlending platform that aims to alleviate poverty by connecting lenders with borrowers who do not have access to traditional banking, partnered with Strathmore University, Kenya’s premier, private college, to launch a groundbreaking partnership in the financing of higher education.  They joined forces to expand educational opportunity across socioeconomic lines and mitigate the absence of sufficient financial aid options for Kenyan college students.

Strathmore University Student Center

Tuition at Kenya’s overcrowded and under-resourced public universities is heavily subsidized by the government. Students apply to the government’s Higher Education Loan Board (HELB) for loans to cover the remaining cost. HELB loans are about 60,000 Khs or $700. A HELB loan covers only a fraction of private tuition fees at a University like Strathmore, where tuition is not subsidized by the government and costs about $16,000 for four years of enrollment. For more than half of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line, on less than $2 a day, a Strathmore degree is unattainable, and reserved for rich, upper class Kenyans.

Together, Strathmore and Kiva are trying to change that. They offer students three low-interest loan products: full tuition, partial tuition and laptop loans.  Currently, there are 34 Kiva beneficiaries at Strathmore, 9 of which receive full tuition loans. Students who receive the full tuition loan, are young men and women who would not  be able to attend Strathmore without the assistance. You can refer to the Kiva-Strathmore partnership page for more details about the loan products.

Meet the Borrowers:

As a Kiva fellow at Strathmore, I am helping to expand the University’s credit limit, so that these loans can be extended to a new group of students.  I’ve had a chance to meet the current Kiva beneficiaries at Strathmore and work with them through Campus Kiva, a club for loan recipients to support each other and engage in community outreach projects. Watch this video created by Strathmore University and read on for in depth biographies of two full tuition loan recipients, Lydia and Jackline.

Lydia:

Lydia is a first year student at Strathmore University.  She is studying for a Bachelors of Commerce and plans to pursue a career in accounting upon graduating with her degree. She is part of the first group of students to finance their Strathmore degrees with full-tuition Kiva loans. Lydia is from Lodwar, a small town in the remote, northwestern district of Turkana in Kenya.  Lydia’s journey to Strathmore University begins with a 5 hour trek through dry, arid bushland from her mother’s home in Lorengelup village to Lodwar.  From there, she hops onto a bumpy, 12 hour matatu ride through Kenya’s unpaved hinterland to Kitale City on the Ugandan border.  Finally, she transfers to a second matatu for the last leg of her journey, an 8 hour ride to Nairobi. 

Lydia

Lydia’s presence at Strathmore is groundbreaking.  Economic opportunities in Turkana are sparse, centered mostly on the rearing and trade of livestock and weaving.  95% of the population lives below the poverty line.   Most girls in the region cannot afford to complete secondary school, and are instead married off as young as 12 years old for dowries of livestock. Against most odds in the region, Lydia completed secondary school.  Her primary and secondary school fees were sponsored by local charities and organizations.  Lydia was amongst the top ten, highest academic performers in her graduating class, and the only student selected by her principle to travel to Nairobi to interview for a Kiva loan. 

Lydia is very grateful for the opportunity to study at Strathmore.  The University’s mentorship program has helped her make a smooth transition from rural life in Turkana to the fast pace of Nairobi.  She loves the cosmopolitan nature of the capital, where she is interacting with Kenyans of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds for the first time.  Lydia is an avid football fan.  On her free time, she plays football on a team of Strathmore students.  In the future, Lydia is looking forward to returning to her community and inspiring girls to follow in her footsteps by completing their education.  She would eventually like to sponsor a student’s schooling as hers was, and spread awareness about organizations like Kiva that can help finance their education. 

Jackline:

20 year old Jackline is a first year student at Strathmore University.  She is studying for a Bachelors of Commerce and plans to pursue a career in accounting upon graduating with her degree.  She is part of the first group of students to finance their Strathmore degrees with full-tuition Kiva loans. Jackline and her siblings grew up adjacent to Beverly Flower, a flower exporting factory where her mother was employed in Nairobi.  Her mother died when she was a child.  Jackline and her sisters moved with their Aunt, a domestic worker for an upper class Nairobi family, and her brothers left Kenya to seek employment elsewhere. 

It was at this time that Jackline said she began to see “God working in me.”  After completing primary school, her Aunt’s employer insisted that she continue her schooling at a good provincial school in Nyeri, rather than attending a local one.  In agreement with her Aunt, he began deducting a portion of her salary each month to create a savings account for Jackline’s education.  Since he established that fund, she has always been able to cover her school fees.  

Jackline

Upon graduating from Secondary school, Jackline considered applying to a public University.  She planned on raising money for tuition by spending a few years cleaning houses as a domestic worker, and working as clerk in a supermarket.   She went to work as a domestic worker for Mrs. Irene Kiai, who saw Jackline’s potential and took her under her wing.  When Jackline expressed an interest in taking computer classes to prepare for University course work, Mrs. Kiai encouraged her to enroll in the best program and covered the cost.  Not long after, Mrs. Kiai saw an advertisement for Kiva loans at Strathmore University printed in “The Daily Nation.”  They both attended the information session, where Jackline submitted her application for the full tuition loan.

Jackline is very grateful for the opportunity to study at Strathmore University.  She has already begun thinking about how to make repayments on her loan, the first of which is due 5 years from now.  She started a fund to collect donations towards repayments in case she cannot find a job immediately after graduating.  On her free time, she enjoys listening to Swahili artists like Rose Muhando and gospel music.  She is a member of Strathmore Unviersity’s church choir.  On most mornings, you’ll find her awake as early as 5:30am going for a morning run.  Jackline recently participated in a marathon organized by Strathmore University and Standard Chartered Bank’s 10th annual Nairobi Marathon.

Jackline feels a strong obligation to create the same kind of opportunities that were afforded to her for others.  “If I’m not in a position to give materially, because of what I’ve seen in my life, I may be able to inspire someone.  If I am in a position to give materially, I will.  Outside there, there are very many people who are suffering.  Maybe there are those who don’t have school fees and have to drop out. Or maybe they don’t have a person to inspire them to continue and have hope.  I will do my best to give back to society.” 


Comments

Katrina, this awesome! This work in Kenya (and the personal stories) are very inspiring, I can't wait for Kiva to work with other partners in the world to expand access to education, few things are more important than this. Glad things are going well for you my friend!

Dear Katrina, Am a final year Bachelor of Commerce student at Strathmore University and at the same time a social entrepreneur featured by CNN recently. See: My recent trip to US as covered by CNN, http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/category/the-next-list/ CNN feature http://youtu.be/uXg5SBeIjx4 http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/02/creating-wealth-through-health-2/?hpt=hp_c2 I would like to be granted loan to finish my final year. Kindly advice on how I can meet with you. My contact is +254 728 069 526. My Strathmore University Admin No. 012420. Best regards, Dan

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Katrina is a first generation Armenian-American, born and raised in Queens, New York. She attributes her affinity for travel, and learning about different cultures to growing up immersed in a rich cultural tradition at home, and the diverse sites and sounds of New York City right outside of it. She will be serving in Nairobi, Kenya with Strathmore University and the Kiva Zip Team. Prior to joining the Kiva Fellows Program, Katrina was an educator. An alumnus of Teach for America, she taught elementary level English Language Learners in the South Bronx, and middle school mathematics at KIPP AMP Academy in Brooklyn. Through teaching, Katrina sought to give back to the city that raised her, empowering children with knowledge and tools to build fulfilling and self-sufficient lives. Katrina is interested in microfinance for the same reasons. She seeks to understand poverty in a global context, and explore the roles of different tools in alleviating it. She is ecstatic to begin this journey, through which she'll better understand and contribute to cutting edge initiatives in sustainable development.
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