When Mr Joseph Mathenge and Mr Chris Mbugua decided to start an adult education unit in their private secondary school six years ago, it was to give a chance to adults who wanted to be allowed to join the institution.
Neither Mr Mathenge nor Mr Mbugua thought the idea would blossom into a lucrative business that would even outdo the secondary school that was in existence.
Today, the institution focuses on adult education and Mr Mathenge, who is also the principal at Westminster Academy in River Road, Nairobi, says they have no regrets as the population has continued to increase.
“In 2005, the school had about 250 students but I received inquiries from adults asking if they could join. I shared the idea with Mr Mbugua and he agreed to give it a trial,” he told Money.
The idea, he said, never disappointed them: “When I brought the idea, it was just to help the ‘neglected lot’ and I never thought it would change my daily business and add great value to it.”
The adult unit started with three non-uniformed students against 250 regular ones, but the numbers kept increasing.
And as a key to every business, the owners paid for many classified advertisements in the local dailies since they had few resources.
By 2008, the adult population had risen to 220 against 100 uniformed students, who had already started withdrawing from the school.
In the same year, the school suffered because of the Muthurwa estate demolition and most of its students, who lived there, withdrew.
Many secondary schools were also opened in city estates, absorbing most of their “customers”.
Due to the increase in the number of adult students, the two decided that it was time they took the section seriously.
This prompted Mr Mathenge and other teachers to go back to class to train in adult education in order to provide better “services”.
The learning facilities were improved, attracting more students and today, the number stands at 400 while uniformed students have remained at 100.
With the business thriving each term, the duo introduced adult primary school education, reading and writing classes, languages and evening classes, fetching even more profits.
The institution has 18 teachers and students are from all over the country since the management rents hostels for those who come from far.
The target market is those who did not perform well in their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education, those who did KCPE but never joined high school, and primary and secondary school dropouts who would like to go back to class.
Each student pays about Sh3,000 a term.
Mr Mathenge says there are many adults willing to go back to school, adding that even if many more such institutions are open there would be no competition.
However, it has not been easy for them because, unlike young students, it is not easy to handle adults between the ages of 18 and 55 years, he says, adding that it is easy to bring them to class but difficult to make them stay.
The school’s future plans include having its own space with boarding facilities to accommodate more students.