Jobless graduates, dropouts living in the ruins of broken dreams

Saturday February 20 2016

University student Joseph Kinyanjui works at a

University student Joseph Kinyanjui works at a quarry in Nakuru to pay for his college fees. PHOTO| MACHARIA MWANGI 

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When life hands you a lemon instead of an orange, they say, make yourself some lemonade; make the best out of what life hands you.

What about when life hands you neither an orange nor a lemonade?

In Nakuru County, for instance, a third-year university student has deferred his studies to crush stones with his father at a quarry. He hopes to save enough to one day complete his studies.

Elsewhere, a 20-year-old in Narok County dropped out of school in Form Two in 2014 to become the family’s breadwinner by working for power connection contractors.

And in Kisii County, a 26-year-old university graduate is eking a living from construction sites, while a 31-year-old diploma holder works as a house help in Uasin Gishu County, bereft of any other opportunity to earn.

The four shared their stories with Lifestyle separately and the words “shattered dreams” were written all over the narrations, tales that made experts warn of tense political times ahead if nothing is done to address some of the frustrations facing youths.

Joseph Kinyanjui, who scored an A-minus in the 2012 KCSE, should have been in class pursuing third-year studies for a degree in Statistics at the University of Nairobi.

But currently, he is a quarry worker in Gilgil, Nakuru County, because his family cannot raise Sh42,000 for school fees and Sh20,000 for accommodation to have him in campus.

The second born among nine children does the manual job with his father to make money so that the family meets its basic needs.

Ever since he began the work last month, Kinyanjui has managed to save Sh3,000. The target of Sh62,000 seems a long way off.

“I have no option but to work here and see if I can raise enough money to pay for my education,” said the student, fighting back tears.

Kinyanjui’s bid to secure a loan from the Higher Education Loans Board failed and he managed his first two years in university through savings he made when he interned at Equity Bank.

His father Muiruri Kimani said he had been forced to sell most of his property to educate his children, most of whom are in school.

“What I earn here is only enough to feed my children and I hardly make any savings. There is no more to sell and my hope now lies on a Good Samaritan to come to our assistance,” said Mr Muiruri.

Their workmates on the site have, out of sympathy, topped up Kinyanjui’s kitty with Sh2,000.

Now they have Sh57,000 to go.


Miles away in Narok County, a young man has been working with electricity connection contractors since he dropped out of Form Two in 2014.

John Kamadi, 20, was forced to discontinue schooling at Olopukoti Secondary School in Narok County out of what he calls unmanageable fees arrears. The bill at the school was Sh36,000 a year.

“I’d already done term one. In second term, the fees became untenable because I had arrears for the first term. It became difficult to pay,” said Kamadi.

He added: “I was being forced to struggle out there and pay for myself. I saw it was hectic; I can’t raise my fees and study at the same time.  It became difficult.”

The firstborn among four children has since graduated from digging holes to fixing cables and transformers, a job that can earn him Sh1,000 a day. However, he noted, such assignments are not consistent.

“There is a time like January when there was no job. We have to wait for a call,” he said, adding that he uses his earnings to provide for his family.

Asked if he would like to return to school, he said: “Yes. If I go back, I’ll just go back to Form One; to start afresh.”

As revealed in various initiatives to offer scholarships to bright but needy students, learners like Kinyanjui and Kamadi – who wish to get an education but resources won’t allow them – are legion.

The Wings to Fly programme by the Equity Group Foundation, for example, saw more than 20,000 applicants left out in the choosing of who to sponsor among the applicants who sat KCPE in last year.

The Foundation chairman James Mwangi said on February 5 that those involved in the selection process had a hectic time identifying the beneficiaries as all the 20,000 were in need of help. Only 2,000 were lucky.

Moreover, early this month it was revealed that only 47,000 out of 71,000 students who had applied for university loans from the Higher Education Loans Board actually received it.

This means that 34 per cent of needy students who joined university around 2015 are likely to face Kinyanjui’s fate.


But even as Kinyanjui and Kamadi face economic hurdles in their pursuit of an education, some have got it but are still yet to realise their dreams.

Mr Isaac Omari is one of those. He has resigned to being a tool caretaker at construction sites in Kisii County despite having a degree in Penology, Correction and Administration.

He graduated from Moi University in December 2013 but to date, he is yet to secure any formal employment.

Currently, he is in charge of construction items that his employer rents out to various construction sites, a job that earns him Sh500 on a good day.

“It has just been a hustle like always,” he said. “Jua kali tu. Kung’ang’ana tu. Ni vibarua tu.  (It has just been a struggle with menial jobs.)”

Mr Omari added that he would wish to venture into clothes business if he gets the capital.

And at the Elgonview Estate in Eldoret, Ms Brenda Atamba, 31, is comfortable being a house help despite holding a diploma in social work. She got the qualification in 2005 from Chako Training Centre. She sat her KCSE in 2003 and says she scored a C.

She interned in various institutions, tried her hand in business but with no luck of getting a permanent source of income, she resorted to being a house help.

“This is like any other job but a person should better know how to save. Without a culture of saving, you will stay in this career forever. The money I get also enables me cater for my children, who live with their grandmother,” she said, adding that she could only leave the work if she was assured of a stable job elsewhere.

Agents who recruit employees for the informal sector revealed that a good number of highly qualified people is seeking work as farmhands and nannies for lack of a better job.

“I have placed about five university graduates in the past one year,” said Mr Kevin Ooko, the director of Klas Investments, an Eldoret-based agency for domestic workers.

Weighing in the lack of jobs for educated Kenyans, developmental psychologist Mbutu Kariuki said Kenya is facing a crisis that may culminate into a revolution; while University of Nairobi economics lecturer Samuel Nyandemo advised Kenyan leaders to borrow an example from Asian countries. 

Mr Kariuki said: “That is how revolutions are created. You can take this to the bank. It cannot be a state where the rich mate on behalf of the poor, they eat on behalf of the poor, drink on behalf of the poor…”

He faulted the Kenyan education system, arguing that it produces people who cannot employ themselves.


“If you just look at the village (in Laikipia County) where I am right now, you see the number of young people who are coming to do some small vibaruas (casual jobs). They are all educated.

“I echo (Chief Justice Willy) Mutunga’s words that Kenya is a bandit economy; an economy for the rich. It’s all about the rich; they know where to do their marketing. It favours them,” added Mr Kariuki.

He also demanded that education be made truly free in order to meet the constitutional requirement of universal free education. 

“Free should mean free. Free plus Sh20,000 is not free,” he said.

In Dr Nyandemo’s opinion, the education system is wrong and the culture of graft makes matters worse for Kenya’s youth.

“Corruption is eating so much into the taxpayers’ money,” he said, adding that Kenya should go the China way and introduce stiffer penalties — including death — against those found guilty of corruption.

University of Nairobi Bachelor of

University of Nairobi Bachelor of Science-Statistics student Joseph Kinyanjui (centre) explains a point to his father Muiruri Kimani (left) and career school teacher Gichuki Kenda. PHOTO| MACHARIA MWANGI

The lecturer added: “China has done it and it is moving now very well economically... And we need also to focus more on entrepreneurial skills, and then we create special funds for enhancement in terms of loans to the youths.Youth Development Fund in

this country is a disaster; it’s not properly managed.”

Dr Nyandemo asked the government to emulate some policies that have been implemented in Rwanda and some Asian countries.

“Our policies for national development are a bit weird. We are focusing more on investments which are not sustainable and which are not able to get more wealth in order to produce more job opportunities,” he said.

On the matter of some graduates not getting ready jobs, Mr Ezra Kimondo, the customer support advisor at web-based job search platform Brighter Monday, said the natural forces behind the job market dictate that some course choices offer more likelihood of getting employed than others.

He also said some youths are not using modern techniques of job hunting, which limits their chances of getting employed.

“We are at a digital age. The era of dropping documents at a front office is long gone. You need to look at where employers are,” he said, adding that a sales or IT job is easier to come by compared to other specialisations.

According to the Economic Survey 2015, the informal sector created more jobs for Kenyans in 2014 compared to the formal sector.

“Performance of the labour market remained modest with employment growing at 5.9 per cent to an estimated 14.3 million jobs in 2014. Employment within the informal sector dominated job creation resulting in an increase in its share of total employment to

82.7 per cent during the year,” it said.

And according to a World Bank report, the number of Kenyans aged between 15 and 24 who are available for work but unemployed has been on the rise between 2011 and 2014.

The report, available on the World Bank website, says that the percentage of the unemployed labour force aged 15-24 in Kenya stood at 17.1 per cent in 2011, then in the subsequent years it was 17.3, 17.3 and 17.4.

Mr Kariuki noted: “We were having videos of people crossing the roads of Kibera during the day, 6.30 am. They had guns and were robbing the people on the highway. Openly. What do you do? People don’t care anymore. Because people have to survive.”


Some of the organisations that support education of needy children across the country

Needy students in search of financial assistance could be missing out on opportunities to get assistance due to lack of a structured way of accessing help, according to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In his speech during the launch of the second phase of the Wings to Fly scholarships and commissioning of the first 2,000 scholars of the Wings to Fly project, Mr Kenyatta said the efforts to assist learners are uncoordinated and they thus need an umbrella


“As we speak, there are a great many unco-ordinated efforts in bursary provision. It is time we streamlined these efforts,” he said.

In the President’s view, a good bursary provider should cater for all expenses a learner needs.

“I appeal to other organisations that provide bursaries to strive not only to support tuition but also to pay for the other needs of our students critical to their performance,” he noted.

Among the avenues that have been providing help for needy students is the Constituency Development Fund. Governors and ward representatives in some counties have also joined the fray.


Other institutions that are currently helping needy students are:


Through the M-Pesa Foundation Academy, the initiative that stems from Kenya’s biggest telecommunication provider, Safaricom, targets bright children from needy backgrounds.

The academy opened doors at the start of this year.

Material on its website says it is “a state of-the-art mixed boarding high school providing world class Kenyan education.”

The website adds that the academy’s curriculum is more than just studies.

“This is an overall development programme that nurtures students’ skills and builds a culture that enables positive change. These programmes cover social and servant leadership, emotional intelligence, working in teams, simulating real life challenges and

failures, elevator pitching, etc. The academy cultivates students’ ability to innovate, irrespective of their academic strengths or weaknesses.”


The foundation has been in operation since 2006, and it is named after its founder, the former Vice President who is a co-principal in the opposition Cord.

Speaking to Lifestyle last year, the foundation’s managing director James Matiki said the they were supporting about 100 learners, both in primary and secondary schools.

“We are supporting the children’s home for the moment but we want it to be independent in five years. It has a board that runs its administrative and financial operations. Allocation to the college includes uniforms,” Mr Matiki said.


An offshoot of the Kenya Commercial Bank, the KCB Foundation has come to the rescue of many.

“We seek to improve access and quality of education for needy students through support for scholarships, learning materials and construction of classrooms. To date we have reached over 900,000 students across the country. Our main project is the KCB scholarship programme that supports 200 scholars every year for the four years of secondary education,” says the foundation’s website.


Started in 2012, the Family Bank Foundation is a combined effort of three companies that include Family Bank Limited, Kenya Orient Insurance Limited and Daykio Plantations Limited.

Between January 3 and January 18, the foundation opened a window for needy students to apply for funding. For a one to make it to the programme, a poster about the initiative said, one needed to have attained a set pass mark, secured admission to a

national or county school and demonstrate a need for financial assistance.

The foundation says in its mission statement that it is out to “uplift the Kenyan family by catalysing transformative change in education, agribusiness, healthcare and entrepreneurship.”


- Elvis Ondieki