Kenya has been celebrating this month after two of its athletes shattered barriers in the men’s and women’s marathons.
Kenyans might be used to our runners taking gold medals, but that weekend was special — Eliud Kipchoge running under two hours in Vienna and Brigid Kosgei breaking a 16-year-old women’s world marathon record in Chicago. Kipchoge and Kosgei have made every Kenyan proud.
But athletics is not the only area in which Kenyans can and do outclass the world.
Education is one of those fields and Kenyans with top-class education are becoming leaders in business, academics and technology at home and around the world.
Education both enables individuals to achieve and serve as a foundation for national development, progress and prosperity.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, an investment in education pays the highest interest.
The problem previously has been that many gifted students from economically disadvantaged families and marginalised areas have not had access to these institutions owing to the high costs involved.
But the tide has lately appeared to turn in their favour as several organisations have invested in helping these students gain access to world-class higher education.
One such organisation is the Kenya Scholar Access Programme (KenSAP).
Since inception 15 years ago, KenSAP has been helping Kenya’s outstanding and disadvantaged high school graduates earn full scholarships to world-leading universities.
To date, KenSAP has placed 197 students from across the 47 counties in such top-tier North American universities as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and MIT.
And in recent years, the programme has expanded to include scholars from other countries in the region — Tanzania, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan.
What’s more, notwithstanding the scholars’ disadvantaged backgrounds, they are succeeding at these highly competitive institutions.
Sixteen are pursuing doctoral studies in various fields, dozens of others have earned master’s degrees, and many more have gained vital qualifications and experience working at world-leading companies and organisations such as Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Tesla, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deloitte, IBM and the IMF.
Many of the graduates are bringing their qualifications and experience back to Kenya, working here or starting their own business.
The programme works with over 30 companies operating in Kenya that employ KenSAP graduates for internships and full-time positions.
KenSAP is privately funded, mainly by donors from abroad. But in recent years, our alumni have become significant contributors and we are steadily increasing our support from businesses and institutions in Kenya.
This is the focus of this year’s fundraising drive, which culminated in a gala dinner at the Villa Rosa Kempinski last week.
Charles Field-Marsham is a Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist. He joined KenSAP in 2005 as its principal funder and chairman. www.kensap.org