MKU Foundation hosts Forum on educational scholarships and funding

Mount Kenya University Foundation on Wednesday November 29, 2023 hosted a breakfast forum on scholarships and funding at a Nairobi hotel.

The event, which brought together government and non-governmental players, discussed ways of enhancing partnerships that will improve access to higher education particularly to bright students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Among the participants were Higher Education Loans Board (HeLB), National Government Constituency Development Fund Board, Universities Fund, Equity Group Foundation, Plan International, Hope Worldwide, Islamic Relief-Kenya, Amara Charitable Trust, Digna Foundation, Elimisha Trust, Affecto Foundation, I & M Bank Foundation, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), Murang’a County Government, Teach For Kenya, Akothee Foundation, Compassion International, Equip Africa Institute and Openda Foundation.

The Forum came on the backdrop of the recent roll-out of the new Variable Scholarship and Loan Funding model for university students, which has brought changes in how university students pay their fees.

Previously, the government was funding university education through a Differentiated Unit Cost model- where its contribution to public universities was expected to be 80%. But in light of changing costs of mounting academic programmes and economic circumstances, noted Geoffrey Monari, CEO Universities Fund who graced the Forum, the highest the government could afford was 66%. In 2022, the government could only raise 44%. It was therefore prudent to introduce a new model that uses a Means Testing instrument to ensure university students receive government funding based on their financial ability to pay fees. “The model we have now is student-centred,” said Mr Monari. “Foundations such as this one by MKU are doing a good job in supplementing the government’s efforts of ensuring no child is left behind.”

The breakfast Forum, which was co-organized by the NGOs co-ordination Board, also discussed the possibility of establishing an Association of grant makers and benefactors in Education who will be a common, unified, an unequivocal voice in the area of scholarships and funding. This will bring together the government bodies (such as HeLB, Universities Fund and National Government CDF Board), NGOs with programmes in education, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Foundations, Trusts and individual benefactors.
“We shall use the Association as a lobby for a possible future inclusion on the table of educational financing decision policy makers,” said MKU Foundation Executive Director John W. Koigi. “We shall also meet periodically to populate reports and measure the impact and success of our educational funding programmes.”

He added that the association will also explore the possibility of establishing a joint scholarship fund, which will be administered by a secretariat.

The Forum heard that the National Government through CDF had awarded scholarships worth KSh57 billion in the last five years. On its part, HeLB had disbursed over KSh131 billion to 1.3 million students.

Dr Vincent Gaitho, who chairs the KEPSA Education Sector Board challenged the two government bodies to set up a revolving fund to ensure the money is paid back by the beneficiaries “so that it is made available for the next generation.”

“Even if the money is interest-free, beneficiaries should be made to pay it back,” he added.

Equity Group Foundation’s Kevin Lubembe bemoaned the lack of adequate information on available scholarships especially for those who have just written their KCSE exams. “We should double our efforts in dispensing information particularly to the bright students in rural areas. In addition, we should explore ways where we expose students to scholarships and funding beyond their first year of education.”

During the Forum, Esther Akoth of Akothee Foundation granted MKU student Milly Nafula KSh50,000 towards her upkeep. Nafula, who is a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) student at MKU School of Medicine was granted a full scholarship by MKU Foundation in 2022.

She had stayed out of school for 14 years- despite scoring an A- (minus) grade in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary school examination. When her story was broadcast on Citizen TV prime time news, it triggered national conversation on unequitable access to quality higher education.
Driven by despair, Milly was working at a poshomill, her dream of becoming a medical doctor dissipating with each passing day. She had lost her mother, the sole bread winner, and had been left to fend for her siblings.

MKU Foundation, through its patron Prof. Simon Gicharu responded to her cry and awarded her a full scholarship valued at KSh3.5 million. She joined MKU Medical School at Thika Main Campus in September, 2022.

“I wish to thank Akothee for the donation and as I have promised all my other donors, I will not let you down,” said Milly. “I will work hard and ensure I attain my dream of being a medical doctor.”

NGOs Board Executive Director Mutuma Nkanata hailed the NGOs with programmes in education for the role they play in ensuring children and youth receive education. “The future of the country is pegged on how well educated our students all. I wish to thank you all for the efforts you put in place throughout your various programmes.