Transforming young minds
Dr Julius Weche is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Akad Education Group-Africa, an organisation that provides career mentorship and leadership training to the youth. He spoke to NJOKI CHEGE
Dr Weche with Brian Ngugi who is a beneficiary of Akad Africa. Brian aspires to be the next Steve Jobs.
For many years, Dr Julius Weche attended resourceful conferences in the US, but one thing that always baffled him was the near absence of African participants. In most cases, he found himself the only black and when there were a few blacks, they would most likely be Nigerians.
It was during Harvard Business School’s 12th Africa Business Conference in February 2010 that the idea of Akad Africa occurred to him.
Here, he met Peter Mombaur, co-founder of the African Leadership Academy and Alex Grove, CEO of Akad Group (Asia). The name ‘Akad’ is based on the names of the founders of the Akad Educational Group, namely?Alex Grove, Kenneth Chung, Adam Cheng and Daryl Martin. The group provides career mentorship and value-based leadership training to schools and individuals.
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Says he: “I wondered why there were no such institutions in Africa. It is for this reason that I requested to extend the Akad Group concept to Africa, with the vision of providing opportunities for African youth to access world class academic training, internships and scholarship funding.”
The founders agreed and in 2010, Akad Education Group Africa was born. With over 60 volunteer professionals in all fields, the group goes round schools giving career talks and mentorship to students. Their goal, Weche says, is to trigger transformational change in the minds of thousands of students in the country.
According to Weche, many youths abandon their studies and resort to drug abuse and other societal ills because they lack a vision.
Weche believes the reason many Kenyans do not benefit from international scholarships is because they are not aware of their existence and those who aware don’t know how to prepare for the scholarships.
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“Our goal is to create a vision in these young minds. Many of them get lost because they have lost their vision and dream. We want to restore that dream and vision and show them how to achieve it,” he says.
In Kenya, many academically gifted and financially challenged student’s battle for government scholarships, yet there are over 4,000 universities in the US where they can get scholarships.
“We do not offer scholarships, but we give information on how to acquire them. We provide the link between the students and where they want to go in the future. We believe in starting when they are still young to enable them visualise where they want to be in future,” he says.
In a bid to fully prepare and equip students for their bright futures, Akad has established links with admission officers who know exactly what the universities abroad are looking for.
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It is for this reason that Akad Education Group Africa facilitates self-sponsored tours to various universities in the US in a programme dubbed ‘The USA Education Travel’. The programme’s aim is to enhance the vision and leadership skills of students, to improve morale and self-image and give a vision for academic success.
Says he: “The best way to get a feel of these universities is to visit them. This provides an opportunity to attend an admission information session and take a campus tour.”
According to Weche, information sessions and tours are a good way for prospective students and their families to ask questions, get answers and develop a better sense of what the universities have to offer.
The tours are made to coincide with holidays — Easter (April), Summer (July - August) and Christmas (December).
Given the different school options, tailor-made tours are available for groups and schools throughout the year on request.
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Brian Ngugi, a 16-year-old student at Lenana School and a beneficiary of Akad Africa, aspires to be the next Steve Jobbs (the late founder of Apple). Ngugi hopes to take his first step towards this by joining Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“Akad Africa has given me exposure on the universities available for me. I have met a lot of mentors in the field I want to join and I believe that I can be as successful as Steve Jobbs,” says Ngugi.
Providing leadership training and mentorship has not been without its share of ups and downs, as Weche reveals. In an era where so much emphasis is placed on good grades, many schools are yet to warm up to the idea of allowing mentors into their students’ busy schedules.
“Many schools are focused on getting As, making students cram the entire syllabus from 5am to 11pm without realising that the talk from the mentors could change the lives of their students,” says Weche.
Dr Julius Weche Akad Education Group-Africa career mentorship