How President Uhuru’s gift to student pilot came crashing

Gilbert Kipkorir, an aviation student whose college fees was cleared by President Uhuru.

An aviation student whose college fees was cleared by President Uhuru Kenyatta is now stranded after the institution suddenly closed down.

Gilbert Kipkorir received a full scholarship from President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017 to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

Months later, the dream disappeared, so did the school fees paid by the president and the aviation school he was attending.

“I cry whenever I imagine how the president’s Sh3.7 million paid for my school fees disappeared,” says Gilbert.

He scored Grade B in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination and wanted to study aviation. The problem was, he could not afford school fees.

Gilbert, who completed his secondary education at Longisa Boys High School, Bomet, in 2013, traveled to Nairobi and started doing casual jobs to try and raise some money to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot that began when he was five.

“I worked as a tout, a cook and even sold deworming tablets to make some money. I had to work had to make my dream come true,” he says.

Such was his passion for flying that every Sunday, he would walk to Wilson Airport to watch planes taking off and landing.

Admission letter

Months later, he walked into flying school at Wilson and got an admission letter which he took to his mother back in the village. The fees was astronomical.

“When I showed my mother the letter, she asked me if the Sh4.5 million written on it was the number of the aircraft I was going to fly,” he says.

The family organised a fundraiser but only managed to raise Sh88,000.

Skylink Aviation School allowed him to train with them after paying Sh70,000 in 2014.

“I touched an aircraft for the first time in 2015 and the feeling was great,” he says.

He returned home to look for more money and raised another Sh200,000 that helped him fly for 10 hours before another Sh66,000 was raised by villagers and friends at Bomet Stadium.

When Deputy President William Ruto visited Bomet for 2017 election campaigns, he was informed of the young man’s predicament and paid an additional Sh144,000.

But Gilbert’s big break though, came in 2017 when the president went to Bomet for a rally and his case was again raised by the Woman Representative.

“I was called to the dais and the President told me to give my details to his private secretary, Jomo Gechaga, he paid Sh3.7 million to cater for my my entire college fees. Hamud Suleiman (Skylink CEO) confirmed that the fees had been cleared,” says Gilbert.

He then focused on the task ahead -- becoming a pilot, confident that the fees burden had been shouldered by the president.

In mid 2018, Gilbert’s aviation class was taken to Malindi for the practicals. Two months later, they were informed that the institution had been shut down.

In Malindi, the students’ belongings were confiscated by the hotel they had been booked into by the school for non-payment of bills.

Gilbert along with 12 other students were allowed to join another aviation school, Alpha, which insisted that the Sh3.7 million that the president gave was paid to Skylink and that he still was in arrears.

Kicked out

Earlier this month, Gilbert was kicked out of the institution. Skylink’s CEO said no student had applied for a refund of the fees.

“Yes the school closed, and I am aware of students who had paid their fees including the one sponsored by the president,” he said.

Suleiman, who opened a new school after Skylink closed its doors, said a number of students completed their studies at Alpha Aviation School after paying 10 per cent of the required fees.

“Gilbert had not finished his theory exams, I even asked him along with other students and parents to write letters for the money to be refunded,” he said.

Bomet Woman Representative Joyce Korir has promised to ensure that the directors of the aviation school refund the money.

In the meantime, Gilbert’s dream of flying is stuck Skylink, including the president’s Sh3.7 million.