How grants kept students in class as pandemic swept

Barbra Achieng

Dennis Ndung’u has been determined to hold onto the joys that life offers, but the past three years have given him little to celebrate.

He was born with a spinal injury that robbed him of the ability to walk. A pressure wound that develops time and again due to prolonged sitting on his wheelchair has also meant that the Form Three student has never completed a school year since joining Salvation Army Joytown Secondary School.

Bedsores are injuries to skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin.

He reckons that things would have been worse had he not been enrolled in Equity Bank’s Wings to Fly Scholarship Programme, a signature initiative of Equity Group Foundation’s Education and Leadership Development pillar that sponsors bright needy students through high school.

“I scored 370 marks in KCPE. Having heard about Wings to Fly from past beneficiaries, I prayed that I would be picked,” says Ndung’u, from Endarasha in Nyeri County.

The burden of school fees would be eased from his mother if Equity came through for him.

But a series of lengthy hospitalisation spells have meant that he has never been a regular in school.

“In Form One, the pressure wounds were so bad that I was ordered to take a bed rest. I missed all of the third term,” he says.

He reported late in the first term of Form Two. But another wound consumed his entire third term.

That was in 2020. Further, he was to go to clinic every two weeks.

“The doctor had prescribed pressure cushions for my wheelchair to ease the strain on my back,” he says.

Equity paid his hospital bills and bought him two pressure cushions.

As schools remained closed in 2020, Equity Group sent him a solar lamp and a radio through which he could follow classes on KBC radio.

“The bank also sent me Sh5,000 every month. I used part of this money to buy data that I used to download videos for my learning. I was playing catch-up,” he says.

During the pandemic, Equity Group Foundation and the Mastercard Foundation partnered to support more than 14,600 students in the Wings to Fly and Elimu scholarship programmes so they could access education at home.

Lapit Barbara has just completed her undergraduate course at the Coast National Polytechnic.

The 26-year-old is also a beneficiary of the Wings to Fly Scholarship Programme through her secondary school and tertiary education in a TVET programme.

Omar Omara

She scored 336 marks in KCPE and was admitted to Enoomatasiani Girls Secondary School in Kajiado.

“I applied for the Wings to Fly Scholarship Programme because my parents were unable to pay my fees,” she says. 

She later joined the Coast Polytechnic to pursue a diploma in beauty therapy and hairdressing. Equity paid her school fees and in the final year even funded her food and accommodation.

Further, Equity sent her money that she invested in a goat selling business in her Kajiado home. The business is still keeping her busy.

“I had started a salon here, but it did not do well,” she says.

When Omar Omara Abae’s mother insisted on him going to a boarding school so he could avoid some of his peers, he did not envisage the success that awaited.

He was told by his teachers that students who did well would be taken through secondary school free of charge by Equity Group.

“I scored 358 marks in KCPE and was among the students selected in our sub-county,” he says.

With the other beneficiaries, he was brought to Nairobi for an induction ceremony into the programme. It was his first time in the city. 

Omara went to Kenyatta High School Mwatate and scored a C- in KCSE. Again, he applied for a TVET scholarship to pursue a diploma in ICT at the Coast Institute of Technology.

Equity Group Foundation’s TVET programme began in 2016 with the aim of ensuring 100 per cent transition of Wings to Fly scholars into tertiary education. It absorbs beneficiaries who did not qualify for university. 

During the pandemic, Omara felt a bit hopeless about his education prospects.

Equity Bank sent him a monthly stipend of Sh3,500, which the family used to boost their maize and green grams farming.

He was also able to buy a battery for the lighting system in their thatched house and charge his phone. That enabled him to attend online classes during the pandemic.

Barbra Achieng’ is in Form One at Alliance Girls, her dream school.

Her father died before she was born and the burden of bringing her up, alongside her three older siblings, was left to her mother, who does odd jobs in Dandora.

During her primary education at Ofafa Jericho Primary School, the head teacher informed her of the opportunities that Equity offered. After scoring 408 marks in KCPE she successfully applied for The Wings to Fly scholarship. She also got a spot in her dream school.

Applications for this year’s intake are on.