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Secondary schools littered with entrepreneurs with big ideas

By Joe Ombuor | April 18th 2016

David Kihanya, Isaac Mwandi, Joshua Kiilu, Patrick Asembo whose Leap Hubs innovation won them a trip to the United States. [Photo: Joe Ombuor/Standard]

Some schools switched from the 8:4:4 system to the more practical 2:6:6:3 long before the current debate on curriculum change.

The switch, courtesy of an initiative christened Leap Hubs, was meant to nurture learners' potential.

The initiative that encourages innovation and exposes secondary school students to entrepreneurship prospects at an early age has gone viral in some Kenyan schools, even as cramming to pass examinations cocktailed with examination theft to excel remained entrenched.

Among the schools leaping high with the novel initiative is Moi Forces Academy in Nairobi where groups of students have formed companies complete with chief executive officers and other managerial cadres.

A company going by the name Blue Drive has won its four managers a trip to the United States of America after their innovation starred at the just concluded StartUpAfrica Diamond Competition.

Form Four student Daniel Kihanya who is Blue Drive Company CEO says of the device that propelled them to glory: "Blue Drive is a bluetooth enabled USB flash drive that enables wireless data transfer from a mass storage device to any bluetooth enabled device.

He is the originator and explains: "It all started one evening with a movie in my phone I wanted to watch on TV, a feat I could not pull through without transferring the film first to a laptop that I did not have, then to a USB flash disk. That prompted me to engage my mental gears to come up with a shortcut. I and like-minded colleagues fine-tuned a prototype that operates as a normal flash disk".

Kihanya said the Diamond Challenge Africa competition win was a springboard to the International Semi Final Round for High School entrepreneurs which will take place at the University of Delaware in the USA on April 14, 2016.

But it is not all systems go for the students and their patron, Boniface Mmbaka Shisakha because airfare stands between them and this grand opportunity to represent Kenya and machinate their entrepreneurial future.

As Blue Drive Company members limber for a US trip pending the availability of fare, their colleagues at Don Paul Arts Company are savouring recognition of the White House. Don Paul Arts works with less fortunate artists in society to shield them from manipulation and exploitation by middlemen.

President Barack Obama acknowledged a portrait of the first family Don Paul Arts took to the US embassy to be handed over to him during his visit to Kenya in July.

A letter from the White House dated December 17, 2015 with an appended bold signature of the most powerful man on earth reads: "Thank you for your gift. Michelle and I want you to know we are moved by your generosity.

"Though we all come from different traditions and communities, we believe nations and individuals are stronger when they work together by connecting across borders and cultures and holding firm to the ideals," the letter adds.

Apart from the first family, Don Paul Arts arsenal of portraits include those of President Uhuru Kenyatta, maverick Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, Industrialist Manu Chandaria, journalist Jeff Koinange among others. Paintings depicting local cultures and the country's beautiful wildlife are available for interested buyers.

Notes Company CEO Donald Kipkorir, a Form Four student says: "Our aim is to develop a website and application estimated to cost $400 (Sh41,600). Our longtime objective is to develop a local academy and art gallery to provide gifted students with a forum to showcase their skills."

He says artists pocket 60 per cent of sales proceeds and surrender 40 per cent to the company.

"That is how we make our income," he adds.

Innovations are spiced with other nonacademic activities by members of the Leap Hubs Club. Poised for takeoff in a matter of weeks is Animal Republic for the rehabilitation of stray dogs headed by Form Four student Stanley Mwambili.

Mwambili is a lover of animals and the brains behind the Animal Republic. Courtesy of Mwambili and his dog loving colleagues, his school has helped build a kernel at a cost of Sh50,000.

"The kennel has a carrying capacity of 16 dogs that will incorporate German shepherds. We are grateful to the veterinary department at Moi Air force base for technical advice during the construction of the kennels and willingness to offer training and free vaccination towards the success of the project," he says.

Apart from trained German shepherd dogs that cost Sh70,000 each, Mwambili's group envisage an animal rescue and adoption centre for stray dogs in a bid to minimise the dangers of rabies.

"Our strategy is to capture stray dogs from communities and return them at a small adoption fee after proper feeding, training and vaccination," Mwambili adds.

Already up and running is the Rabbit Republic Company where 23 of the long eared creatures valued for their meat are thriving and the Animal Republic Company which has specialised in pig rearing. Both are under the leadership of Joshua Kiilu.

Kiilu says: "Rabbits and pigs require totally different attention and brand of care. Only committed students can treat both equally. We strive to keep the piggery clean and the nine animals there are not dirty as perception has it. Eight of them are sows and one is a boar. Piglets are sheltered separately."

The students have since done away with quails.

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