University student brightens the future for school dropouts

Be Your Own Boss founder David Kimani Muthoni in class with students at Second Chance Adult Learning Centre, Kilifi.

Mataza Ali ran away from home more than 30 years ago after sitting his primary school examination and took up a job as a manual labourer. But the 46-year-old driver still believes in a better future -  a Form Four certificate. 

Ali trained as a mechanic but now says over the years, he has realised that he may never move up his job grade without the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) papers.

“I see a lot of job adverts I could take up, but when I apply, the first thing that locks me out is lack of KCSE papers,” he says. And this is the future that 22-year-old student at Pwani University David Kimani is building for Ali. One year after Kimani won Sh700,000 in the famous Blaze -- Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) -- television show, he says he does not regret investing every penny of it in education.

The second runners up of the show in 2017 used his winnings to expand his adult learning school named ‘Second Chance Learning Centre’. The centre, which is located in Kilifi town, currently has 33 adult students who are pursuing both primary and secondary school certificates. It is here where Ali and others have put their hope. Emily Luvuno, mother of one, is desperately seeking to shake off illiteracy by starting over from class eight where she left from. Luvuno, 32, says she has seen the miserable lives some of her friends who do not have certificates lead, and she does not want to end up like them.

“It reaches a time when you get tired of being exploited just because you do not have the right papers,” she says. The 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey (KIHBS) indicate that overall, 51.4 per cent of the total report primary education as the highest level attained while 21.2 per cent had secondary level of education. Only 3.0 per cent of the population have university education (undergraduate and postgraduate)

Kimani says when he moved from his home in Nyandarua to Malindi, he realised that most people he was interacting with had not gone to school. With just Sh40,000, he decided to set up an adult learning centre.

“I decided to give them a second chance. It took a lot for me to get to university, and I was always out of school due to lack of fees. I know what it means to want something and not have it,” he says.

When he got the money from Safaricom who were the main funders of the programme, he registered even more students. The centre currently sits in a three-roomed structure which houses the library and classes. For laboratory lessons, they liase with neighbouring schools. “Most of them cannot even pay. The fee is just Sh6,000, but they still struggle to pay it. Sometimes I think of stopping, but when I see their passion, I push myself to continue,” he says.

School drop outs

KIHBS statistics put Kilifi and Kwale counties among regions with high number of school drop outs. 

Benson Mwangi, one of the three teachers at Second Chance learning centre, says even though teaching adults is enjoyable because they tend to grasp things easier, they still have to battle with absenteeism that comes with the responsibilities they bear. The young team of instructors’ volunteer to teach, dividing their time between college and the centre. “They are parents so they prioritise their parenting. Other times, they get jobs that take most of their time, so they cannot come,” he says.

Kimani says despite the challenge, last year, they were able to see a student attain grade D+ (plus) in KCSE, something he says is no mean feat.

“These are people who are starting over from things they left more than 10 years ago. They always have two years or less to read all set books, master subjects and pass exams. A D+ is not bad,” he says. He has plans to expand his school and move it online for customized content for learners who many not have time to sit in class.   

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