Nelly Cheboi: Lady who let go of US dream to teach 'villagers' IT

Nelly Cheboi at Zawadi Academy in Mogotio, Baringo County on August 31, 2022. She resigned from a job in the USA and relocated to her village to fight poverty using Technology. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Ms Cheboi says her joy is to see the children in the remote village learn and make their own money because the country's education system has failed many. Most of the 4,000 children, aged between 10 and four, are from needy families but well-off parents with children in private schools have also shown interest.

"I have partnered with 10 schools in Baringo, Nakuru and Mombasa to help them learn technology as part of their curriculum by using recycled computer technology," she says.

The schools rely on donations to collect, ship and import donated computers, as well as to develop curriculum and administer digital skills education.

Techlit Africa, she said, has a vision of reaching 100 schools with 40,000 pupils across the country.

Initially, it targeted adults to learn basic computer skills to enable them stay relevant and connected with the outside world. However, Ms Cheboi faced rejection from the same people who should have benefited, forcing her to shift focus to children who were ready and yearning to acquire computer skills.

She said it was difficult for her to convince parents to pay Sh100 per child in targeted schools with many accusing her for scamming them.

But Cheboi reveals that even after returning to Kenya, she continued to remotely work for a US firm earning Sh1 million a month.

"I was employed by an American company and earned Sh1 million monthly. When Covid-19 pandemic hit, I was working at night but I resigned in July to take time off. The point is with computer skills one can work anywhere globally," she says.

Ms Cheboi has employed over 20 staff in both schools and her salon school, which empowers women with skills.

But why did she make such a major career switch?

When Cheboi was growing up, she never imagined that one day she would redeem her family from the shackles of poverty.

"I grew up in a very poor family. My mother was struggling with everything, food, clothing and our education. She had to do odd jobs in the village to make ends meet," she recalls and reveals it is her mother's resilience that inspired her and other members of the family.

Educating girls

"We would go to bed on empty stomachs but she was hopeful that everything will be okay. She kept on telling us that one day, things will change for the better and our family will uplift not only our living standards but the entire community," she recalls.

"With what was happening, I took upon myself to study with the intention of building a house for my mother who put up with ridicule to see us get education. Neighbours would tell her that she was wasting her time educating girls who eventually will be married but she gave them a deaf ear," Cheboi says, adding she relied on a security light at a nearby shop to study.