I still remember the first time we met her. She had just landed in the country and was referred to our apartment by someone who knew there were some Kenyans in the neighbourhood. She had only a hundred dollars in her pocket, having realised after paying off her first semester tuition, that food and accommodation were not included in the cost of fees!
Over dinner that evening, tears flowed as she shared about her dilemma. There was no way her money would last a month, let alone the whole semester. Yet how could she give up? She was the firstborn of six and her family had conducted a major harambee as well as sold land to send her abroad to study. Their hope was that she would open the way for her siblings to one day join her in ‘the land of opportunity’. How could she go back home and tell them that their hard work was in vain?
Although this took place many years ago, many Kenyan parents are still sending their ill prepared children abroad for further studies. In light of the recently announced KSCE results, I thought to share about some thoughts regarding that decision.
Many parents don’t realise just how expensive it is to study abroad. After all, we all know some success story about so and so’s child who studied in such and such country and is now highly successful in his career. What we don’t realise is just how relatively few these success stories are. In the years my wife and I spent abroad as master’s students, we often encountered students who had quit school, sourced false papers and were working full-time to survive. Quite a few had chosen (often to their later regret) to marry someone from that country so that they could apply for citizenship. Some were abusing drugs to help them cope with their nightmarish situation.
The sad thing of course is that parents at home often had no idea what their children were putting up with. The pictures of their child standing proudly in front of his or her latest car were enough to convince them that all was going well. They had no way of knowing how easy is to accumulate debt and live unsustainably in developed economies. Many young Kenyans abroad maintain the illusion, often fantasising about but knowing deep inside that they will never have the courage to face the challenges of starting afresh back home.
My advice to parents? Unlike the old days when there were few local options, there are many good private universities in the region that you could send your child to for their first degree. If you’re still determined to send your child abroad however, next week, I’ll share a few tips on how to prepare them so they have a better chance of success.
Pastor M is a leadership coach, author and the senior pastor at Mavuno Church. Follow him on twitter @muriithiw or like his Facebook page, ‘Pastor_ M’
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