Scholars attend the annual Education and Leadership Congress where they receive mentorship during the school holidays.

January marked an extraordinary moment for Equity Group Foundation (EGF) as we celebrated the commissioning of 1,000 Wings to Fly scholars into the 15th cohort, a milestone resonating with dreams and the assurance of a brighter tomorrow. Initiated over 15 years ago to provide 500 scholarships, the program has remarkably expanded to oversee 60,009 scholarships under EGF.

With an outstanding track record, the program boasts a 97 per cent secondary school completion rate since its inception, with 82 per cent of graduating students achieving university entry grades, a testament to its unwavering commitment to academic excellence.

The Wings to Fly scholarship is not just an endpoint; it's a gateway. Scholars completing four years of secondary education can seamlessly transition into the Equity Leaders Program (ELP), empowering them with access to local and global universities while nurturing leadership skills.

Dr James Mwangi addresses scholars at a past annual Education and Leadership Conference.

Since its inception, ELP has facilitated university entry for 18,735 scholars, with 8,337 benefiting from paid internships at Equity Bank. Notably, 891 ELP scholars secured fully-funded scholarships at 209 global universities across 56 countries, including Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Cornell.

Furthermore, ELP scholars pursuing medicine have been supported by EGF to establish Equity Afia medical centres, thus expanding access to affordable, quality healthcare. To date, 102 facilities have been successfully launched nationwide, and Equity Afia is expanding the franchise in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

To further promote enterprise and provide solutions to various socio-economic challenges facing the continent, EGF has also created a network for ELP alumni in the enterprise and innovations space and has been supporting them to set up and grow their businesses.

Education, for us, is a passport to a future brimming with boundless opportunities. We are unwaveringly committed to ensuring financial constraints do not hinder our scholars' pursuit of knowledge.

Going beyond academics, we instil the right values, cultivate resilience, and inspire confidence to confront life's challenges. Our scholars are not just learners but leaders and change agents within their communities.

Our success is a testament to the support of incredible partners like Mastercard Foundation, The German Government through KfW, USAID, UKaid, DFID, Equity Bank Kenya, and numerous corporate and individual benefactors. 

His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, 4th President of the Republic of Kenya issues a scholarship letter to a beneficiary.

Here's to 15 years of dreams of transforming challenges into opportunities and empowering tomorrow's leaders. With Wings to Fly, the sky is not the limit; it's just the beginning.

From peasant roots to food sector revolutionist

From the daughter of a peasant farmer to a Wings to Fly beneficiary, Monica Marika's journey is one of transformation and determination. After scoring an A (plain) at Karima Girls High School, she joined the Equity Leaders Program (ELP), further cementing her academic path.

His Excellency President William Ruto addresses scholars at a past congress.

Monica delved into Food Science at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and expanded her knowledge through a Master's project at Michigan State University, USA. Her research, focused on creating nutrient-dense food products for vulnerable populations in South Africa, Jamaica, and the USA, demonstrates her ability to turn academic research into practical solutions.

Today, she stands at the forefront of bridging academia and practical application, having presented her findings to diverse audiences including the Institute of Food Technologists FIRST in Chicago and the South African Association for Food Science and Technology in Cape Town.

"The formative experiences and mentorship of the Wings to Fly program instilled in me a passion for leadership and change," says Monica.

From peasant roots to food sector revolutionist.

Rising Above: From humble beginnings to a global finance and health trailblazer

Orphaned and from a humble background, John Ndolo found strength in his great-grandmother and education. Scoring 375 in KCPE and being among the top performers in Kagundo Constituency earned him a spot in the Wings to Fly scholarship.  He would later also excel in the KCSE exam at Kangundo Boys’High School, scoring an A (Plain). 

In 2015, he joined the Equity Leaders Program and obtained a First-Class honours degree in Actuarial Science at JKUAT. He later pursued two Master's degrees abroad — one from the University of Toronto and another from the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences. 

“The light from Wings to Fly illuminated the ups and downs of my journey, guiding me towards a bright future and transforming me from a humble background to an international icon. Today, I stand not just as a product of my past, but as a beacon of inspiration for children who share similar backgrounds, proving that with determination, education, and support, any obstacle can be overcome and destiny rewritten,” he says. 

Governor of Nairobi County, H.E. Hon. Johnson Sakaja (left) hands over an award letter to Brian Mbuvi (right), one of the beneficiaries of the 2024 Wings to Fly scholarships from Kitui County, during the commissioning event at Pangani Girls High School.

Today, he is committed to leveraging his education to champion inclusion in Africa's financial and healthcare sectors and paying forward the support he received by making a significant impact in his community.

Empowering Dreams: Rigorous Selection Process 

The selection process for the Wings to Fly scholarships is both rigorous and transparent, involving community-based verification and monitoring. Members of the Community Scholarship Selection Boards (CSSBs) across the country diligently review applications, conduct face-to-face interviews, and make home visits. This thorough process ensures that scholarships are awarded to the most deserving scholars, thereby maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of the program.

Left: The Mastercard Foundation board members Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae and Jendayi Frazer, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, accompanied by Equity Group Foundation Executive Chairman Dr James Mwangi (2nd right) visit a scholar in Samburu.

"The Wings to Fly program has a far-reaching impact that spans several areas. It primarily benefits children who are orphans, hail from single-parent families, or have parents grappling with chronic illnesses or various forms of disabilities.

Most of these individuals lack the financial means to afford school fees, and this is where the scholarship plays a pivotal role. The scholarship lifts a significant burden, enabling the children to focus on their studies rather than being preoccupied with the financial challenges they face at home,” says Rosemary Wambui, Kibera Deputy Director of Education (Kibera CSSB).

The writer, Dr James Mwangi, CBS, is Equity Group Foundation Executive Chairman.]

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