Mathare slum trio land Chinese university scholarships
Nairobi News caught up with Hagai Stephene Otieno, Kiage Cecil Stewart, and Kimaru Keziah Muthoni in days before the trio depart Nairobi for further studies.
The three are set to pursue their undergraduate courses in Opto-Electronic Information Science and Engineering, Computer Simulation Engineering, and Tourism Management respectively in China.
Like other 2022 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), graduates, the three will commence their undergraduate courses this September 2023.
However, once they land in China, they will spend their first year learning the Chinese language at Tianjin University and Beijing Language and Culture University. This will help them to understand the language and culture to ease their communication during their study periods while in China.
“Lack of school fees has been the most difficult part of my life as being sent home due to fees arrears was a normal thing,” says Otieno, 18 who grew up in the Mathare 4B area.
Otieno and Kimaru will undertake their degree studies at the same university, Changchun University of Science and Technology while Muthoni will pursue her course at Shandong Normal University.
“Neither of my parents could afford to pay my school fees. I depended on my elder brother, neighbours, and friends for the little support they could,” says 20-year-old Muthoni, born and raised in Mathare.
The poverty levels in Mathare, a slum in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, makes it hard for many students to be in school.
“Studying in Mathare has been challenging. Sometimes I did not even want to go to school because most of my age mates were out. But I kept pushing myself to bring a change in my family and community,” says Stewart, 21.
The inability to pay school fees and desire to continue their education despite their parents’ financial difficulties led them to enroll at Mcedo Beijing School, a product of collaboration between the Mathare community and the Chinese Embassy in Kenya.
This is how they learned about the Chinese Scholarship Council. As they embark on a new chapter of their career journey abroad, they and the other winners believe they are setting sail towards an expansive horizon of opportunities and inspiration.
“After completing my studies I believe that I will have built a network with great minds in China to work on the different infrastructure projects that the Chinese government is doing in Kenya. I will also give back to the community because there are many needy children in Mathare,” says Stewart.
This scholarship comes at a time when China is celebrating 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Kenya and China. Before their farewell meeting, the scholars were taken on a study tour that began at the iconic Global Trade Centre in Westland. The team was then driven through the Express Way to the Standard Gauge Railway Nairobi terminus which they travelled into Mombasa for their convocation.
The study tour exposed them to the use of technology which has been described to stand as towering symbols of Kenya-China bilateral collaboration and engineering marvels that resonate as tangible examples of what determination, innovation, and shared vision can accomplish.
“Your decision to further your education in a land rich in culture, innovation, and opportunity is a testament to your mission and commitment to personal growth. Learning the Chinese language is not just about acquiring a new skill, it is about unlocking doors to the wall of possibilities,” says Dr Henry Rotich, Chairman of the Kenya-China Alumni Association.
Dr. Rotich further noted that learning the Chinese language opens avenues for effective communication, cross-cultural collaboration, and understanding. He advises the scholars going to China to have an open mind and of positive attitude to benefit from other opportunities beyond their studies.
“Studying in China offers an educational experience. The country’s rapid growth and technological advancements have positioned it as a global leader in innovation and research. By immersing yourselves in the dynamic environment you gain access to cutting-edge knowledge and a chance to collaborate with world-renowned scholars and experts,” says Dr. Rotich.
The first cohort of Kenyan students who secured the Kenya-China scholarship was in 1982. Since then, several students have been applying for the scholarship and supporting each other in the Kenya-China Alumni Association.
“We recognize the contribution of Chinese scholarships. These scholarships over the years have produced qualified personnel in the field of medicine, Engineers, teachers, and diplomats among others which are critical in the development of Kenya,” says Dr. David Watene, Deputy Director of Higher Education.
He said that the government acknowledges that education inequalities in the country will be reduced through initiatives like Kenya-China scholarships that aim at making education more accessible.
“It is my expectation that Kenya will continue to benefit from the bilateral relationship with China not only in education but all spheres of development,” he said.
Minister Councillor at the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Zhang Zhizhong urged the scholars to create time besides their studies to interact and learn more, especially about the Chinese culture as this would help them cope well with their counterparts while in China. This he said can be possible if the scholars consider the importance of social life while abroad.
“Please go to the cinemas and watch Chinese movies. Movies are a symbol of culture in modern times. Just like Kenyan friends we Chinese people are very proud of our own culture and that means from the movies you can better understand the values, spirits, and imaginations of the Chinese people,” said Zhizhong.