Meet alumna Sheila Serrano, a civil engineer with a creative mind

Posted on 10/15/2016 at 02:03AM

“It was a blessing that Pathways came to my high school [in Manila] because my father lost his job before I finished my first year of school.” Even when Sheila’s father still had a job, she used to walk to school for lack of money for public transportation. But thanks to Pathways, Aiducation’s partner Organisation in the Philippines she could continue high school at what she calls “private school conditions”: Her mathematics, English and science skills were honed in advanced classes and she grew her self-esteem through acting.

Pathways then covered the fees for the university entrance exams and Sheila passed all seven exams she took. Not one to bask in pride, she humbly says “I was well groomed by Pathways”. Following in her father’s footsteps, Sheila chose to become a civil engineer at University of Santo Tomas in Manila. With a university scholarship, support from Pathways and some money from her father’s overseas job, Sheila financed her tertiary education. Again through Pathways, she gained skills to manage stress or speak in public and the dedicated student passed her degree with flying colors.

Today, Sheila is 26 years old and works as a procurement officer at a large water utility company in Manila. There, she handles the tendering of projects to the most competitive bidders and does everything from evaluations over presentations to top management to preparing contract documents. “My work goal is to learn and be the best I can in the projects I’m assigned to.” We have no doubt she is succeeding in her mission!

Tags: AiduTalent, AiduAlumni, AiduFellow, Academy, Swiss Re, Philippines, Pathways

Cornerstone Academy – affordable quality education

Posted on 09/26/2016 at 01:57PM

Six years ago, with an Aiducation Scholarship, Julius Fondo was able to finish high school studies. He attended the third Swiss Re Startup Academy, after which he applied for funding of his start-up idea. Now, he is the proud director of Cornerstone Academy, a school offering quality education to bright students in his community. In an interview, he shares with us how everything started and what role Aiducation in the successful launch of his project played.

Julius, what inspired you to start Cornerstone Academy?

I wanted students to realize their full potential. Public schools, which most parents send their children to, offer poor quality education. Although private schools provide good education and also nurture talent, they are unaffordable for most parents. At Cornerstone I charge reasonable fees while providing quality education to uplift the lives of bright students from lower middle class families.

Julius Fondo, Director of Cornerstone Academy teaches a student computer software skills.

Was this a project you have always dreamt of launching?
I had this idea during primary school when I was transferred from a public to a private school. At the new school, I observed that the teachers were not only interested in helping students succeed in education but also nurturing talent in games and hobbies. I realized that there was a gap in the quality of education available to the rich and the needy. In 2014, I applied for a banl loan and opened the academy.

What role did Aiducation play in the success of your project?
Through the mentorship academy, I acquired knowledge that has helped me structure my business. I got a chance to apply for the Swiss Re startup fund. The fund helped change the face of the project. I purchased books, furniture and equipment. At the moment, I get assistance from Aiducation in terms of marketing strategies for the school.

What challenges were you facing after you had started?
I was about to close down the Academy due to financial constraints. Cornerstone needed funds to cover the monthly rent, teaching materials, salaries, books and furniture. There was only a handful of students, so the school fees could not cover all the expenses.

Are you now a full-time business man at Cornerstone?
Yes, I am. I get to the school at 6.00 o’clock in the morning. I ensure that teachers have arrived on time and are prepared for the day’s work. I meet with parents if required, teach Mathematics, Christian Religious Education (C.R.E) and Computer lessons every day. My workday ends at 5.30 pm after students and teachers have left.

Neema Katana, a Teacher at Cornerstone Academy conducts a one-on-one teaching session.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
This school will be fully registered. There will be an increase in the number of classrooms to accommodate a maximum of three hundred students. A stand- alone library and computer laboratory at students’ disposal. We will be the leading school in the Kilifi County in Kenya Certificate Primary Education (K.C.P.E).

Thank you so much for your time and all the best.

Interview: Emmanuella Kinda, Communications Officer Aiducation Kenya

Tags: AiduTalent, AiduAlumni, AiduFellow, Impact, Kenya, Start-up

The seventh Swiss Re Start-up Academy: an utmost fulfilling event ever

Posted on 09/26/2016 at 01:35PM

by Erick Otieno, Aiducation Kenya Start-up Coach

Having had the humble and rare opportunity to be a mentor at several previous academies, the 7th Swiss Re startup academy, which took place in late August 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya came with a lot of expectations. With new mentors and new participants, the week went down so fast. From substantial input speaker to the next, sandwiched in between life, motivation speakers and games to help both facilitators and the participants unwind, the entire mentorship was the utmost fulfilling event ever.

The participants managed to acquire crucial basic skills with regard to entrepreneurship ranging from developing business plan, pitching, marketing, sales, financial management as well as critical and strategic thinking which is key to any personal development and success of an entrepreneur. Life skills were also a very critical element of the mentorship because the participants were able to get the basics of the challenges affecting their surroundings.

After all has been said and done, the best group got an acknowledgement, though this was not to mean that the other groups were lesser, but winners among equals. It’s my hope that as the past participants try to come up with their substantive business ideas, that they will never forget what they acquired and that they will not stop there, but dig even deeper for more knowledge and experience from all who would be willing to offer expertise to them.

Erick Otieno, (right) Aiducation Kenya Startup Coach with Wei Braunberger, a Swiss Re Mentor counsels AiduAlumni

Tags: AiduTalent, AiduAlumni, AiduFellow, Academy, Swiss Re, Kenya, AiduPartner

Meet Gift Kiti – student, fundraiser, and entrepreneur

Posted on 08/31/2016 at 01:59PM

Studying chemistry at the American Bates College, a start-up in Kenya with a revenue of $1600 per month and a fundraising project that is going into the next stage – these do not sound like the activities of a young lady whose family of eight did not even have enough money to send her to school. However, this is daily life of Gift Kiti whose impressive success story started with an Aiducation scholarship in 2010. We recently featured her in our blog as the first AiduAlumna who donated a scholarship. With support of the Aiducation Start-up Fund and, together with her sister Anzazi, she has now set up Taste Afrique Limited, a business that manufactures natural food seasoning.

The brand name of the seasonings is Chibundiro. It contains a mix of natural spieces that are beneficial for your health and add “extra yummyness to your food”.

Gift, can you tell us how your fundraising project “ELIMU” is going?

The Elimu Project is going on well with Magdalene (editor’s note: Gift’s AiduFellow) finishing up her third year of high school. We were able to successfully transfer her to a better school Murray girls and she has since then improved in her academics. We do hope she continues with the same spirit of hard work. The initiative is yet to sponsor someone else for now. Fundraising is very challenging because it basically turns you into a begger, it requires a lot of strategy so that the givers don’t tire from giving. First of all, I personally as the founder learnt a lot from the fundraising experience. One of the key lessons was that fundraising is not easy and it requires one to have some essential skills that will better equip them to carry it out. I therefore applied to be part of the New Leaders Council of Maine class of 2016 whereby alongside my studies at Bates College I attended an intense weekend each month for 6 months on leadership aspects including how to fundraise and manage an NGO. As a rising junior at Bates College majoring in Chemistry it can also be tough to balance out the student life verses all the other aspects of identifying who to sponsor and ways of raising money to support them. That said, Magdalene is the only beneficiary so far and hopefully there will be many more in the near future.

The manufacturing room is simple, but the team produces 40 glasses of seasoning per day.

What other projects are you involved in?

Apart from my studies at Bates College, I co-run a Start-Up company with Anzazi Kiti called Taste-Afrique. So far we are selling Chibundiro which is a natural spice that takes food to the next level. Taste-Afrique does not only offer health first from nature’s best but also inspires young students to achieve their dreams. Once in a while we carry out motivational talks at high schools and have even started donation kittys to provide for some of the students that might be in need of a few essentials. Since I have always been a science student, I applied to an online business course with Harvard Business School and am currently doing a summer online course which will equip me with skills that will not only come in handy for the Chibundiro business but are also essential for someone who is hoping to manage any enterprise as general knowledge or lifeskills.

In the last article, we called you an agent of change in your own society. How could you inspire people so far? What kind of changes do you see and wish to support further?

Apart from Education, Health is my other passion. I am working hand-in-hand with my mother, who is a nurse in order to come up with a way in which we can possibly elevate the health standards of a semi-rural area in Mombasa. More details will be offered once the plans are much clearer. I still think I do have a long way to go but am grateful to God and the people who believe in me daily and I hope to keep doing what I love to inspire those around me and be inspired by the much that the world has to offer. While I am not studying, I enjoy singing with a gospel acapella group at Bates college called Gospelaires or volunteering at local after-school programs in Lewiston, Maine.

Explainer: why Kenya wants to overhaul its entire education system

Posted on 08/28/2016 at 01:43PM

This test was written by Daniel Sifuna, Professor of History of Education, Kenyatta University. It was first published on Mon, 15/08/2016 on THE CONVERSATION.

Kenya is reforming its education system for the first time in 32 years. It’s also changing its curriculum from pre-school all the way through to high school.

Part of what’s prompted this huge overhaul is the realisation that Kenya isn’t doing enough to produce school-leavers who are ready for the world of work. The government’s own assessments have showed that the current system isn’t flexible. It struggles to respond to individual pupils’ strengths and weaknesses.