Nessa E. French | KF 17 | Kenya

“I won the bet!”  I exclaimed on Friday afternoon as I did a victorious ‘raising of the roof’ dance.  The dance is better left to the imagination than any sort of visual.  The bet in question was one that two other colleagues and I made on how long it would take for Strathmore University’s first partial tuition loan to fund once it went live on Kiva’s website.

Of course, we did not bet on anything material — only glory. One of the Strathmore Kiva Coordinators who lost said, “I lost but it’s good, I’m happy to lose because we all won.” She was right, Strathmore’s Kiva Coordinators had been working on making this a reality for many months now and it finally was. We were all ecstatic. What an exciting way to end my first week of work as a Kiva Fellow, and just another instance where I felt so happy to have been placed with field partner Strathmore University.

It was the last day of my first week of work at Strathmore University, and six partial tuition and laptop loans had just gone live on the site. The loans went live on Kiva.org at around 11:00 a.m. Nairobi time. The first partial tuition loan was funded by 12:40 p.m. My bet had been that the first loan would be funded by 1:00 p.m. My colleagues were a bit more modest in their estimates, going with 1:30p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

I am lucky enough to be doing the majority of my fellowship with Kiva’s first academic institution partner.  Given my background in education and my passion for microfinance, this seems to be the perfect fit.  And so far, working with Strathmore has exceeded my expectations and has increased my excitement for Kiva’s forays into the education world.  While you may or may not have read Kiva’s announcement regarding working with Strathmore, I hope to provide a more in-depth look at the university, the students, and its status as one of the best universities in East Africa.

The campus

Strathmore’s campus is moderately sized and host to a diverse group of students.  The campus’ areas are referred to by the expansion phase during which they were built. Strathmore is focused and determined to create a modern and sustainable learning environment, and the different phases of expansion reflect this.

Phase I includes the oldest building, now home to many administration offices and classrooms, which was built in 1993 when Strathmore moved to the campus it now occupies.  

Phase II includes the old business school, a library, and an auditorium; these colorful buildings were built in the early 2000’s.

Phase III includes the extremely modern student center, the new business school and the management science building.  These buildings were just finished being built, with the new business school still under the final phases of construction.  My office is located in the student center.  The entire campus is wireless, which is something many of us Westerners may take for granted.

At my home in Nairobi, I have been using a dial up modem that I plug into my computer’s USB port.  Wireless is not nearly as common or accessible as I have become accustomed to in the states.

There is a great deal of construction in the area surrounding Strathmore and I cannot help to think that they have had an influence on the influx of new, more modern housing in the area.

 The loans

Strathmore began its partnership with Kiva this year.  As a result of this partnership, Strathmore is able to offer short term and long term tuition loans, in addition to laptop loans.  The short term loans enable a student to finish a degree they have already started if they unexpectedly find themselves unable to make their tuition payments due to a change in circumstances.

Prior to this partnership, if a student was not able to continue paying their tuition fees, they would most likely have had to drop out.  Now, students are able to receive a loan from Kiva in order to continue with their studies while, paying back their loan in small, manageable increments.

Full tuition loans enable students who otherwise would not have been able to afford university to attend Strathmore.  These students have done well in their previous years of schooling, but their families’ financial situations would have prevented them from obtaining a higher education degree.  As it stands, there are a very limited amount of government scholarships available to these students, and the scholarships and grants that are available never cover the entire cost of a four year degree.  Kiva loans will allow students to access the higher education they seek.

Connect with Strathmore

Kiva’s partnership with Strathmore offers a unique opportunity for lenders and Kiva borrowers to be more connected than ever before.  The students at Strathmore write their own profiles and journals, as they have reliable access to computers, the internet and possess accomplished English writing skills.

Students taking full or partial tuition loans will write a journal each semester, allowing lenders to stay connected to what the student is taking, what activities they are involved in and how their education is progressing.  Be sure to keep an eye out for Strathmore because as right now, all but one of their loans has already been funded over the weekend.

After having the privilege of meeting a few students and after working with a Strathmore alum, I am convinced this link between lenders and students presents a chance for all parties to participate in and fulfill Kiva’s mission of connecting people in order to alleviate poverty.    

Nessa French is a Kiva Fellow working with  Strathmore University in Kenya.


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