Juliet Otieno became a countrywide household name after the 2018 KCSE results were announced and she was the best candidate with an A plain grade of 87.66 points. Due to this, she is one of twenty one students that will be airlifted to study at the best North American universities in August 2020. This is an initiative by the Kenya Scholar Access Program (KenSAP).
The program was started in 2004 to help top performing students to gain admission to elite universities in the United States. Since inception, the program has helped more than 100 deserving students to study in the USA at prestigious universities, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. In addition, KenSAP has managed to generate more than Kshs 5 billion in financial aid packages for the students, which is granted by the universities that the KenSAP scholars attend.
Speaking at a fundraising dinner in support of the program, KenSAP executive director Alan Davidson said the funds have enabled them to select 15 to 20 deserving Kenyan students annually, who are then assisted in gaining admission to the most exclusive universities in the United States and Canada. As a result, Kenyan students outnumber undergraduates from other African countries at these universities.
This year, the Kenyan students have been drawn from across the 47 counties. All of them sat for the 2018 KCSE exams and scored an average of 81 points, or an A plain, combined. KenSAP also recently opened up the program to students living in Kenya who come from Tanzania, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan.
For Juliet Otieno and many of the others, it will be the first time that they are travelling to a foreign place. She has no reason to fear, however, because KenSAP has taken the time to prepare the Kenyan students for the SAT exams, as well as given them a Western culture guide through literature, film and discussions. In addition, she will also have the support of a massive KenSAP community already established in the USA.
This is not the first time that Kenyan students have been airlifted for further studies in the USA. A similar program was started by Tom Mboya in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Dubbed the ‘Kennedy Airlift’, it helped many East African students to get scholarships and attend much sought-after universities in the USA and Canada. It helped more than 800 East African students gain access to higher education, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai and Barrack Obama Sr.
With the current airlifts for Kenyan students, KenSAP hopes the beneficiaries will also create lasting impact and shape Africa’s development for decades to come.
Featured Image Courtesy: KenSAP