On 23rd April, thirty six secondary students benefiting from PA-MOJA sponsorship congregated at Ol Pejeta Conservancy for a fun-filled day lined with activities to discuss, motivate and share experiences. Dubbed ‘Mentorship Day’, the students had the opportunity to interact with each other and also listen to and share with staff from the conservancy. The guest mentor speaker was Richard Vigne, Chief Executive Officer Ol Pejeta Conservancy who motivated the students with the personal story of his grandfather.
“My grandfather went to India in 1890 and grew up in an orphanage. At the age of twelve he was lucky to get sponsorship for his education. At 50 he was a millionaire!” Richard went further to challenge the students to recognize the opportunity they had and to set their minds to achieve that which they envisioned. As a conservationist, he called on the youth to be wildlife conservation ambassadors and be relied upon to mitigate losing their heritage through poaching.
Throughout the day the students were engaged through presentations, discussions and collaborative activities mentoring them towards realizing their future aspirations. There was some bit of dancing too.
Kelvin Kariuki, a former bursary beneficiary who scored grade A in last year’s national examination was at hand to give tips on how to conduct effective studies. He advised them to identify individual weak academic areas and collaborate with other students who are good in those subjects for peer-teaching to improve performance. Motivated by his success story, the students threw in unending questions in a bid to get as much as they could from the young man aspiring for a Mechatronics Engineering career. A session meant to last 45 minutes took an hour and a half.
The students, all from 16 different secondary schools across the region enjoyed a first-hand Ol Pejeta experience. A presentation by the Tourism Education Officer, Joshua Wambugu exposed them to how the conservancy works and why it is important to conserve wildlife and the environment. This message reverberated throughout the day. Richard had informed them how the rhino, the elephant and the lion were at the heart of the scholarships to the students. Emily Lerosion, PA-MOJA Coordinator discussed the expectations of the sponsors and engaged the students on what they felt was the conduct and character of a good student.
Lepapa Yasoi, a Grade 12 student at Endana Secondary School and coming from a pastoralist community dependent on free roaming livestock explained how his community was no longer killing predator wildlife. “We only chase lions away when they come to our bomas, but we do not kill them as we did in earlier times.” He attributed the change to awareness raised in the communities by conservancies and the direct benefits realized from wildlife. “In my village, everybody knows that my school fee is paid for by Ol Pejeta (PA-MOJA) because of the wildlife which tourists pay to see and so it is a benefit to have the wildlife.”
Another session, ‘E-on-A’ (Eyes on Aspirations) fast-forwarded life to 23rd April 2024 and challenged the individual learners to visualize what they would be doing then and to also develop a road map to arriving there. The students sailed to ‘dreamland’ and thereafter narrated their aspirations and the road map to achieving their visions.
To crown the day, the group proceeded for a game drive to enjoy the beauty that is wildlife. They could not rein in their excitement at the chimpanzee sanctuary as they watched the great apes tear and munch pieces of sugar cane as a human being would do. Curiosity had them turning this way and that in the bus as they scouted for animals. And then right there five metres off the road was a herd of five elephants and two calves grazing, oblivious but keenly perceptive to our presence.
In spite of the tough logistical arrangements to draw the students from their homes around the remote regions, the organizers were contented that only one student missed out of the thirty seven full secondary school bursary students under PA-MOJA. There are eight others; two at university and six in primary school to make a total of forty five. In the meantime efforts are underway to get in touch with the student who did not attend to update on his progress at home and school.
Many students committed to making the best of the opportunity they had to attend school. Esther Nyaguthii, Grade 10 at Gatero Girls Secondary thanked PA-MOJA and Ol Pejeta for paying her school fees considering that her mother was unable to. She said she was enjoying her studies because she did not have to worry about the fee. Muchira Kennedy Grade 12 at Dol Dol Secondary said, “I am very happy for the golden opportunity that PA-MOJA and Ol Pejeta granted in paying my fees and indeed it has made a mark in my education and I am looking forward to making a mark so that I can achieve my ambition…”
Having the opportunity to be hosted at the high-end Serena Sweetwaters Tented Camp was exciting to the kids and by the end of the day, when even the shy and reserved students opened up, James Kamau, Grade 12 at Ruthagati Boys High School, on behalf his friends, concluded by saying that it had been a fantastic day, that they had enjoyed every moment of it and were all very happy. Another visit will be planned in July to bring together a team of PA-MOJA sponsors from Canada and the United States to meet with the students.