The James Finlay Kenya Scholarship beneficiaries in Kericho County have formed a mentorship programme aimed at eradicating cases of early pregnancies, school drop-outs and defilement that target both the boy and the girl child.
According to the Kericho County Assistant Director of Children’s Services Jane Rono cases of defilement amongst girls of between 12 and 15 age bracket were being reported to their office on daily basis with those entrusted with the minors’ wellbeing preying on them.
Ms Rono pointed out that such cases are rampant especially in Sosiot and Sondu areas stressing that the saddest part is that perpetrators of most cases involve close relatives, parents and acquaintances.
Speaking to KNA from the James Finlay Kenya head offices at Chepkembe area, Gilbert Bett and Vicky Chebet, beneficiaries of the multinational company’s scholarship programme revealed that they have teamed up to empower teenage both the boy child and the girl child in Kericho County to ensure they complete their education and achieve their dreams in future and not be disrupted by vices such as early marriages, teenage pregnancies and drug abuse.
“Girls in my Kimoson village in Kipkelion East Sub-County are financially constrained and never get to achieve their dreams. Many of them lack the basic necessities such as sanitary pads making them vulnerable to many vices in the society and in most cases they end up getting pregnant at an early age and finally dropping out of school,” said Chebet.
Chebet says that the rise of teenage pregnancies in her village has pushed her to start an empowerment programme as a way of giving back to the society after she benefitted from a scholarship that enabled her complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Financial Engineering and Statistics at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in 2019.
“I’m the first born of a family of three, my mother who is a single parent struggled so much to make ends meet and coming from a background that was financially constrained, and I understand the reality of young people on the ground. That is why I am championing empowerment of teenage girls in villages around Kericho,” Chebet stressed.
Chebet who cleared high school in 2014 at Moi Tea Girls High School and scored an A plain in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination was excited about passing her exams but she had to grapple with the fear of unknown, and somewhat a blurred future, considering the fact that her mother was not in position to fund her university tuition.
“Going to campus is the dream of many high school leavers but I was afraid that dream would be cut short due to financial constraints but someone mentioned to me about a scholarship within my County and I decided to give it a shot. So I applied for the James Finlay Kenya scholarship and I qualified. The scholarship provided a laptop and 150,000 shillings per year for the entire duration of study,” Chebet added.
According to Chebet, the empowerment programme will also assist the teenagers in the villages on how to apply for scholarships which she observed that a majority of them are bright in their studies but have no idea of existence of scholarships which could transform their lives in future.
“It is a clarion call to other people who offer mentorship services to people in the society to also not forget the victims of these occurrences such as teenage pregnancies, rape, and other misfortunes, that they should reach out to them with the message that it is not the end of life. Also parents to such children should also be counseled,” said Chebet.
She was flanked by Gilbert Bett who graduated from Leicester University in England with a Master’s degree in Instrument and Control also funded by the James Finaly Scholarship. Bett, who is currently employed as a Control and Automation Technician at Saosa Tea Factory which is part of Finlays, added that it was important to also empower the boy child who had been neglected by the society for a long time.
“Most defilement cases in the County are committed by relatives and even classmates to the girls and that is why it is vital to empower the boys as well to be responsible and be able to handle and take good care of the empowered girls,” said Bett.
Bett also revealed that he plans to open an Information Technology (IT) centre in Kericho County for the youth to acquire IT skills saying that in this information age it was vital that the youth acquaint themselves with IT skills that will enable them earn a living.
“I am addressing youths who made mistakes in life such as teenage pregnancies, school drop outs, or someone who scored a low grade. Always learn the lessons from your failures, rise up, dust yourself, and move on by making better decisions. Don’t lose hope,” added Bett.
Both Bett and Chebet being beneficiaries of the Finlay’s scholarships feel burdened to give back to their communities in Kericho County through the empowerment programmes so as to inspire more youth to succeed and attain their full potential despite the hardship they endure in life.
According to the James Finlay Kenya Limited Corporate Affairs General Manager Sammy Kirui, 861 students from Kericho and Bomet Counties have benefitted from the scholarship programme at a cost of Sh197.8 million since its inception.
“We have offered Masters Scholarships to 19 students at a cost of Sh. 80 million. 316 Students in the Undergraduate category have also benefited from our scholarships at a cost of Sh75.7 million and 526 other students in secondary schools have managed to receive the scholarship at a cost of Sh41.5 million,” said Mr Kirui.
Mr Kirui observed that the scholarships have not only had an immense impact on many students, most of whom come from needy families within Kericho and Bomet Counties, but also to the society with many of them serving the nation of Kenya and internationally in various capacities.
“I am glad that some of our scholars have now started mentoring young boys and girls especially those at the villages in Kericho County who are vulnerable to vices such as defilement, early pregnancies and dropping out of schools,” said Mr Kirui.
He further revealed that some of the scholars who have benefitted from the Finlay’s Scholarship programmes have opted to continue in academia such as Lilian Korir who is currently a lecturer at the University of Lincoln and Judy Too who is pursuing her PhD at the University of Manchester.
In addition the James Finlays Limited Corporate Affairs General Manager encouraged the youth to look out for the scholarships saying every year two candidates qualify for the Masters scholarships, 28 students qualify for the undergraduate category and 20 students in secondary schools are eligible for a scholarship from both Kericho and Bomet Counties.
“As part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, we are committed to give hope to communities around us by supporting young people with these scholarships which cover tuition fees and stipend to cover accommodation and basic living costs for the term of the course” Mr. Kirui said.
He also pointed out that the recently launched Finlay’s Community Trust will enhance funding for all programmes including scholarships noting that funding available for secondary school and local universities have been increased from Sh12.3 million to Sh23.1 million per year.
By Kibe Mburu and Byegon Alfric