Lack of school fees has been a major roadblock to thousands of students struggling to reach their dreams in Kilifi County, and the problem became a threat to an ambitious young man, Jeremiah Kambi, in the year 1991 after completing his primary school studies.
Born in 1977 in a humble family, Kambi completed his secondary school education after a hard struggle and with some help from Rotary Club which assisted in paying for his school fees. He later joined Port Reitz medical college in Mombasa where he graduated with a diploma in Clinical Medicine.
Kambi had a zeal to further his studies to attain a bachelor’s degree in his field so as to be in a good position to land a lucrative job. When he got his first job as Clinical Officer with USA Medical Research Unit at Malindi hospital, he partly used his computer and internet provided at his working station to search for friends who would donate some funds to enable him to go for his medical degree.
Luckily, he got a few friends from the internet who donated some of the money he needed. As he struggled to mobilize and raise more funds that would be enough for the course, he remembered the challenges he faced during his secondary school education. His heart was filled with compassion and changed his mind.
Instead of using the funds to acquire one more certificate and a better job, he decided to sacrifice and use the funds he had collected as a kitty to help bright students from needy families in his village.
Kambi explains that he reflected on the days during his secondary school education when he was hopeless and only completed his studies with help from donors and government bursaries.
“I had my own dream and for it to come true, I had to get a scholarship. When I got to the level that I was a doctor and only wanted to study further, the amount of money needed was quite huge. This would interfere with the welfare of my family therefore I changed the dream in order to give bright and needy children a chance to go to secondary school,” he explained.
He started sponsoring a few students who scored 350 marks and above from Watamu, Malindi. A few months into the charity initiative, he quickly became overwhelmed because of the huge need of many students who were on the verge of dropping out of school because of school fees.
In some pressing situations, he had to dig deeper into his pockets to sustain students in school as he sought to look for funds from well-wishers to settle fee balances for his students. Sometimes he was forced to organise charity walks to fundraise the needed fees.
Since the demand for his charity was very high, he mobilized his friends and formed a Community Based Organization called Pwani Education Welfare Association in 2006 so that they could join hands and pool resources. They expanded and awarded scholarships to students across Kilifi County.
He headed the CBO as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer and continued to use the internet to search for donors from different states such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. He also used his pool of friends to raise funds to make his mission successful.
A few years later, Kambi and his friends registered their CBO as an NGO and named it Aiducation Kenya. They extended their scholarship to students outside Kilifi County and included the whole of the coast region.
The education hero says he faced a lot of challenges when he voluntarily decided to serve his community. The community he was serving is wallowing in extreme poverty and superstition therefore any generous initiative by fellow community members would be suspicious or tagged with hidden agenda.
For example, when a sponsored student fell sick, he would be in big trouble for being suspected of giving human sacrifices to dark forces that they thought he used to generate the money.
As time moved on, they embraced the change and the community accepted the charity organization in good faith. Parents flocked in large numbers looking for assistance to take their children to school such that the funds collected would not be enough to cater to all of them. That too became a major challenge.
As Kambi gained more experience in his official job as a doctor, he became extremely busy and he could not balance being in both hospital and in the organization’s office. He started building a stronger team from both local and international to take up his roles and relieve him from the backlog of work.
He handed over his role to one of his vibrant team players and delegated other roles to his other team members. By the time he exited the organization in 2019, he had successfully saved the education of 1,650 students.
During his time of charity service, he also mentored over 800 of his students who wanted to venture into business and even funded their start-up capital after completing high school.
Most of his students are now employed and running successful businesses both locally and internationally and some of them volunteered in his organization.
Currently, Kambi is eyeing the position of Member of County Assembly Watamu Ward and his vision for education in his community is even bigger.
He says being the MCA in the area, he would have the best opportunity to quench the thirst for education and ensure all children completing primary education in his ward were taken to secondary school and finally follow up to ensure all of them go to colleges regardless of their financial situation.
“I will make education among the community my priority and mobilize people, organizations, businesses, and the government to give more funds and ensure no child is left behind regardless of the marks they scored,” he said.
He added that the need for assistance to take children to secondary school is huge in Kilifi County such that even the government and all charity organizations have not been able to meet.
He urged the government and NGOs to increase their scholarship budget by 4 times to at least make notable significance in the education sector and pledged to become the bridge to change the lives of his people even better once given the chance.
By Jackson Msanzu