WAFULA: Scholarship plan mismatch between hustlers, bottom-up narrative

The program is free of charge and has three levels depending on one’s education level.

In Summary
  • This initiative was formally announced on January 20 and aims to provide business skills to one hundred million learners across the globe.
  • The foundational level is a 30-hour Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation boot camp that covers 18 modules.

On December 11, President William Ruto announced that everybody who attends Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium would get a scholarship to do an Arizona State University certificate program.

Though this announcement was in line with the Jamhuri Technology and Innovation Summit he was attending at KICC, he failed to inform Kenyans that he was speaking about a free online initiative offered under Thunderbird, ASU’s School of Global Management.

Dubbed Francis and Dionna Najafi 100 million Learners Global Initiative, the program offers online certificate programs in global management and entrepreneurship.

The President’s announcement that his administration will be offering scholarships to a foreign-based university was therefore a promotional tactic that contradicts the bottom-up narrative and by extension the true essence of Jamhuri Day.

The ASU Thunderbird initiative targets those looking to learn more about global business.

This initiative was formally announced on January 20 and aims to provide business skills to one hundred million learners across the globe.

The program is free of charge and has three levels depending on one’s education level.

The foundational level is a 30-hour Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation boot camp that covers 18 modules.

This level has no prerequisites and anyone with internet access can do it.

This is the level that Ruto’s administration announced to Kenyans.

The intermediate level has five courses and is suitable for high school and undergraduate students.

The five courses are global management, global accounting, global marketing, global entrepreneurship and global economy, all of which have ‘coming soon’ signs next to them.

The third level is the advanced level which is suited for graduate students.

It also has five courses, two of which, global leadership and personal development, and global entrepreneurship and sustainable businesses, are available to the public.

Contrary to his remarks, the government is not giving any scholarships but merely publicizing this global initiative.

The initiative is a mismatch between the hustlers and the bottom-up narrative.

As someone who advocates for hustlers, the President missed his mark with this announcement.

All the courses offered through the ASU initiative are beneficial to those looking at global markets.

During the election season, Kenyans were complaining about the cost of unga and other household commodities.

Based on this and other issues that Kenyans shared with the President at the onset of this presidency, pushing people into global markets before resolving issues in the local markets is misplaced.

Instead of engaging foreign entities, the administration should have looked at solving and strengthening things at the local level.

Partnering with local initiatives and institutions is a good starting point.

From his Jamhuri Day speech, it is evident that there are Kenyan-based programs that not only provide local solutions but also get global recognition.

He mentioned Ecobana by students from St Paul’s University who won Hult Prize 2022 and Nelly Cheboi who is this year’s CNN Hero.

Instead of offering a global-facing option, the administration should look inwards and connect people to local programs.

If Kenya’s innovation sector is lagging due to a lack of certain skills, and Kenya’s education system is not offering those skills, the government has the power and responsibility to address this skill mismatch.

In his speech, the President mentioned that Kenya has 12 polytechnics, 256 technology and vocational training centres and 87 universities.

The government could easily partner with, or mandate, these 355 institutions to offer innovation-based courses to all the students who are part of their programs.

Globally, we are currently in the technology and innovation era, and it is commendable that the government tapped into this for this year’s Jamhuri Day celebration.

Locally, we are in a bottom-up dispensation where innovation should move from merely creating new things but expanding to looking at everyday things in a new way.

For the bottom-up approach to be innovative, the Ruto administration does not need to bring in things from outside. It should instead look at the resources we have in Kenya differently.

The true essence of Jamhuri is trusting that as Kenyans we have what it takes to build for our country’s current and future needs.

Instead of the government going to such lengths to promote foreign-based programs, it should first look inwards and have a new take on our local initiatives and institutions of higher learning.

We are experts in our situations and therefore by extension best-placed people to create solutions that will suit us now and in years to come.

Once we master this, our best practices on local issues will inevitably draw the rest of the world to learn from us.

Sitawa Wafula runs my mind my funk, a mental health resource hub.

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