Founded in 2010, Wings to Fly is a competitive scholarship programme which increases access to secondary schooling and student success by providing comprehensive scholarships, mentoring, and leadership development training to promising yet economically disadvantaged students for the duration of their secondary school tenure. Scholarships cover tuition, room and board, books, transportation, uniforms, and incidental expenses.
Annually, students qualify to apply to Wings to Fly based on both academic performance and financial need. Applicants must place in the top fifth percentile on the nationally-administered Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination in their home district to be considered. Meanwhile, financial need is determined based on economic status and vulnerability, including as affected by the loss of one or both parents; parental illness or disability; and/ or displacement due to disaster or civil conflict. Equity Bank branch staff and local community leadership play a central role in vetting and ultimately selecting candidates by leading a transparent, community-owned process to interview and visit each prospective scholar and their families. This ensures that scholarships are indeed reaching those in need.
EGF and its partners stay involved to support studentsÔÇÖ academic success once they are selected and enrolled in school. Each scholar receives mentoring throughout the year to provide emotional support and encouragement. In addition, EGF holds an annual Education and Leadership Congress, where scholars spend time learning from successful professionals from the public and private sectors, and brainstorm and problem solve with each other on key national issues and challenges.
Wings to Fly is currently working to provide 10,000 secondary school scholarships by 2015. To date, EGF has supported 8,186 students’ matriculation to over 600 secondary schools nationwide, including 4,257 female students (52%), thanks in large part to the generous support of its founding partner, The MasterCard Foundation, as well as additional support from DFID, USAID, KfW, and numerous individual scholarship sponsors.
Equity African Leaders Programme: Started in 1998 by Equity Bank and now managed by EGF, the Equity African Leaders Programme (EALP) is a rigorous internship and leadership development programme which works to create a community of talented leaders who are capable of solving the worldÔÇÖs most pressing challenges. EALP targets top-achieving male and female students from across Kenya based on national secondary school examination results, and offers several concurrent and complementary initiatives aimed at increasing access totertiary education and ultimately academic, professional, and personal success. These include paid internship opportunities and a college savings scheme to help scholars finance their studies, a college counselling initiative, a virtual academy, an online literary journal, a secondary school mentoring programme, a business innovation and incubation working group, and a global summer internship programme. Since its inception, EALP has mentored more than1,950 scholars. EGF also works to establish relationships with and introduce scholars to top Kenyan universities and universities abroad. Thus far, this has led to 160 scholars accessing scholarships to world-class universities around the globe.
Scholarship Application Process
One of the defining features of the Wings To Fly initiative is the transparency and inclusivity of the selection process. The program is gender and region balanced. Application is open to any student who comes from a financially disadvantaged family background and has scored among the top five percentile in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations in the participating districts.
Scholarship application forms are available at Equity Bank branches and Equity Agents as soon as the KCPE results are announced. Rigorous selection is then conducted by the District Scholarship Selection Boards (DSSB). The DSSBs have been institutionalized and serve as auxiliary organs of Equity Group Foundation. Their mandate includes selection of the program beneficiaries as well as tracking the academic performance and the general welfare of the scholars.
Upon receiving applications from the candidates, the DSSBs review, shortlist, interview and select students to receive the scholarship using predefined criteria. Each DSSB is chaired by the District Education Officer (DEO) and coordinated by the Equity Bank branch manager(s) in that district. The Board comprises of a minimum of 13 local representative stakeholders including Heads of Primary & Secondary Schools Associations; District Social Development Officers; religious leaders; Constituency Development Fund (CDF) chair; local Women & Youth leaders; Equity Agent representatives, provincial and civic administration.
The DSSB remains a crucial link in ensuring objectivity in the selection process, making it possible to verify the case put forth by the applicant. The wide representation of society in the DSSB makes the process widely accepted in the community as a transparent and inclusive process. To undertake its tracking and student welfare role, the DSSB holds at least two mentorship meetings with scholars in a year during school holidays during which scholars have an opportunity to share their academic performance, leadership and conduct at school.
Candidates who meet the required criteria in order of merit during the interviews are then visited at their homes by the DSSB members to ascertain the information on level of need shared in their application forms and also during the interviews. A criteria for home visits guides DSSB members in all districts to ensure uniformity in the selection and identification process.
District Flag Off Ceremonies
Once the scholars have been selected and named, each district organizes a Flag Off Ceremony to send the scholars to Nairobi for their induction and subsequent commissioning of their scholarship program. The ceremonies are organized by the DSSB and the forum is used to bring the scholars together, introduce them to each other, and provide some initial mentoring. This first encounter is critical to becoming the cohort, building camaraderie and cohesion, and creating a network amongst themselves, a relationship which they keep throughout their secondary school education, sharing experiences and encouraging one another.
The Wings To Fly program targets high achieving yet needy (orphan or vulnerable) students identified by assessing their performance at the nationally administered Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations (KCPE).
EGF, through the District Scholarship Selection Boards (DSSB), uses the following selection criteria for the scholarship:
- Must be Academically Promising – Prospective scholars must be in the top 5 percentile performing students in their District in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination.
- Must be a bona fide Orphan or Vulnerable Child (as defined below);
- Children who have lost one or both parents and have no guardian or sponsor to provide for their education; OR
- Children whose parents are physically or mentally disabled and are unable to educate their children; OR
- Children whose parents are living with HIV/AIDS or other chronic debilitating illness and are unable to educate their children; OR
- Children from families affected by natural disasters such as flooding, drought, and famine or civil conflict and are unable to educate their children; OR
- Children who have suffered neglect and/or abandonment; OR
- Children with parents living under extreme poverty and are unable to educate their children.
Outreach to Deserving Students
In order to reach as many deserving students as possible in each participating district, Equity Group Foundation, leveraging on the infrastructure of Equity Bank, creates wide and deep awareness of the program using various avenues of communication. These include making announcements in public forums such as religious gatherings in churches and mosques, public barazas in villages, use of mass media including radio, posters mounted in public places such as towns, market centres, academic institutions, and letters to key opinion leaders such as the local administration, religious leaders, head teachers of schools as well as availing the information online.