Highly unequal societies are less effective at reducing poverty than those with low levels of inequality. They grow more slowly and struggle to sustain economic growth.
Disparities in health and education make it difficult for people to break out of the cycle of poverty, causing disadvantage to pass from generation to generation, according to the United Nations’ World Social Report 2021. This is a challenge that Thika’s Mount Kenya University (MKU) strives to meet by reducing inequalities in Africa and globally.
Earlier in 2021, MKU was awarded the UNAI SDG Hub 10: Reduced Inequalities (United Nations Academic Impact Sustainable Development Goal 10 hub) for its efforts in education, research and community initiatives aimed at reducing inequalities in Africa and beyond.
The institution has grown its presence in East Africa and the Horn of Africa with campuses across Kenya, Rwanda and a network of Open, Distance and Electronic Learning (ODeL) centers in Uganda. , Burundi, Hargeisa in Somaliland and Garowe in Puntland, Somalia.
Empowerment is the key to closing the gaps
The main drivers of addressing major inequalities, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, lie in legitimate efforts to empower and equip young people (who make up over 60% of the population) not only with an education, but also with skills that solve major societal challenges.
The foundation supports students struggling to raise tuition fees through grants and provides inclusive learning for students with disabilities.
The ability to work with these students has been made possible and accelerated through partnerships with like-minded entities. These include the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa, which provides assistance devices to visually impaired students.
Professor Peter Wanderi, who oversees the MKU UNAI SDG Hub 10: Reducing Inequalities and the MKU Foundation, and GEA, said the radicalization of young Africans, including graduates, points to a bigger problem in society.
Wanderi said MKU founder Professor Simon Gicharu and the board believe that increasing access to higher education and training graduates is not enough.
“We have to empower them to develop a new mindset, not only to offer services in different organizations, but also to be entrepreneurs,” he said.
Partnerships boost MKU’s efforts
It is this approach that led to the creation of the GEA which offers support for business acceleration and networking to empower young innovative entrepreneurs.
“We started with the first cohort of alumni who had business ideas and followed them through residential training, which then turned out to be an expensive business due to the low success rate of start-ups, but we didn’t give up, ”Wanderi said. A second cohort has since been appointed.
MKU’s success in reducing inequalities through the development of entrepreneurial skills among young people has been made possible through accelerated partnership efforts with, among others, the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO and Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany. The private sector plays an important role in providing mentorship and seed capital.
“We are not only achieving SDG 10, but also [SDG] 17, [SDG] 1 and [SDG] 4 that address partnerships, poverty and quality education to reduce inequalities in Africa, ”said Wanderi.
Partners include the Bidco group, Equity Bank and Family Bank. MKU has also adopted the Leuphana University Student Training for Entrepreneurial Promotion (STEP) which offers seed capital of US $ 100 which enables university students to acquire entrepreneurial skills using l real money and gain real experience in real time.
The prison project an opportunity
The university has gone one step further by partnering with Kenya’s prison services, especially Naivasha Maximum Prison, to enable inmates to reduce recidivism.
To help reintegrate, some inmates in Naivasha (and other prisons across the country) teach at different levels of Kenyan primary and secondary education programs. Detained students eventually sit for national exams to advance their education.
Over 70 inmates from Naivasha Maximum Prison have registered as teachers and there are around 1,600 students. Teacher-prisoners have limited or no teaching skills. This gap has, over the past four years, given the MKU the opportunity to offer additional training in technical skills.
Any learner who excels at the secondary level obtains modules leading to university education and, upon graduation, inmates have the option of obtaining presidential clemency. Through the School of Education, the university has received financial support from the Kenya Research Fund as well as the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO to provide digital access to education through the use of tablets.
Rewarded efforts in health and safety
The university has partnered with Partners for Care, a local NGO, to conduct outreach activities to public health communities in various parts of the country, such as the eradication of jigs among communities in Marsabit and Kilifi counties. .
In addition, partners distributed more than 3,500 water backpacks to poor communities in Nairobi, Laikipia and Embu counties to wash their hands during COVID-19 and to promote water transport, storage and consumption. drinkable.
These efforts were recognized in 2020 when the university received the University’s Award for Innovative Civic Engagement by the Talloires network, a growing global coalition of 417 university presidents, vice-chancellors and rectors in 79 countries.
The award recognized the efforts of the university community to provide environmentally friendly solutions to community problems through research.
Further efforts on community engagement through training efforts in tree planting are being undertaken jointly with the Mully Children’s Family (MCF). The MCF as an institution supports more than 3,000 former street children daily by providing them with food, shelter and education.
The MKU-MCF partnership enables the team of MKU students, faculty and alumni to provide mentorship and motivational support to the thousands of MCF children.