Education was my saving grace
- Collins managed to complete secondary school and join United States University-Africa in 2013, where he studied International Business Administration, majoring in finance and management.
- Before his graduation, Collins got an opportunity to intern with the Embassy of the United States and also serve as a community volunteer in Mathare under a community-based organisation.
- He founded Hifadhi Africa Organisation (HOA) in 2013, with an objective is to transform the lives of those who live in slums, pastoralists, and those who live in abject poverty.
Collins Nakedi, 28, was four years when he and his step-brother went to live with their grandmother.
“My father considered me weak, he felt that I did not have the qualities of a typical Pokot boy. I come from East Pokot, Baringo, a community that is mostly comprised of pastoralists. Boys were expected to become herders, but my father said that I lacked the characteristics required, namely aggression and resilience,” he says.
Having failed to exhibit these attributes, his father took him to live miles away with his grandmother and enrolled him in school. What had been akin to being banished from the only home he had ever known turned out to be a life-changing opportunity.
According to a survey conducted in 2016 by World Vision and Baringo County Government, in partnership with other organisations, the illiteracy level in East Pokot stands at 65.7 percent.
“While girls are married young, boys are responsible for herding their parents’ livestock. Being my mother’s only son, she had hoped that I would stay at home, marry young like my friends and herd our cattle and goats – going to school revealed to me that there was more to life besides that,” says Collins.
Coming from a humble background however, the quest for education was to be one tough journey.
“The first challenge was having to walk a long distance to and fro school. One day, bone tired, I was in Standard Four, I decided not to return home, spending the night with those who boarded at the school instead. The following day, the school administration allowed me to become a boarder. I was elated.”
When he sat his KCPE exams in 2002, he scored 327, a score he was disappointed with since had he performed better, he would have gotten a scholarship to join secondary school. Rather than become a primary school dropout, he chose to repeat Class Eight the following year, managing to score 370 marks.
“I was the top student in my division that year,” he says.
He had also qualified for a scholarship, though he would later learn that it had been awarded to another pupil.
“Thankfully, I was offered Sh11,000 by World Vision, money that I used to buy school items that I needed to join secondary school. To raise my school fees, my father had to sell one of his cows.
During the holidays, I would look for menial jobs such as taking my neighbours’ goats to the market. I would use the money I was paid for basic needs and pocket money, even as I tried to get various organisations to sponsor my education.”
Amidst many challenges, Collins managed to complete secondary school and join United States University-Africa in 2013, where he studied International Business Administration, majoring in finance and management.
“I enrolled at the institution hoping that I would get a scholarship that I had applied for, but I didn’t. Thankfully, a cousin helped me to fundraise my tuition fees for the first semester,” he explains.
During this period, he applied for a HELB loan, a County Development Fund (CDF) bursary and got into a work-study program offered by the university.
“I worked as a library assistant, and occasionally, would take up seasonal jobs outside school. It was tough, because even this was not enough to raise the fees required every semester. At one point, I was forced to defer a semester since I could not afford the tuition fees, living with various relatives and friends since I also could not afford to pay for accommodation.”
Before his graduation, Collins got an opportunity to intern with the Embassy of the United States and also serve as a community volunteer in Mathare under a community-based organisation.
“These two opportunities opened my eyes to the various challenges we face as a society and also revealed that these challenges are not only found where I come from.”
This, coupled with memories of delighted children back home whenever he told them stories about life in university and the city, encouraged him to found Hifadhi Africa Organisation (HOA) in 2013, an enterprise he initiated with two classmates, Jovenal Nsengimana and Charles Mwakio.
The NGO’s objective is to transform the lives of those who live in slums, pastoralists, and those who live in abject poverty.
“Our main focus is on education, health, youth empowerment, our aim to help create a source of livelihood for those in need. So far, we are present in Nairobi, Marsabit and Baringo Counties.”
Collins and his two friends had their fair share of problems growing up, therefore they are passionate about HOA and what it stands for.
His two friends work on a part-time basis while he, assisted by seven volunteers, work for the NGO full time, which pays them a monthly “stipend” to get by.
“Since the little money I draw is not sufficient to meet all my needs, to complement my income, I run two companies, Elison Media, which offers graphic design services and Afrika Light Media, which is involved in content production.
Through partnerships with various groups, they have, so far, managed to offer 55 scholarships to secondary students, seven to university students and have donated an assortment of learning materials such as textbooks and digital learning tablets to various schools.
They have also mentored scores of students and donated sanitary towels to hundreds of girls that come from needy families.
This is not all, the organisation has donated water tanks and initiated water harvesting innovations in a number of schools in the communities they serve. Some of the schools that have benefited include Koloa Secondary School, Nakoko, Nginyang and Cheptunoyo Primary Schools in Baringo County.
One of their major challenges, Collins says, is convincing donors to support their initiatives.
“There are several donors we have been pursuing for years for instance, it also takes lots of time to establish structures and legal frameworks - one needs to be committed, focused and have the backbone for negative feedback, says Collins, a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellow, 2015.
His resilience has not been in vain, and his effort and dedication has not gone unnoticed, having been in the list of Business Daily’s Top 40 under 40 Men 2015.
Collins has also written a book, Leap of Hope, which tells his inspiring story. You can get it on Amazon.