From Secondary School to Higher Education: Equity Leaders Programme (ELP) Mentoring a New Generation of Leaders

When the first class of Wings to Fly scholars sat for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations in 2013, they knew that another coveted and highly competitive sponsorship, the Equity Leaders Programme (ELP), awaited those who would qualify. Scholars in this programme interact with the Wings to Fly scholars and mentor them on academic excellence.

Every year during the Annual Education and Leadership Congress, the scholars meet and network, share experiences and mentor the younger ones on continued academic excellence. The programme gives the Wings to Fly scholars inspiration to continue focusing on academic excellence.

EGF’s ELP works to equip academically gifted secondary school graduates from across Kenya with the professional and leadership skills they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. It also cultivates a community of ethical leaders, who work together across disciplines and sectors to transform the lives of their families, communities, country and the world at large.

Since 1998, Equity Bank has been sponsoring bright Kenyan students to local universities to study various courses. The programme benefits the top boy and top girl in KCSE in each district in the country where Equity Bank has a branch.

That changed in 2014, when the first group of Wings to Fly scholars were admitted into the programme, with an initial intake of 115. The second intake in 2015 was even larger with 340 scholars qualifying for the programme. History of the Programme.

In 1998, Samuel Kirubi, a student at Egerton University studying Economics and Statistics, applied for an internship at Equity Bank. At that time, the bank was already thinking about how they could recruit future professional┬áleaders. Although the intent was there, the structures and the procedure were not in place. Nonetheless, the┬ábank took him in and he became the first student beneficiary of Equity Bank’s leadership programme.

“I was very keen to work in a financial institution upon graduating, so I wanted to hone my skills even before I left the university,” Kirubi says. Kirubi is today the Managing Director of Equity Bank’s Rwanda subsidiary.┬áBetween 2001 and 2002, the bank started a deliberate effort of identifying students who were top in their┬ádistricts in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations and offered them pre-university┬áinternships.

Twelve students were enrolled in 2001 and 20 in the subsequent year. The programme continued to expand in size as more branches opened in different districts in the country. In 2006, a larger group of 30 students joined the programme.

EGF under which the programme is now run was founded in 2008 and the leadership and mentorship development model was refined in 2009. The key challenge had been how to handle the scholars so that in addition to the internship, the mentorship and leadership components were incorporated in a structured way. By far, the largest number of beneficiaries are admitted to local public universities.

EGF Chairman Dr James┬áMwangi agrees that the biggest and most impactful change to Kenya will be made by the beneficiaries who go┬áto local universities.┬á”Together with the scholars studying abroad, they create a unique and diverse community of leaders with┬ávarying experiences and exposure. It is this uniqueness of the programme that will enable our scholars to impact┬áall sectors of the economy,” he says. The local students are given a stipend that caters for their tuition and living┬áexpenses for the period they are in the university. The students who get scholarships to go abroad get initial┬áliving cost payment since their fees and stipends are already covered by the sponsoring universities. While on┬áholiday, many of them prefer to continue their internship at Equity Bank.

Today, the programme has grown from its initial single scholar in 1998 to a class of over 600 scholars in 2015 interning at over 170 Equity Bank branches across all 47 counties in Kenya. The college counseling programme, too, has expanded from its initial cohort of 6 scholars going to international universities in 2010, to over 60 admissions in 2015. Over this time, the internship model has also developed into a fully-fledged leadership development programme covering four thematic areas of scholar growth.