“Giving Us A University Education Is Like Giving Us Wealth” – Miriam Wanjiku On How The The Barclays Bank Scholarship Has Given Her Hope For The Future
Miriam Wanjiku Mwangi is a first-year student at Kenyatta University. She is one of the beneficiaries of the Barclays Scholarship Fund program. Miriam’s dad passed away before she was born and then when she was eight years old, tragedy struck and she lost her mom. Left to fend for themselves, Miriam’s older sisters went through thick and thin to ensure she had a good education. Like a good hen broods and protects her chicks under her wings, they protected Miriam from the harsh reality of the struggles they were going through. To date, she says she’s never known exactly how they managed to raise her but she says that her sisters always attribute it to God’s provision.
Since her mother’s death, life wasn’t easy, paying school fees was a struggle throughout her school life. She remembers having a hard time fitting in and relating with other kids in primary school as they kept talking about their parents and she had none. In high school, she went through a rebellious period while in form two, she says she felt like nobody could understand what she was going through at the time. However, she got back on track after her loved ones reached out to her. Miriam is most thankful for the people who were there for her and the support she has received. If it wasn’t for them she doesn’t think she would be in University or at peace with herself.
Barclays Bank of Kenya has been running a three-year scholarship programme from September 2017 for bright and needy university students in partnership with the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB). Currently, the programme has 470 student beneficiaries across the country, catering for their school fees and upkeep money. The bank set aside Kshs.65 million to support the fund in the 2017/18 academic year.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am the last born in a family of 8 sisters. I grew up in Komarok in Eastlands Nairobi, where I went to Wanja and Kim Comprehensive Primary School and later advanced to Apostolic Carmel Girls Secondary School for my high school education.
After high school, I got into the Barclays scholarship programme and joined Kenyatta University where I am currently pursuing my studies.
l live with my sisters who became my guardians after we lost our parents. I am a creative. I like singing, writing poetry, songs and exploring my imagination.
What course are you pursuing in University?
I am currently in my first of year of study, pursuing a bachelor’s of arts in sociology and economics at Kenyatta University main campus in Nairobi.
What made you choose sociology and economics as a career?
I am good in arts, I have a social personality and love interacting with people; I specifically chose sociology because it allows me to have close interaction with the society. It’s an area that has been close to my heart and thus I decided to just go ahead and do it.
What plans do you have after you are through with your university education?
Well, at this point I’m still in my first year and at a stage where I am still exploring. I hear my peers debate about whether our course is marketable or not, but my dream still remains to reach out to the community, specifically to work with children whom I believe are the society’s foundation. I look forward to getting into charity work, working with the needy, people with disability and even offering scholarships to others just as I have received one.
How has the Barclays Scholarship impacted your life?
I have been able to lift the financial burden of my guardian having to take care of me; in terms of my upkeep, fees and everything that comes with being a student. It has freed me of the worry of not being able to complete my education or feeling inferior to others because of my lack.
Also, I am getting opportunities to attend forums like the Elevate workshop where I get to meet people and develop skills as a person. Apart from it just being a scholarship, I also see the concern about our general welfare.
Do you believe your experience in the Barclays Scholarship program has made you different from other students?
Well, comparing myself with others who are not in the scholarship program, I realise that parents struggle to pay fees, and sometimes it reaches a point where the fee burden becomes too much. Because of that many students are forced to call off their semesters while some drop out of school. However, for me, I am just glad I got the scholarship and get to have it different, and I hope to continue with it.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Well, being an orphan you have to solely depend on your guardian and you can’t always get what you want. That means you can’t always be the way others are, for example for me it’s seeing my friends have things that I can’t have, but through that, I have learnt to be humble and appreciate what I have. It’s been a challenge but throughout it all God has been present and he has made sure I didn’t lack the essentials.
Also, growing up without parents is never easy, there have been times where I have felt a longing for that parental love that no one else can really replace, even for you, if you’d lost your parents do you think anyone can replace that? Furthermore, I would often find it hard to open up to other people about what I am feeling and instead, I’d hold things in. I have had to seek counselling to enable me to open up better, and thanks to help from the church I have gotten better at it.
What were your expectations when you joined the Barclays scholarship program and have they been met so far?
I expected Barclays to help with the fees for my four years of university so that my sisters would not have the financial burden that comes with taking a kid through university; and that my sisters would be happy for me.
So far, the scholarship has changed a lot in my life; from the peace that comes with not having to worry about looking for fees or upkeep money. Socially, it gives me the confidence to relate freely with others knowing that I wouldn’t be judged based on the fact that I am needy. I can now concentrate fully on my studies, without having to worry about leaving school or calling off a semester. So I would say my expectations are being met.
What has been your highlight in the program?
During the scholarship application process, the people that visited my home from Barclays to ascertain my condition really inspired me. They shared their lives with me, speaking of how they toiled to reach the level that they are currently at.
I remember one of them telling me never to give up no matter what, and those words are what I live by now. No matter what I am going through or how hard it is I never give up, it’s never too late nor too soon.
Why do you think such programs are important?
There are people in the society who literally don’t have anything, and giving them an education is like giving them wealth. With a mind full of knowledge, they are able to establish and build themselves into greater people. Scholarships allow us to reach out to others in the community who are not only unable to pay fees but are also unable to build themselves knowledge wise.
Any advice to the group of students that will be applying for the program this year?
Just that in life you don’t always get to have what you want, they shouldn’t have over the top expectations. Getting into the scholarship program is beneficial for you but it also requires patience. You have to be humble and consistent with your work.
How did you hear about the Barclays Scholarship program?
I heard about the program through the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) in 2017 and applied through their website. After a thorough selection process, where they visited my home to ascertain my background, I remember getting a text message telling me of my selection to the program, I was so happy, although it required lots of patience. At that time I was really struggling with my school fees and it seemed God-sent, they have taken care of my fees for this year and I have so far been able to complete my first semester.
Why do you think you got into the scholarship program over other applicants?
I would say, majorly it’s the grace of God and also largely the efforts of those who decided to help me. Because I believe whoever offers a scholarship like this is someone willing to help others in life.
Any advice to students looking forward to applying for the program?
Be patient because it is a process, you might be tempted to expect to get it in an instant but for me, it took a long process. Put God first, work hard and if you see any scholarship apply, even if you don’t qualify you can look for other opportunities out there. The goal is never to give up.
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