Wings to Fly Scholarship Recipients Drive Kenya’s Progress
By U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec
February 8, 2016
Kasarani Sports Complex, 10:00 a.m.
Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Kenya, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Dr. Fred Matiang’i, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Hamjambo! Haribari zenu!
Good morning. Great to be with you today as we welcome 2,000 of Kenya’s brightest young minds to the Wings to Fly program. The great American President John F. Kennedy once said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” What President Kennedy said decades ago is still true today. Education is key to a country’s progress. And, without a doubt, the education the young scholars receive through the Wings to Fly program will help them make their own future and drive Kenya’s progress long into the future.
The United States has long been a strong partner with the Government and people of Kenya on education. Over the last six years we have worked with Equity Bank and private sector partners to sponsor more than 4,000 Wings to Fly scholars through a $26 million investment. None of this would be possible without the leadership of James Mwangi and Helen Gichoi, who are truly heroes. James, Helen, you are educating Kenya’s young people and in the process building your nation.
I had the privilege a few days ago of joining James and Helen during home visits to a few of this year’s candidates. We talked to the young Kenyans and their families. We saw where they lived and heard about their daily struggle to get an education… and, indeed, to live. It was a moving, transforming experience, and it leaves me convinced that there is nothing more important than investing in Kenya’s young people.
We visited Mary Kemunto in Kangemi, where she lives in a tiny room with her single mother and three siblings. Mary’s warm welcome and hospitality were clear. But even more, her intelligence and drive stood out. They were plain in her thoughtful comments, and in her very high marks on her KCPE. Mary told the team that it was the support of her mother, her school and her church – and her own hard work — that enabled her to score the marks she got. Mary hopes one day to be a cardiologist and to help cure heart disease.
We also met Amelia Gathoni, an orphan who has been living in a hostel established by her wonderful, dedicated teacher, Priscilla. Her parents died when she was a toddler and she does not have any relatives she knows of. Amelia’s favorite subjects are mathematics and science. Her KCPE scores were extraordinary, but even more impressive was her courage and her vibrant intelligence. She hopes, one day, to attend Harvard University and to become a neurosurgeon. After meeting Amelia, I’m betting she succeeds.
And, we visited Esther Moraa, who lost her mother many years ago. She now lives in small room with many brothers and sisters. Despite the many challenges, Esther is another high achiever with big dreams. Last year, Mr. President, she saw you on television handing out scholarships to the Wings to Fly students. Esther told us it was a huge motivation. The inspiration of that moment, helped get Esther here with us today.
These three young girls, Mary, Amelia and Esther, and all of the others here, are an inspiration to me. And, I know to you. They inspire us all with their drive, their intelligence, and their extraordinary passion. They are pursuing a secondary education to ensure a better life for themselves, their families and their nation. Congratulations Mary, Amelia, and Esther and to the students I visited in January and to all of the other recipients here today. Hongera! I commend each of you for earning a Wings to Fly scholarship through your hard work and academic dedication. And, a special thank you as well to all of the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family members, teachers and friends who have supported these students. You, too, are essential to their success. They will need your continued support.
Meeting these three young girls was a reminder that each of us, each of us who has enjoyed so much in life, owes a debt that we must repay. We have an obligation. In helping young people get an education, we invest in them and their families. But we also invest in the future of Kenya, Africa and the world. We invest in tomorrow. We invest in the prosperity of people everywhere. For the students here today, like young people all across this great land, are the future. Just a few moments with these amazing young people will convince you of that. And, it will convince you that we must – we must — do all we can to help them achieve their dreams.
Congratulations scholars! Pamoja, tusonge mbele! Asenteni sana.