2014 Wings to Fly scholars

Speech at the commissioning of 2000 Wings to Fly Scholars for the 2014 Secondary School intake

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Wings to Fly 2014 scholars

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be with you this morning on behalf of the British Government and the Department for International Development (DFID) who are a dedicated partner in the Wings to Fly programme.

Since the launch of the programme in 2011, DFID has supported nearly 600 scholarships, the majority for girls, with funding of Ksh 430 Million.

This support is another example of the deep partnership between the United Kingdom and Kenya. Our commitment is to work with the Kenyan people to unleash their potential, develop their human capital and realise even greater growth and prosperity for Kenya.

In the next three years, the UK aims to invest over Ksh 8.4 billion to support as many as 300,000 children to get a quality education. Our goal is to partner with the Government of Kenya to ensure that every child in Kenya, and particularly those in the arid and semi-arid lands and non-formal settlements, gets the education they need to realise their goals.

Why is investing in education the right thing to do for any nation?

First, education drives economic growth at a national level. For each additional year of schooling that children receive, Kenya can expect an increase in Gross Domestic Product (a measure of how rich the country is) of up to 1%.

Second, education helps lift individuals out of poverty. In Kenya, each additional year of schooling is capable of increasing an individual’s expected lifetime earnings by about 15%.

And finally, education delivers significant social change. More education is linked with improved health and greater democracy, stability and security. Educating girls is particularly transformational. Girls who have completed secondary education are 3 times more likely to get a job than those who have only completed primary school. And the daughters of educated mothers are 8 times more likely to go to school, creating a virtuous circle.

Your excellency, it is not often that an Englishman diplomat quotes a Frenchman. But one of my favourite quotes is by the French writer Victor Hugo. He said: “when you open the door to a school, you close the door to a prison”. That is why I applaud the way in which Kenyans prize and value education, and the leadership of the Wings to Fly programme. Wings to Fly scholars are role models for your schools and communities and represent the promise of a bright and exciting future for Kenya. We want to help you make better lives for yourselves, your families and communities and Kenya as a nation.

I will admit, the thing most commonly said to me is that I am too young to be a Balozi. In this country, where the median age is 17, and over 70% of the population is under 35, I sometimes think I am too old to be a diplomat! And my message to the youth is simple: work hard and the sky is the limit. If you had told me when I was 16 that I would be a British High Commissioner I would have laughed. But with a quality education and a scholarship, I had the opportunity that took me to where I am today.
I should also mention that we are proud that the UK is a natural destination for Kenya’s youth to access top quality higher education. The UK is home to one fifth of the top 100 universities in the world. Almost all of our universities have students and alumni from Kenya, and Kenyans continue to pick the UK as one of their most popular higher education destinations. Kenyans benefit from close to 100 scholarships for UK study every year, this has included ten scholarships from Tullow Oil to those studying oil and gas-related subjects, Chevening Scholarships which are awarded to potential future leaders, decision-makers and opinion formers; as well as Rhodes and Commonwealth Scholarships. The Republic of Kenya’s first and third Presidents both attended university in London, and many other prominent Kenyan leaders have also studied in the UK. The UK is keen to continue working in partnership with Kenya over the coming decades to implement the Constitution, and further Kenya’s development and prosperity agenda, in line with Vision 2030. The UK has been with Kenya throughout its journey of the last 50 years. And we will be with it for the next.

In that spirit of friendship and partnership, I would like to once again celebrate the achievements of these students and your teachers and carers. Today, 2,000 more young people will be provided with scholarships and through these gain the opportunity to transform their own lives and the lives of their families and communities. You are an inspiration to us all and I wish you every success in the coming years.

To use another quote, this time from the great icon Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Selected photos of the event on Flickr

Published 22 January 2014