It’s a sunny Monday morning in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, but this is a Monday like no other: it is the opening of WE College.
Valentine Chepkorir, 22, walks towards the school gate, heavy luggage in tow doing nothing to lessen the liveliness of her gait. She is about to experience a rite of passage no one in her family has undergone: her first day of college.
Although Valentine excelled as a high school student at WE’s Kisaruni Group of Schools, as the fifth of eight siblings, she says she never seriously thought college was an option. Until now.
“My parents couldn’t afford it. When I got the call informing me that I had qualified to not only get in, but get a scholarship as well, I cried,” she explains.
Ahead of her, several young women make their way towards the school, also marking family firsts as they partake in ritual undertakings, typical to freshman the world over. These rituals see the new students exploring the campus, unpacking their dorm room and preparing for their first week of classes.
WE College was started to enable learners from the local region to access high-quality, post-secondary education.
It’s the next evolution in educational opportunities WE is creating in Kenya.
When WE Villages began, it focused on primary schools in Narok County, building essential school infrastructure with government schools. The focus on universal access to primary education continues, but seeing an increase in kids—especially girls—coming to class, WE expanded its vision and opened an all girls’ high school in the Maasai Mara to enable female students to continue their education post primary. The demand was so high, two years after the initial opening, it opened a second campus.
This past January, it expanded to include a third campus, this time an all boys’ high school. And now, students who once questioned whether high school was within reach, are walking college campus.
The college will start by offering specialized courses in tourism management and later offer a wide range of programs including community nursing, clinical medicine and entrepreneurial agriculture. “We start with tourism management because there is a high demand for professionals in this field,” says Gertrude Manani, the principal of the college. “These young women will be able to gain employment and improve the standard of living for themselves and their families.”
Agnes Korir accompanied her daughter Naomi Chepkoech to the college. Although sad her daughter will be away from home, Agnes can’t contain her pride: “I never got an education, but I have always hoped that my children would get the best education. Seeing her off today is hard, but I’m so happy!”
As the sun sets on the first day, Valentine, Naomi and their classmates continue to settle into their dormitory, ready to start the journey towards their college diploma—a dream come true.