After Graduation, Baraza Goes After His Dream May 4, 2015  by      

By: Scott Weathers, CFK Intern, American University

Baraza Juma, CFK scholarship recipient, at his job at Equity Bank.CFK Education Program Officer, Jeffrey Okoro, and I approach the imposing structure of Equity Bank, which juts into the Kibera sky between the tin roofs of vegetable stands and metal shops. It’s an odd site—Kenya is known for the popular practice of “tabletop banking,” where people save money through informal groups and take loans from within their social networks—but the chain has expanded its services to Kibera residents. Inside, we speak to the student we’re looking for: Baraza Juma, CFK scholarship recipient and recent high school graduate.

Though it’s only been two days since he started his job at Equity Bank, Baraza looks confident and comfortable in a pressed shirt and tie. The youngest face working at the bank by far, Baraza explains that his excellent test scores at the end of high school helped him get the impressive job. Two recent graduates—out of thousands of applicants—from Baraza’s school district are selected each year to work for Equity Bank. Baraza’s success in high school wasn’t solely defined by test scores, however; he also participated in numerous extracurricular activities at his boarding school. His positions as Dorm Captain, Societies Captain, and Class Captain (leadership positions similar to Student Government in U.S. high schools) led to his nickname, “The President,” which he recalls with a wry smile.

Despite his experience in his school’s leadership, Baraza isn’t interested in holding political office. “I have wanted to work in medicine for as long as I can remember,” he explains. Baraza dreams of attending medical school at Moi University, and after that, opening a pharmacy to provide medical treatment to Kenyans from all walks of life, especially those in Kibera. He is waiting to hear back from Moi University, which he hopes to attend in September.

When asked how the scholarship he earned from CFK’s Education Program affected him, Baraza replied, “I had a peaceful time in school. I never saw an invoice, I was just in school.” He described never having to “chase money,” a phrase used by students who have a hard time paying school fees to describe the seemingly never-ending process of finding funds. A scholarship from CFK’s Education Program meant he and his family didn’t have to worry about that, giving him the freedom to pursue his studies uninterrupted by fee troubles, and allowing him the mental space to focus on academics.

Baraza’s story reinforces CFK’s central belief that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. Helping connect bright students like Baraza to life-changing opportunities depends on several factors sometimes outside of one’s control—getting a job offer, being accepted to university, etc.—but making a difference doesn’t have to be complicated. It can start with a simple act of great impact, like providing a high school scholarship for a promising young student.

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