How chiefs cheat poor students in scholarship scam
Investigations have revealed a deep-rooted vice of unscrupulous Kenyans fraudulently securing scholarships meant for bright but needy students.
Interviews with officials of some of the organisations that offer scholarships to poor brilliant learners unearthed shocking findings of how well-off families collude with local chiefs and even church leaders to cheat their way into securing the scholarships for their children at the expense of the deserving cases.
Revelations come amid rising concerns over the status of Elimu Scholarship Programme (ESP), with fears that the government may not have a budget for the initiative, at least for the moment.
The programme is expected to benefit 9,000 needy and vulnerable students who sat the 2021 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam.
Reports indicate that despite learners reporting to Form One next week, the government is yet to make a call for applications for deserving candidates to try their luck in the programme.
This has caused anxiety among parents who had pegged their hope on the programme.
“Nothing has been done yet since the government does not have a direct budget for the programme, it has to look for resources from well-wishers and organisations to sponsor the learners,” a senior education official said yesterday.
“We need to have an honest conversation with ourselves. From experience we have become a selfish population that does not want a free opportunity to pass us,” Ndung’u Nyoro, the founder of Affecto Foundation told People Daily.
Narrating accounts his organisation has come across, Nyoro said some unscrupulous people have ‘decorated problems’ only to be caught off guard.
A case in point is when a team from the foundation visited an applicant during the vetting process only to find the exact opposite of what was indicated in the application form.
He recounts of a scenario in which a family indicated how deserving they were and that they lived in a shanty with no electricity. “When you see such a case, you will want to prioritise it by doing due diligence through a random visit. In this case, parents of the applicant had rented a ‘mabati’ (iron sheets) house in one of the slums for purposes of cheating,” said Nyoro.
“We found the applicant who led us to one of the mabati houses but she did not even know the right key for that house and she kept on calling her parents. She was clearly confused and could not answer questions. In the long run, she led the team to their original house, which is a modern house complete with cabro compound and zero grazing,” he said.
He cited the case of a student who sat the 2020 KCPE and scored 397 out of the possible 500 marks, but owing to his needy status and failure to get scholarship, he could not join Form One last year.
“Affecto only learned of his case when it was too late and it has now incorporated him into the scholarship programme,” he said. In yet another case, the application form indicated that the father of the applicant is deceased and that the mother was jobless.
“In a surprise home visit, the team found the children and house help. The parents, including the ‘deceased’ were at work. The children and house help told the vetting team that their dad is a chief and actually the ‘deceased’ filled the application form on behalf of their child,” narrated Nyoro.
Another example is when his team was seeking direction to one of the applicant’s home and along the way, they discovered that the family even owned a bakery and shame filled their faces when they were exposed.
Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha is on record decrying corruption in some of the organisations dealing with issuance of bursaries in admission of Form One students.
Magoha asked those involved in the award of scholarships to ensure that no false information is presented for any pupil.
“I have no kind word for any thief at all. We want that child from the gutter who has qualified to go to high school to get that opportunity,” the CS said last year.
In February last year, the ministry indicated that it was working on expanding the mandate of Jomo Kenyatta Foundation (JKF) to become a centre for coordinating various scholarship programmes.
Move seeks to redeem scholarship management to have as many needy students benefit from these programmes.
Given the nature of its strategic positioning as the only Government Foundation providing basic education scholarships, the CS said JKF capacity was in the process of being strengthened to enable it undertake its new mandate.