Saturday, 5th of April, 2014. In the Satima sitting room a man sits in one of the seats separating two sofas. His name? Patrick Githinji. His mission? To beg. But this isn’t your standard street beggar. For one, he isn’t begging on the street. For the other, he is neatly (and smartly) dressed in casual Saturday afternoon jeans and clean sneakers. So what brings him here?
This man comes in the name of the Eastlands College of Technology, a college rising from among the shanties of the Eastlands area of Nairobi. He has passion, drive, audacity. What he lacks is the money to complete his building. So, yeah, you guessed right, the college doesn’t even exist yet. At the moment it is a cluttered construction site, beset with all the challenges and problems that such projects attract.
The Eastlands College of Technology, if all things go well, will conduct its first intake in October this year. Such students as will be admitted will be trained for certificates in three disciplines: Electrical Engineering, Electronics and a Business related IT course whose name I didn’t quite get (laugh not). Anyway, these students will be the pioneers in an undertaking whose significance they probably won’t perceive immediately.
What, you may ask, would make anyone begin a college like this, and why in Eastlands? Well, you won’t have to think far immediately after posing this question to yourself. Where are the polytechnics that used to absorb students who couldn’t make it to university or college? Where are the technical schools? They are all universities now, churning out graduates at an unprecedented pace. Who will do the technical, manual, skilled work that is indispensable in an economy keen to industrialise?
And why in Eastlands? Because it is Eastlands! It’s a land of vast populations, vast potential, vast abilities and… vast want. As such, there are many who, whether or not they yet know it, need just this kind of initiative to make them useful to society. Many young minds will be harnessed for the good of that deprived land. And so, thoroughly convinced of this, men like Githinji have taken it upon themselves to make it a reality.
The college will sit on 10 acres near the Oilibya Africa petrol station at the Donholm Roundabout of Jogoo Road. The land was obtained from Kenya Railways, though two acres are still in contention in a court of law. The plot was purchased at the cost of 30 million shillings, a modest sum considering the location and size. A few things had to be ironed out – title deeds and some other papers had to be obtained (you see, Kenya Railways had to be reminded that they owned the land!), and the two acres mentioned above are being used by an establishment which doesn’t own them.
Now, back to the issue of Githinji the Beggar. If they have 30 million shillings to buy land, what would he need from broke university students? Well, let’s just put it this way, even the thirty million was very hard to come by. They have been begging literally from the beginning, in boardroom and roadside kiosk, in corporate corridors and back alleys. So far they have raised more than 100 million, which is more than half of the 150 million they need to complete the first phase.
Listening to the man put his pitch, I couldn’t help but marvel at the confidence that comes with conviction, the confidence that men with noble hearts will understand, confidence that no matter the odds, anything can be done if resilience is added in. The Eastlands College of Technology, though still a construction site, and the people involved in raising it, though still condemned to beg, have already started giving lessons, and to a larger base of students than will ever be enrolled.
And so, infected with this confidence, I also will put my pitch here. Though I own naught beyond a few coins, being the university student that I am, I know yet that many who will read this might be able to contribute to this cause. More information on how you can assist is included here below. This, what you are reading, is my own contribution.
by Mathew Odhiambo