TOGETHER: Celebrating a 15-year partnership with PA-MOJA

Pamoja, in Swahili, means ‘together’. And we’ve been ‘together’ with the Canada-based education organisation, PA-MOJA, for 15 years now.

Every year, a team from Ol Pejeta partners with local community leaders to go through an extensive process to select 20 students for a 4-year full scholarship. The scholarships are aimed at students with great academic potential and drive, who have financial difficulty that would hinder them from attending secondary school. PA-MOJA currently sponsors 70 students to various schools around Kenya. In addition to the scholarships, and working with partners such as Rift Valley Adventures and the Daraja Kenya Initiative, students in the scholarship programme are provided with mentorship opportunities too. The mentorship also includes students not sponsored through PA-MOJA but involved in other Ol Pejeta programmes.

Despite being based in Canada, PA-MOJA philosophy is that final decisions on the beneficiaries of the programme are made by the local programme officers who act on existing needs and involve the community throughout the process.

PA-MOJA recognises the importance of supporting education from the point of view of the community. The selection process for PA-MOJA, which was eventually adopted for all our scholarship programmes, is based on an open system of applications that are shortlisted by the Ol Pejeta education staff. These are then discussed in open meeting forums with community representatives, the applicant’s parents, and anyone other interested parties. The community has the final say on the best-suited students based on need and performance.

We have learnt by conducting regular surveys, that scholarships are viewed by our communities as one of the main benefits of supporting wildlife conservation on Ol Pejeta, and because of the collaborative selection process with the community leaders, the programme is appreciated and considered beneficial to the entire community. This has significantly supported our conservation efforts as many in the community can directly relate conservation to the wellbeing of their children.

In addition to the scholarships, PA-MOJA has developed an online learning resource called the Butterfly Effect. Through this blog, Kenyan, Canadian and American students can engage in inquiry-based learning. The platform encourages them to work on projects and collaborate as peers sharing their divergent learning experiences and supporting each other as part of a learning community. In the last five years, the program has seen 10 Kenyan students and teachers travel to Canada in a cultural exchange program.

One such beneficiary is Lucy Wacera Wairimu. A bubbly 19-year-old girl who loves working with numbers. Her interest in maths has led her to pursue a career in Commerce after scoring a B- in her national examinations. She is now in her first year of KCA university in Nairobi. Her mother and five siblings are really proud of her accomplishments and have a renewed hope for the future of their family and community. Lucy is also a part of the Butterfly Effect programme and got to travel to Canada in 2018 on her first-ever international trip. She dreams to work for a big financial institution and we do not doubt that her hard work and passion will make this a reality.

In 2020, when schools shut down as a result of the global pandemic, PA-MOJA was one of the first partners to reaffirm its commitment to Ol Pejeta by making a generous donation to aid core operations in the conservancy. Furthermore, to give relief to parents whose livelihoods were affected by the Covid-19 restrictions, PA-MOJA stepped in and helped 12 final year high school students in our communities by clearing their school fees arrears and providing a one-year scholarship which enabled them to resume their classes.

Each year, PA-MOJA funds school fees and operations worth an estimated $50,000. These funds are designated for scholarship and scholarship-related activities with 90% going directly to paying school fees and supporting students' needs. Ol Pejeta conservancy would like to recognize the generosity of PA-MOJA’s board, the Canadian and American members, and the schools that work tirelessly to fundraise towards conservation and education.