By the SPHEIR team

24 February 2021 - 09:18

Two people working on one laptop together

For students, understanding how to prepare for the world of work and manage their finances is arguably just as vital as doing coursework.  

In this blog, we look at how the Lending for Education in Africa Partnership has launched career readiness and financial literacy training for an online environment, and how this is helping students across Kenya to prepare for their future.

Launched in 2018 as part of the UK-aid funded SPHEIR programme, the Lending for Education in Africa Partnership (LEAP) provides affordable finance to young people from low and middle-income backgrounds in Kenya who are pursuing higher education and cannot access conventional commercial loans, bursaries or scholarships.

As well as providing finance, the project also offers its student beneficiaries – referred to as LEAP Fellows – career readiness and financial literacy training, with the aim of helping them transition successfully into employment after their studies and pay back their loans. 

Pre-Covid, the training was delivered by the LEAP team to Fellows with the support of LEAP ‘Chapter groups’ – student-led groups at each partner university providing networking opportunities, peer-to-peer support, and leadership opportunities to LEAP students. 

In August 2020, LEAP launched a new 12-month virtual career readiness training scheme in partnership with the African Management Institute (AMI). Building on the existing in-person career readiness training, the new online training is aimed at students in their last 18 months of study and has so far been piloted with 213 priority students. 

The training is designed to be engaging and interactive: Students have access to virtual training sessions and materials, including video and audio files, text, quizzes and session activities, and an i-Coach feature for individualised support. The learners can engage with their peers via the LEAP online community platform and via a WhatsApp group.

Peter Muchinju, LEAP Student Support Manager said, “Our delivery of the career readiness programme has been greatly enhanced by the virtual training approach, complemented by the online materials in the form of videos and text on the AMI platform.” 

“Learners are able to join sessions from wherever they are, compared to a physical location on campus previously and they can take lessons on the AMI platform and learn at their own pace and time; this includes revisiting the content later.” 

“All this has led to improved understanding and adoption of the lessons we deliver. However, we have also noted some of the learners, especially those in public universities, struggling to fully manage their learning since their university learning has been hugely instructor-centred, with limited opportunities for them to initiate and own their learning process.” 

“This has given us an opportunity to guide the Fellows to take initiative and ownership of their learning, a skill that will be critical for them in future once they join the workforce”.

Many Fellows have however faced challenges with data and connectivity, lack of necessary technological devices, and other soft skills like time management and critical thinking. While the LEAP team continue to monitor the recent developments on re-opening of learning institutions, they are also exploring potential and impactful opportunities to incorporate an in-person component to the current virtual training approach, if and when they deem safe to do so.

Student Support Coordinator Marsha Kasili said, “We have faced challenges with our use of virtual trainings and engagement, as have nearly all training programmes during the Covid period, including issues with data, connectivity and lack of devices. But in addition to this, we have had to continuously train Fellows on some key soft skills that we noted affected our delivery, such as time management, use of online communication channels like Zoom, Teams etc and most importantly active engagement on a virtual session”.

Alongside career readiness training, LEAP also offers its students financial literacy training. The aim is to empower students in managing their finances and their LEAP loans. Initially the training was provided through a blended learning format but, since the Covid-19 crisis, the training has been delivered through an SMS-based delivery approach. The idea behind this is to be as inclusive and accessible as possible – so that learners with poor internet connection can follow the course via their mobile. As of December 2020, the four training modules have been completed by over 750 Fellows. 

Recent feedback from students showed that the overwhelming majority of Fellows think that the financial literacy training improved their financial knowledge and ability to manage their loan and overall finances while the career readiness training allowed them to gain skills that will help them in their career.

“From the financial literacy trainings I’ve received, I am able to manage my finances well. I now prepare a monthly budget, make savings goals, repay my interest on time, and manage my priorities better.” LEAP student.

Looking ahead

Currently, the LEAP partnership supports 830 Fellows across 5 Kenyan universities and 2 TVET institutions. Just over 40 per cent of the Fellows are enrolled in Health Sciences programmes, followed by Engineering, ICT and Accounting/Actuarial Science. The partnership is looking to expand its offering to over 1,500 Fellows by the end of 2021, with expansion across the higher education and vocational training sectors in Kenya and Uganda. 

LEAP is managed by a dedicated team at Volta Capital, in partnership with the Mandela Institute for Development Studies, InHive, Equity Group Foundation and Lundin Foundation. Find out more about the partnership.