From Kogelo to the White House

Educational Tourism

In his book titled “Airlift to America”, author Tom Shachtman (2009) discusses the long hidden saga of the 1959 – 1963 “airlift” whose students included Barrack Obama Snr., future father of US president Barrack Obama, Wangari Maathai, future Nobel prize laureate as well as several nation builders of post colonial East Africa – cabinet ministers, ambassadors, university chancellors and clinic and school founders.  This airlift was so significant that it even had an impact on the 1960 US presidential race, as Vice President Richard Nixon tried to muscle the State Department into funding the project to prevent Senator Jack Kennedy from using his family foundation to do so and reap political benefit
Educational Travel enhances the vision and leadership skills of students; improving morale, self image and through the cultural exchange, gives a vision for success academically and in life.  The premise is that “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. The mentorship, friendship and opportunities experienced by those who travel away from their own environments empower the students in ways they would not have otherwise have had if they never traveled.

The Kogelo to the White House educational travel seeks to empower participants by benchmarking through exposure to the best local and international opportunities. We begin the journey by retracing first steps in Kogelo, meeting with Mama Sarah Obama. Pre-travel briefings will then be held in Nairobi at Inoorero University and Makini School, addressed by Professor Tirima, Teddy Warria and Dr. Weche. This will be followed by travel to United States of America, visiting Ivy League Universities. The visit culminates in a tour of the White House, before participants return back to Kenya. The minds of participants should then be so challenged that they will want to be the very best that they can ever be!

Benchmarking with the Best Universities; travel itinerary

The visits to the Ivy League Universities will be within a period of two weeks, incorporating the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Broad institute (MIT & Harvard medical research) and Genzyme Corporation in the state of Massachusetts. Professor Benyamin Lichtenstein of the University of Massachusetts will also give a presentation on Business and Entrepreneurship for success.

In New York, the visit will include receiving the “Key of the City” from New York Mayor Bloomberg, visiting Wall street to see trading take place, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, United Nations headquarters, Times Square, Springs Harbour, Long Island -visiting some of the best laboratories in Biology, Chemistry & bio-physics and opportunities to participate in the Clinton Global University Initiatives. In New Jersey, students will visit Princeton University; in Pennsylvania visit the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College. The visit concludes with visit to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the White House in Washington DC.

Future travel will include visits to the West Coast; Stanford University, Hoover Institute with the opportunity to meet with Condoleezza Rice at Palo Alto! Performing arts students will have the option to visit Hollywood – who knows how this could bring out “the next best thing” in our youth? Other visits will include key European educational institutions. Watch this space!

Historical background

Leader development is primarily based on enhancing the human capital of individual students – such as those who benefited from the 1959 – 1963 “airlift”. When created, the African American Students Foundation (AASF) aimed at creating a ‘cadre of well trained young people who would be available to staff the government and educational systems’. Nearly 800 East African students eventually benefited from this initiative. It is from such enhanced human capital that creation of social capital occurs, the creation of a climate and environment that delivers basic needs, with opportunities to meet their wishes, dreams and aspirations.

Such a process requires visionaries. In the forward to “Airlift to America”, (Shachtman, 2009) Harry Belafonte speaks of the shared vision for a free Africa together with Jack Robinson, author Tom Shachtman and fellow artist Sidney Poitier. Based on leadership by the late Tom Mboya, they raised funds, mobilizing many people across America to charter airplanes and bring people from East Africa who had successfully applied for scholarships to US colleges and Universities.  This ‘circumvented the British Colonial education system, which rewarded only a handful of Kenyans each year with scholarship study in Great Britain’.

Value based Leadership development

Leadership is a source of competitive advantage and worthy of one’s investment socially and organizationally. The success of the Asian Tiger economies (like South Korea & Singapore) are proof of the power of proper leadership – as compared to the poor leadership in Africa that has left the continent poorer, and relatively worse when the colonial masters departed.  There is no reason why our African cities should not be as modern as those of the Asian Tiger economies, when we enjoy far greater resources than the Asian Tiger economies have ever had. Poverty, ignorance and disease ought to have been eliminated long ago. We owe it to our new generations to get this right, not just leaving an inheritance of poor infrastructure, management, disease and apathy. The question is; what are we going to do in the next 50 years in Africa? What will our legacy be?

Our theme in enabling student to travel is for excellence in Career, Education and Value based Leadership; the first two occur only when leadership is invested within its rightful context. Leader development is a form of individual-based differentiation, helping individuals enhance a unique self-understanding and construct independent identities.  Leadership development can be thought of as an integration strategy - helping people understand how to relate to others, coordinate their efforts, build commitments, and develop extended social networks by applying self-understanding to social and organizational imperatives.

Leadership through Action Learning

Action learning is a continuous process of learning and reflection, supported by colleagues, with a corresponding emphasis on getting things done. Action learning is based on the assumption that people learn most effectively when working on real-time organizational problems (Revans, 1980).

The ‘Kogelo to White House’ tour program begins in December 2011 and will be available every school holiday; April, August and December. The program seeks students as young as Primary Standard 5 to college students; parents are welcome to participate and benefit as well.  

The itinerary begins with a visit to Kogelo and listening to Mama Sarah Obama, followed by a pre-US travel seminar by Inoorero University and Makini School. This is then followed by travel to the North Eastern United States, visiting Ivy League Universities - Brown, Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities. It is our trust that the private sector and Corporates will help sponsor students to this program, especially those being rewarded for their academic and social leadership endeavours.

Post travel value activities

Post travel value activities for student include information on local universities and available courses, and how to best prepare for current and future academic studies.

For those interested in overseas education, a 35 page guide by New Horizons is available on apply to US colleges and coordination of student exchange programmes. This guide has already been successfully by several students to gain admission into US Universities.

Collaborations provide support in applying and preparing for study locally and at accredited U.S. Colleges or universities – given that each year approximately three million students from all over the world – with 5,000 from Kenya -  contact educational information centers affiliated with the U.S. Department of State. These provide professional, timely, accurate, comprehensive, and unbiased advice on study and scholarship opportunities in the U.S. through free sessions on the process of attaining admission, TOEFL, SAT I, SAT II,  Visa interview preparation, SEVIS processing, scholarship/financial aid and general study in the U.S

The atmosphere of action learning is unique for each participant, yet there is collective sharing of realities in a community of practice. Action learning tends to provide a good deal of challenge and support. The participants are encouraged to try new things and to trust themselves and others to stretch their thinking and behavior. For maximal effect, action should be accompanied by reflection about the action; otherwise, there is little structured guidance for learning from experience (Froiland, 1994).

Our model challenges student participants to be the best they can ever be, irrespective of their backgrounds. This will open doors to a broad range of educational and career development opportunities - benchmarking with the best local and international universities. Successful student participants should experience and acquire skills such as;

    * Sharpened critical thinking skills
    * Increased morale, self-esteem and competence
    * Travel abroad knowledge and leadership experience
    * College knowledge and guidance
    * Access to dedicated networks, mentors with follow up plans
    * Enhance the vision and leadership skills for success academically and in life.
    * Begin to develop core leadership capabilities such as Team dynamics & Influence, Innovation, Change management &  Entrepreneurial Action, Negotiation & Conflict resolution, Verbal and non-verbal communication.

We will also facilitate travel to Harvard Business School’s 14th Africa Business Conference in Boston, Massachusetts in February / March 2011. The Africa Business conference is the world’s largest student-run event focused on business in Africa. It brings together over 900 participants including African business professionals from across the world. It is run by the Africa Business Club, a student-run organization of the Harvard Business School. The Club provides services and resources for African students, students who've worked in Africa and any student with a professional or cultural interest in Africa - promoting the engagement of the African business community with Harvard Business School. Inoorero University’s Institute for Executive Education and Consultancy with Akad Africa Ltd will facilitate travel to Boston, departing in February 2011 for 5 days.

Leadership is a continuous process that can take place anywhere, but requires strategic planning on how to best learn from school, studies, extra-curricular activities, work and careers. Akad Africa Ltd. speaks to high school and university youth, seeking to harness this vastly untapped capacity and expand thinking based on a vision of current and future success. Through appropriate mentorship, students are challenged to develop core capabilities such as Team dynamics & Influence, Innovation, Change management & Entrepreneurial Action, Negotiation & Conflict resolution, Verbal and non-verbal communication. We wish to give a taste of this vision through the two week “Kogelo to White House” educational journey, for which we sincerely thank our stakeholders, mentors and supporters.

Dr. J. Weche is a Business & Training Consultant at Inoorero University’s Institute for Executive Education & Consultancy, and is CEO Akad Africa Ltd.