Zawadi Africa Education Fund

The Zawadi Africa Education Fund is a program designed to provide scholarships to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds from Africa to pursue higher education in the US. The Zawadi Africa Education Fund is based on the highly successful Kennedy/Mboya Student airlifts of the 1960's, through a partnership with individuals and institutions with an interest in creating leadership

  • The Africa student airlift program was created in 1959 by the late Tom Mboya, one of the architects of the Kenyan independent movement, to provide a pipeline of young African leaders to staff the newly formed government and parastatal organisations that would be left behind as European colonial officials returned to their home countries, post independence.
  • The late Tom Mboya funded the program through appeals to US Universities, and via private and public US donors including the US State Department, the Kennedy Foundation, and several US luminaries of the Civil rights movement, including John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Frank Montero and William Scheinman. US colleges and universities provided full scholarships, while the program sponsors paid for airfare and student upkeep. From 1959-1963, Mboya sent a total of 1000 students to US universities.
  • The program was highly successful, providing a pool of graduates that went on to become the leaders of the young governments in East Africa. Over 80% of East Africa's immediate post-independence leaders were graduates of the student airlift program, including Kenya's Professor Leah Marangu the Vice Chancellor Nazarene University, Professor Wangari Mathaai, Africa's first Nobel Peace prize Laureate, and Barrack Obama Sr., father of Senator Barrack Obama of Illinois, to name a few.
  • Although the program included women, the post-independence move to self- actualization largely bypassed the women of the region. While women represent 50% of the African population today, they constitute less than 2% of the region's government leaders. African women are prevented from pursuing a higher education by the tremendous financial burden on their families, opposing customs/traditions, including early childhood marriages, and the cultural expectation that they will be first and foremost wives and mothers.
  • In 2002, Dr. Susan Mboya, daughter of Tom Mboya, created the Zawadi Africa Education Program to help young African women obtain a college education. This pilot program was loosely based on the 1960's student African Student Airlifts. As with the original airlifts, the program pairs US universities with talented but needy young women from East Africa.
  • · Importantly, the Zawadi Africa Education Fund has delivered an excellent return in its first few years. To date, there are a total of 55 students enrolled at top universities in the US including Yale University, Xavier University and Smith College. The students in the program have an average GPA of 3.70. This is made even more impressive by the fact that the students are all required to be partners in this initiative, by holding down on- campus jobs to pay for books and incidentals. On average, the program pays for less than 10% of the total cost of a 4-year education, with the balance funded by merit based college grants and scholarships.  


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