Wings to Fly

U.S. Presidential Initiatives:
President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

Funding Level:
$26.4 million

November 2011 – November 2016

Activity Goals:

  • Increase access to high school  and higher education for talented, economically-disadvantaged young people
  • Support an educated, self-reliant and productive youth population to help Kenya drive its own development agenda
  • Encourage private sector to take a leadership role in realizing Kenya’s development goals

Activity Accomplishments:

  • 10,000 students selected for scholarships – of those, USAID is currently supporting 2,678 scholars from all 47 counties of Kenya
  • All scholars receive leadership training and are matched with mentors, psychosocial support is provided as needed
  • 98.8 % of the 2,678 sponsored scholars are currently enrolled

Implementing Partner:
Equity Group Foundation

Key Partners:
Ministry of Education Science & Technology, and:
- Equity Group Foundation
- Equity Bank
- MasterCard Foundation
- KfW

Activity Locations:

Wings to Fly is a public-private partnership between USAID, Equity Group Foundation, Mastercard Foundation, UKaid, and KfW. The activity provides full scholarships that include tuition, room, and board to enable academically gifted but economically disadvantaged and vulnerable children to pursue high school and tertiary education. The selected young people also receive leadership training, career guidance, and personal mentoring to help them maximize their potential. USAID’s contribution of $26.5 million will support more than 2,600 Wings to Fly scholars over a five-year period. The activity supports an additional 500 students enrolled in high school and tertiary institutions under the USAID-Equity Group Foundation Leadership and Scholarship program. Overall, the initiative will support 10,000 young Kenyans with access to a full high school education by 2019.

Wings to Fly scholarships are widely advertised in the media and through community and religious organizations. A District Scholarship Selection Board of 12 local representatives uses a transparent selection process to identify top performing students who would otherwise be unable to attend school. Equity Bank manages the funds to ensure that the scholars’ fees are paid on time. Equity Bank also helps students open bank accounts to receive their stipends and learn responsible financial management.  Local bank officials provide support to the scholars while at school.

The students’ progress is closely monitored throughout their studies. The project provides mentorship to boost their self-esteem and help them to rise above their circumstances.


“On these wings, I am flying to becoming a doctor,” said Nuru Hajila Wario, a student at Lamu Girls High School, who three years ago had no hope of realizing her dream.  Nuru was bright and received good grades, but she could not proceed to high school due to the cost.  She buried her hopes of becoming a doctor-- marriage was the only other solution. “I did not imagine I would be in school today.  Coming from a poor family, I was helpless and vulnerable,” she said.

Ushindi Ayieko, a form three student at Mpeketoni Boys High School, had a similar story. Despite having excelled in his primary education, this future leader had also shelved his hopes of becoming an engineer. “Since my family doesn’t have money for school fees, I knew I was not going to secondary school but I was determined to attain good grades regardless,” said Ushindi.

Kenya’s policy to provide free primary education to all has enabled thousands of children to access basic education. However, while primary school enrollment has dramatically increased, only a small percentage goes on to secondary school and even fewer graduate. Without the proper training and skills to achieve their career aspirations, a large number of young people wind up unemployed and vulnerable.

Thanks to the Wings To Fly program, Nuru and Ushindi are one of the 10,000 students who are now “flying” to realize their dreams. The program is a partnership between USAID, UKAID, Master Card, and Equity Bank that provides not only scholarships for secondary school, but also mentoring, leadership training, networking, and internships for orphans and vulnerable children.

USAID’s contribution currently supports 3,100 students in Kenya. The overall initiative supports 10,000 young Kenyans with access to a full secondary education. Public-private partnerships like Wings To Fly are contributing to Kenya’s Vision 2030 to transform Kenya into a middle-income economy led by well-educated and trained citizens.

“I am very grateful for the wings I have been given.  It is a lifetime opportunity and I look forward to becoming a doctor and giving back to the society,” said Nuru.

USAID Contact:
Dr. Lucy Kithome
Education and Youth Office
Tel:  +254 20 862 2249

Wings to Fly Contact:
Ms. Ivy Mwai, General Manager Education
Equity Group Foundation
P.O. Box 13241 - 00200 Nairobi
Tel: +254 20 226 2000


Updated September 2014

Last updated: October 21, 2014

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