By Allan Wasega, KamiLimu Committee Member
When Daniel J. Boorstin said, “The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life,” he had no idea that his words would be brought to life by Abigail Ayimbisa many years later. Abigail is presently a student at the United States International University — Africa, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Applied Computer Technology (APT) and is a KamiLimu Cohort 7.0 mentee. Born and raised in Ghana, she is the embodiment of facing fear and adversity with strength and determination in pursuit of better education. While it may take immense courage to leave behind the familiar comforts of home, family, and friends, and embark on a journey to a foreign land with different cultures, languages, and lifestyles, to Abigail, making the decision to leave Ghana for Kenya was a no-brainer:
I had a relatively happy childhood. I grew up in Kongo in the northern part of Ghana. My elder brother is only two years older than myself, and I remember us roaming around the house playing hide and seek, which was one of my favorite games. However, this bubble burst upon my parents’ divorce when I was 14 years old and my brother went to live with mom, whereas I went with dad. Afterwards, I shifted homes from relative to relative because my dad was also schooling at the time. He remarried when I was in high school, which was a surprise — I came home one day and there she was, my step mom! For a while afterward, it was hard for me to blend in the new family and so when I applied for and got a Mastercard Foundation scholarship to pursue a university degree in Kenya in August 2021, I readily jumped onto the next flight here.
From this sometimes turbulent upbringing, Abigail carried with her an “I can always do it” attitude as well as curiosity that has played a central role in her career journey. “I always wanted things to be done my way as a child. This insistent outlook instilled in me resilience as I could go for and get things that I wanted.” How she ended up in the tech space is one example that illustrates this belief:
After my final high school exams, my dad introduced me to his friend who owned a small software startup in Bolgatanga. I found his work to be very interesting and fancy, unlike medicine, which was my dream career in my childhood. After the meeting, I started researching more into the technology field and was completely sold when I stumbled upon an article that proclaimed tech as the future of work. Later, when I saw APT as one of the listed programs by The Mastercard Foundation through which one could get a scholarship to USIU, I did not think twice about sending in my application. So, generally, curiosity has been a significant driving factor in my life and studies. But, at USIU, I felt that I needed something more, kind of like a guide to show me what is at the end of the road.
Her pursuit to discovering whether what she is doing makes sense would later drive her to KamiLimu:
I was trying to figure out whether I have selected the right course to study. When I heard about KamiLimu and read its profile online, I thought, ‘Mmh, this could be something that could help me’ because of the program’s aim to bridge the skills gap in the technology field. I was not knowledgeable regarding tech as a subject and as a field. Thus, I applied to KamiLimu because I needed this knowledge and to discover what I am really good at.
Abigail’s revelation validates why KamiLimu exists. Nearly 70% of university students in Kenya lack access to out-of-class mentorship, which is one of the contributing factors to poor employability among graduates. KamiLimu seeks to address this problem by offering structured and collaborative mentorship, with mentors consisting of the Program Lead, peer mentors, and industry professionals. Additionally, KamiLimu implements a multi-phase curriculum that combines immersive hands-on workshops and competitions that simulate real-world environments, such as a mock job application process. Nonetheless, this approach places additional pressure on the mentees, as Abigail would discover in her first four months in the program:
Most KamiLimu sessions occur on Saturdays, which was a double edged sword as some of my classes at USIU were also scheduled on those days. Missing three of these classes would lead to an automatic fail grade. The choice between which classes to attend was not really mine to make as one of the conditions of my Mastercard scholarship is that my grade point average (GPA) should not go below a particular cut-off. I ended up missing a lot of KamiLimu sessions, which disadvantaged me as the first half of the program covers foundational topics in areas such as public speaking and ICT careers.
However, she did not give up. By reaching out to KamiLimu’s Program Lead, Dr. Chao, as well as her peer and professional mentors, Abigail was able to keep up with the program. At KamiLimu, we also keep a resource folder containing materials covered in each session as well as video recordings of virtual meetings. “Going through these recordings, while it enabled me to be on the same page as the other mentees, was not fun!” From this experience, however, Abigail picked one key lesson:
I learned the value of asking for help when stuck because no one will know of your struggles unless you speak up. Initially, I kept the challenges to myself, and I realised that I was not doing myself or KamiLimu any justice as the program has an environment in which help is readily available. I would advise future mentees facing a similar problem as myself to just ask for help. You will get it.
Because of her tenacity and the support she has received over the last seven months, Abigail is on track to graduate from KamiLimu Cohort 7.0 on May 27th. While the program has taught her a host of lessons, the most valuable one she carries with her is the value of showing up.
“Showing up in itself is a motivating factor that has kept me going even on occasions when I am not getting things right.”
As for whom she is most grateful to so far:
For me that person would be Mr. Moses Nablebna, who was my mentor back when I was in junior high school. He knew me well and could tell when my life was in chaos, especially after my parents’ separation. He approached me when he noticed that I had become dull and quieter than usual. I confided in him and he took me under his wing thereafter. I was 14 years then and, were it not for his mentoring, support, and coaching, I would not be here today. He still checks up on me today. He is the greatest gift I have received so far.
Edited by Mwaniki Nyaga and Ronnie Leon