Muslim populated regions are largely characterized by poor socio-economic indicators. For instance, according to the County Fact Sheets (2013), Mandera county has literacy rate of 9.9% compared to the National average of 66.4%. Wajir, is ranked the 47th worst county in terms of proportion of women who deliver at a health facility. While in Isiolo county, access to improved sanitation is at 55.7%, below the national average of 87.8% ( census, 2009).
One of the ways to improve these indicators is through investment in human capital. For instance health is a devolved function, do we have adequate health care professionals for both preventive and curative care?. How many medical specialists do we have?, how many epidemiologists?. In order to effectively and efficiently plan and implement initiatives aimed at improving the socio-economic condition in our regions/ counties, we need to have experts in Financial planning and management, strategic planning etc; do we have them?
Based on this identified gap, Africa Education and Development Trust (AEDT), a Not for profit organization supports the provision of interest-free soft loan for professionals pursuing Masters and PhD studies. To date, 179 (37 PhD and 142 Masters) professionals from various field e.g. Medicine, Engineering, Education, Human Resource, Law, Finance among others have been sponsored to pursue their post graduate studies. With the AEDT program, which offers interest-free study loans, these Muslim professionals have been given an opportunity to pursue higher education without compromising on their religious obligations/teachings. Most of them had been locked out from accessing financing for their education, since Islam prohibits interest based source of financing. The soft loan program was carefully designed and rolled out in Kenya in the year 2012.
The beneficiaries, pursue various courses, with an aim of not only improving their professional capacity, but also with the end goal of addressing socio-economic challenges facing their local communities and the nation at large.
An AEDT beneficiary, describes the reasons behind her choice of post graduate course, “…In Kenya, we are struggling with huge challenges in health service provision…the poor, marginalized and the vulnerable cannot access quality and affordable health care…this is why I chose to study Masters degree( MBA) specializing in Health Service Management…I hope to contribute to the strengthening of our health management systems for better access to quality health care for all…”
The soft loan helps in Relieving family financial burden, and ensures easier access to higher education. One of the AEDT beneficiaries, described this benefit, “…It was a hard decision to go back to the University as an adult with family, and it has been a demanding experience. By awarding me this soft loan, AEDT has lessened my financial burden, allowing me to focus on my academic endeveurs…This soft loan allowed me gain skills and personality values necessary to succeed in my field of study…”.
AEDT’s study loan program is a case in point, in re-defining of financing for post graduate studies. While traditionally, most students relied on scholarships, the “revolving fund” concept, as a model of financing offers a more sustainable approach to education financing. The soft loan is repaid by the professionals in an easy to repay monthly installments.
Through this program, we will inshaALLAH have more Muslim professionals in the critical sectors like Health, Education, Governance among others.
The writer is the CEO, Africa Education and Development Trust.