Graduate Spotlight: Festus Toney Wanjala – I once had 3 dreams


What are they? What happened to them?

If I told you now, dear reader, then our conversion will end here. Let’s start from the beginning.

How did it all begin? 

“Why are you not in school?” a gentleman asked me while we chattered along as I was out and about in my home village. I later came to learn he was the principal of Handow high school in Kakamega. It took my KCSE certificate to prove to him I had not dropped out of school. For that gap year he invited me to his school as a tutor to the form fours. At 17 years, it was a daunting task as I was small in stature. Most of my students were taller than me, had grown beards… talk about being Daniel in the lion’s den.  It was not easy at the beginning but I learnt to relate with them as a classmate rather than the teacher. This made our time together more interactive hence productive.

 Then what happened?

 When the time to join campus came, I opted for a degree in Linguistics & Literature. Campus life was campus life as we say but I had a great opportunity. During my undergraduate, I applied for the Ford Foundation sponsorship that allowed me to pursue a leadership course offered by the East African Uongozi Institute at the University of Dar Es Salaam.

The process involved essay writing and participating in a panel interview. I can say this was one of the hardest interviews I have had but continues to be my benchmark for those that followed. Since then, I learnt to always focus on the interviewer or the audience that responds to what I am saying attentively as a motivation to keep me going while making a presentation.

Currently you work at the Mpesa Foundation Academy? How is it like?

The Academy is always in action in the community and that allows numerous chances for its internal community to be involved. Some of the activities I participated in included planting trees at Kieni forest and repainting Kisiwa Primary School in Thika.  Incorporating service to society is an awesome way of giving back for any institution.

With that said, meet ‘CLAIRE’.

Who is she, you ask? Allow me to share some more. She is embedded in the way of life at the academy. Through her, interests are stirred up so as to evoke curiosity in the leaders of tomorrow by teaching them how problems can be solved with their innovative ideas while owning their actions in an effort to build excellence. She allows the academy to nurture future leaders that will continually be positive change makers for the betterment of their society. We call them “thinkers and doers”.

Claire is Curiosity, Leadership, Accountability, Innovation, Responsible citizenship and Excellence

What did or has the Master’s degree done for you?

Allow me to first stress that, I needed to set a defined goal and think of how I was going to achieve. Being a global educator is my passion and that calls for broad lifelong learning.  With that, it was easier to choose a concentration. Over and above that my strong desire for education propelled me on the “what the heck days” of my studies.  Today, the challenges I face become opportunities as my course work was very practical. With it I have also been able to seek other opportunities while advancing career wise. With the Strathmore’s Masters of Science in Education Management I have gained specialized expertise and skill sets that makes me competitive in the global market. 

So, back to the high school dreams-what were they?

Joining one of the public universities in Nairobi to pursue a degree in Linguistics & literature, boarding a plane, and working abroad. I’ve accomplished them all, with the second and third taking place when I relocated to Addis Ababa and worked for the Gibson Schools.

How can the reader make their ‘dreams’ a reality? 

Seek opportunities that will make them happen. Be ready for highs and lows for some work and others don’t. Be patient with yourself. Like with any investment time and finances are sacrifices you will not escape.

In closing, how does being called Dr.…. Sound? 

Haha! PhD! Definitely! But I need a breather. La sivyo hii masomo itanimaliza. For now, gearing up for an exciting new opportunity that came from United World College – I will be based in Arusha.

This article written by Annete Karanja.

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via


See more news