The Kahambas in Strathmore: A family affair
While children are still in their cradle, parents dream big on their behalf. The parent’s own professional career is geared towards making this dream materialize. Sacrifices are made, long hours are spent at work, shillings and cents are set aside, and the child is enrolled in the best elementary schools possible in preparation for their admission to top tier universities.
In some families, it becomes a tradition to have generations through one alma mater. In Jean-Luc and Nadine Kahamba’s case, they’ve begun this tradition by sending four of their children through the gates of Strathmore. They say that thanks to the intellectual, social and personal experience the four have acquired, their remaining youngest children have a great chance of joining the coveted Strathmore Alumni Association.
Jean-Luc is the Deputy General Manager at Compagnie Miniere de Musonoie Commus, Congo, while Nadine, after working for over 20 years in a school – Chateaubriand – she set up, is now running a catering business whose clients include World Vision. We had an interview via zoom on their Strathmore experience with Josemaria, their fifth born acting as the translator.
How did you discover Strathmore?
Jean-Luc: Our initial plan was to send our children to South Africa. But on my way there for a scouting visit, I had a stopover in Nairobi. A friend of mine took me to Strathmore and from that one visit, I changed my mind and we ended up sending Linda here. First impressions truly count because that one visit was the deal breaker. The campus environment was inviting and Strathmore ticked all the boxes of what we were searching for in a university – high quality of education, human formation, as well as a peaceful and secure environment.
How many of your children have been through Strathmore?
Jean-Luc: We have seven children and four of them are Stratizens so roughly 60% of the Kahamba household has the Strathmore spirit. Linda, our first born, joined the University in 2006 and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (BCOM) degree in 2010. The twins followed with Jenny graduating with a Bachelor of Business Information Technology degree while we will celebrate Maggie’s graduation from the BCOM programme this September. Josemaria is in his third year in the International Relations programme. My sister too has sent her children here so Strathmore is a favorite destination for our family.
What’s your experience of sending your kids far away from home?
Nadine: As a parent, it’s not very easy sending your children far away from where you are. But the approach of a personal touch that the University has, made it easier for us. Knowing that the University goes the extra mile to see that international students are settled gives us the peace and reassurance that all is well.
For instance, when it came to accommodation, Linda resided at one of the recommended hostels near the campus and we were in regular contact with her mentor when necessary. A mentor assisted the twins in getting an apartment, which must have been a very good one because they ended up staying there for years. We also appreciate the collaboration between the University and parents. The frequent communication and engagement with the University makes us feel as if we are physically present in Kenya.
After the four years, do you notice a difference in your children?
Jean-Luc: (laughing) They come back very serious and too Kenyan! They leave Congo, young and carefree, entirely dependent on our advice and when they come back they have words of wisdom to share with us. It’s a big help because they become problem-solvers in the family.
Three months after graduation, Linda landed a job in Lubumbashi where she has been for 10 years now. A good number of people asked where she studied because she produced quality work and exhibited exemplary human virtues. It would be accurate to say that she was the first ambassador of Strathmore in Congo because from then on, a lot of parents send their children to Strathmore.
If you were to recommend SU to other parents, how would you describe SU and the benefits it would give to your children?
Jean-Luc: More often than not Congolese parents send their children to three countries for higher education: France, Belgium or South Africa. I would tell them that we have experienced a new destination where our children are educated not only intellectually but socially, physically, and spiritually. They learn values that society around them is able to pick up. I remember when Maggie came back to Congo in her third year to do her work-based learning, after only two months, the manager wanted her to remain in the organization because he felt that she was already professionally mature.
Nadine: Your children will be critical thinkers, more responsible, and highly cultured with an ability to relate with all cadres of society. You will see that they acquire a willingness to serve society without wanting anything in return. They will also have the added advantage of picking up new languages. Apart from French which they grew up with, our children can now converse in English; in addition, Maggie took Chinese while the other three took Spanish.
What’s the role of a parent in a child’s university education?
Nadine: Our children remain children to us even though they are in University. We still have that parent-child relationship that you can’t sever. Therefore, our duty towards them never stops: Use your influence to guide them, and make the best of technology to keep in touch with them.
What suggestions would you recommend to SU to make it better?
Remain as you are. Don’t make drastic changes because sometimes universities evolve and their originality collapses. We’d only request that it becomes easier for international students to do their internship in Kenya so that they can acquire fresh ideas to transform their home countries. And keep the dress code!
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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