Feature: Chinese scholarships to change fortunes of Kenyan students

Jamlick Mwangi Kariuki is set to depart Kenya for China at the end of this month to conduct engineering studies.

The 19-year-old is among 35 students who form the second batch of Kenyan students and will pursue bachelor degree in railway studies at the prestigious Beijing Jiaotong University courtesy of scholarships from the China Communications Construction Company.

The first batch of students left for China in 2016.

Kariuki, who is the second born in family of six, will be a student in the Asian nation for between four to five years.

"I feel excited, honored and favored to get such an opportunity due to the generosity of the Chinese people. The scholarship will enable me to pursue an engineering degree in railways sector," he told Xinhua in Nairobi during a pre-departure interview.

"I am optimistic that I will gain a skill that is in short in supply in Kenya and hence will increase my chances of getting gainful employment," Kariuki said.

The East African nation suffers from a shortage of specialists in the railways sector largely due to a non-vibrant railways sector.

However, all this is set to change once construction of the Standard Gauge Railway which runs from the port city of Mombasa to the capital city of Nairobi is completed in June.

Kenya plans to hire all the graduates to maintain the 480-km railway line. In addition, the government has begun construction of phase two of the project which consists of a 120 kilometer line that runs from Nairobi to Naivasha.

Chinese firm, CRBC plans to sponsor 100 excellent Kenyan high school graduates to undertake railway courses in China as part of Beijing's commitment to boost Kenya's human capacity in the railways sector.

Kariuki, who was appointed as the student leader of the second batch of students said that China has a well developed railway infrastructure as compared to many other nations.

"It is therefore an ideal country for me to pursue higher education in railway engineering," Kariuki said. "I therefore expect to get as much knowledge, skills wisdom that I will use to develop Kenya," he added.

The student plans to emulate the Chinese culture of strong work ethics as well as punctuality in order to succeed in his studies.

"And when I come back, I will put into use all the skills I have learnt to ensure Kenya emerges a regional powerhouse in railways sector," Kariuki said. He said the process of selection of the beneficiaries of the scholarships was very rigorous.

"We were required to perform well in mathematics exams as well as other subjects. All those who were faint hearted, gave up midway through the selection process," he added.

"I never thought: I would study in China. But now that the opportunity has come. I am very glad," Kariuki observed.

Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development James Macharia said that the Kenya will depend on the expertise of the students once they return from china to expand the railways sector.

He said that years of underinvestment in the railway sector has resulted in the decline of railway as a mode of transport for cargo.

"As a result, the bulk of freight currently moves on roads and this has negatively impacted on the road network," Macharia said.

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