At only 29, Nelly Cheboi from Baringo County seems to be living a fulfilling life thanks to her determination in empowering her community. She is the perfect definition of the Kalenjin tag ‘Chebomuren’ (resilient woman) as she has been able to empower over 4000 primary school children with digital skills. In April 2022, Forbes recognised her as one of the global movers and shakers who made it to the ‘top 30 under 30’.
She is also the recipient of this year’s CNN award.
Born and raised in Mogotio, Baringo County, Cheboi’s early life was synonymous to going through the grinder as their family was held by the jaws of abject poverty. Cheboi told the Standard that her mother struggled to provide the basics, ranging from food, clothes and education.
“I became so fascinated to sustainably fix poverty, because I was seeing it; seeing it in my community, in my classmates and in my family,” she says.
And as Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, Cheboi worked hard in school with a vision of empowering her community. She scored an ‘A’ in high school and this turned to be a life changer as she secured a scholarship to study computer science in U.S.
She matriculated at Augustina College in Illinois. Through sheer hard work, she landed a job as a janitor which enabled her to earn and save while still studying. Cheboi saved a big chunk of her monthly ksh 40k salary and returned home to uplift her family.
“After a year, I returned home. I first went to a local market in Nairobi and did some shopping for my mother, showed up in our village with a pick up full of shopping and relocated my mother to a better place and for the first time, we were able to invite our friends to visit,” she Standard Digital.
Founding TechLit Africa
Nelly Cheboi graduated in 2015 and landed lucrative jobs: as a business analyst and lead software engineer in two companies. Three years later, she returned back to Kenya with 10 computers which she intended to impart computer skills in village. However, she faced backlash from adults which necessitated her to turn her focus on children.
Her resolve became a success as she was able to work with various primary schools by helping in setting up computer laboratories using refurbished computers. Currently, Cheboi’s organisation called TechLit Africa has been able to partner with 10 schools in Baringo, Mombasa and Nakuru Counties.
In total, up to 4000 pupils have benefited from Cheboi’s heart of gold. These learners, who are in different grades ranging from PP2 to class 8 acquire crucial skills such as coding, graphic designing, marketing, music production and video production. Cheboi is upbeat that these digital skills will enable young children to compete globally even when working remotely.
“The problem that technology is trying to solve is that rural Africans lack opportunities to make a living yet digital skills provide global opportunities – we are teaching them these skills in the hope that when they graduate high school, they (will) actually have skills to work remotely for any company in the world,” she says.
Undoubtedly, Nelly Cheboi has achieved what even the government has failed in the education sector. Her goal is now to reach at least 40000 pupils from 100 schools. Due to her success in empowering the community, she was in April 2022 recognised in Forbes Top 30 under 30.
Her impact on the society saw her win this the 2022 CNN Hero of the year award. The award comes with Ksh12 million (USD100,000) to expand her work and Ksh1,200,000 cash prize for attending the gala and additional grants, organizational training and support from The Elevate Prize Foundation through a new collaboration with CNN Heroes.
She will also get USD300,000 grant (Ksh36 million) for being named an Elevate Prize winnoer and additional USD200,000 (Ksh24 million) for her non-profit organisation.