Six years ago, with an Aiducation Scholarship, Julius Fondo was able to finish high school studies. He attended the third Swiss Re Startup Academy, after which he applied for funding of his start-up idea. Now, he is the proud director of Cornerstone Academy, a school offering quality education to bright students in his community. In an interview, he shares with us how everything started and what role Aiducation in the successful launch of his project played.

Julius, what inspired you to start Cornerstone Academy?

I wanted students to realize their full potential. Public schools, which most parents send their children to, offer poor quality education. Although private schools provide good education and also nurture talent, they are unaffordable for most parents. At Cornerstone I charge reasonable fees while providing quality education to uplift the lives of bright students from lower middle class families.

Julius Fondo, Director of Cornerstone Academy teaches a student computer software skills.

Was this a project you have always dreamt of launching?
I had this idea during primary school when I was transferred from a public to a private school. At the new school, I observed that the teachers were not only interested in helping students succeed in education but also nurturing talent in games and hobbies. I realized that there was a gap in the quality of education available to the rich and the needy. In 2014, I applied for a banl loan and opened the academy.

What role did Aiducation play in the success of your project?
Through the mentorship academy, I acquired knowledge that has helped me structure my business. I got a chance to apply for the Swiss Re startup fund. The fund helped change the face of the project. I purchased books, furniture and equipment. At the moment, I get assistance from Aiducation in terms of marketing strategies for the school.

What challenges were you facing after you had started?
I was about to close down the Academy due to financial constraints. Cornerstone needed funds to cover the monthly rent, teaching materials, salaries, books and furniture. There was only a handful of students, so the school fees could not cover all the expenses.

Are you now a full-time business man at Cornerstone?
Yes, I am. I get to the school at 6.00 o’clock in the morning. I ensure that teachers have arrived on time and are prepared for the day’s work. I meet with parents if required, teach Mathematics, Christian Religious Education (C.R.E) and Computer lessons every day. My workday ends at 5.30 pm after students and teachers have left.

Neema Katana, a Teacher at Cornerstone Academy conducts a one-on-one teaching session.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
This school will be fully registered. There will be an increase in the number of classrooms to accommodate a maximum of three hundred students. A stand- alone library and computer laboratory at students’ disposal. We will be the leading school in the Kilifi County in Kenya Certificate Primary Education (K.C.P.E).

Thank you so much for your time and all the best.

Interview: Emmanuella Kinda, Communications Officer Aiducation Kenya

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