James Waweru is the proprietor of Waweru’s Academy, a boarding school in Kiambu which he established after his retirement as a secondary school teacher. He shares his experiences with The African Executive
A.E: Why did you opt for a school and not any other investment?
Waweru: All along I had always wanted to start a school because as a government employee, I realized each student was not attended to satisfactorily since the teachers were fewer than the students. When I retired, I did not hesitate to pursue my dream.
A.E: Tell us more about your experience as a proprietor
Waweru: Before I solely dedicated myself to this initiative, I shared my intention with some of my friends who had established schools. I received all kinds of advice from the dangers to the benefits of such an investment. The dangers were more and ranged from competition to financial constraints. However, this did not stop me. I dedicated the year 2002 to build the school so that it could open its doors in 2003. But due to some financial constraints, construction extended to 2003. When officials from the Ministry of Education inspected the school in October 2003, they gave a go ahead for the school to start operation. The school therefore opened its doors in January 2004.
A.E: Briefly describe your school
Waweru: The school starts from class four to eight. It is a mixed (boys and girls) boarding school with an average of 20 students per class.
A.E: What about the lower primary- Do you have any plans for that?
Waweru: No. My main reason is children in lower primary are too young to be in boarding schools. This would have forced me to have the lower primary students as day scholars and the upper primary as boarders.
A.E: What were your greatest challenges?
Waweru: Inadequate finance to buy land and put up all the structures in place. This includes classes, the administration block, dormitories, dining hall among others. Secondly, the first two years were challenging as few students had enrolled. This forced me to go back to my pocket to meet some costs. During the first year I had eight students in total, the second year sixteen and the third year fifty. Today, the number of students is 102.
A.E: How many students do you intend to have?
Waweru: 150 students; thirty in each class.
A.E: Have you had students sitting for their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education?
Waweru: No, however I will have my first lot this year. I admitted classes 4 to 6 only in my initial year. This gave us the opportunity to learn our students’ strengths and weaknesses well before they could sit for their final exam. Therefore, as they progressed we were able to attend to them accordingly. The students who enrolled in class 6 back then are this year’s candidates.
A.E: Do you have competitors?
Waweru: Yes, quite a number of them. There are so many boarding schools around here.
A.E: How do you outdo your competitors?
Waweru: Well, we give personalized attention to each student. And again, if you compared my school with the rest, you will notice that Waweru’s academy is more spacious. Students have enough space for co-curricular activities unlike the neighboring schools.
A.E: How many employees do you have so far?
Waweru: Fifteen; nine teachers and six subordinate staff.
A.E: What have you learnt so far?
Waweru: One needs to be patient to succeed. If you expect results immediately then you may end up walking away from your business venture. Parents are very particular on which school they send their children. They may shy away from a new school as they do not know how it will perform. They will therefore access the proprietor’s background, the structures and even the security. Once they are convinced all is well, and then they bring their children.
A.E: What are your future plans?
Waweru: To have two streams from class four to eight. I also intend to start a secondary school.