Kenya: How University Students Juggle Between Lectures and Making Money

In the 1980s and 1990s public university students were paid an allowance by the government to subsidise their living that they nicknamed "boom". The money was a soft loan that they repaid later in small instalments. However, the programme came to an end.

Currently, university students depend on their families for survival. They can also get a loan from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), turn to side jobs, engage in small businesses or dubious activities to earn a living.

Those on Helb loans say the money is not enough to support them. Mr Musakali Juma, a Media Studies lecturer at Moi University, said that those taking up side jobs should be careful not to lose sight of their academic goal.

DRESS WELL

"They should strike a balance between studies and the hustle," he advised.

"Some students are entrepreneurs by design, we cannot kill that while they are in campus as along as it is a legitimate business. Besides academics, students need to feed, dress well and have extra money," he said.

Kenyan students are taking advantage of the easy access to the Internet to look for new jobs that were previously not available in the market.

Three students share their tales on financial strain in college and their hustles.

Dennis Koffi, 20, Bachelor of Laws student

On weekdays, I am a student studying voluminous books. On weekends, I wear a mascot and become a clown. In class I am Dennis. On stage I am Mr Bambula, the clown.

I consider this a talent, the moonlighting provides me an opportunity to better my clowning art and to mint money. I have a stable customer base, mostly from referrals.

I hail from Kangemi slums in Nairobi where, from a tender age, I was made to understand that I was a potential bread winner. Having such a talent is golden.

The exposure has taught me not to rely on money from my parents, which does not meet all my needs. There are some things I cannot ask my parents to provide, so the extra cash helps.

Upon admission to the university, I dedicated my weekends to my hustle from which I get surplus cash to keep me through the week.

I engage children at birthday parties and weddings. I also do body, face, and traditional painting depending on a client's wish.

Apparently, most parties run during weekends when the children are off school. Sometimes when a gig comes during the weekday I am forced to forgo classes.

I later make up for lost time by studying overnight and visiting the library frequently.

Often, my friends are surprised because they don't understand how I manage both undertakings given that pursuing a law degree is considered tough. Those that support my grind encourage me.

The side hustle has improved my time management skills. It has also taught me general financial discipline and life skills.

The little I save from the hustle I buy clothes, repair my clown costumes and stationery and cater for my needs. I also employ an assistant on a commission basis.

Donald Miseda, 24, Medical Laboratory Sciences student and DJ

I am a party master in clubs, wedding parties and graduations bashes. I colour these events with live infusion of songs that keep the audience thrilled.

I like doing it during weekends, I enjoy doing it at night.

On stage, while on the decks, I am DJ Spinkid. On weekdays, when in the white robe, I am a medical technologist.

But this has a long history. First, I deejayed for passion. Then layer I did it for money.

Studying laboratory sciences is just a routine for me; going through the education system. It is deejaying that raises my heartbeat and gives me satisfaction.

Listening to mind-blowing mash-ups by other deejays fascinated me since I was in Form One. I longed for the day when I would make such mash-ups.

I always wanted to charm my audience with a variety of infused songs from different genres.

I sought mentorship from established deejays. By my second year of college, I had practised enough, often deejaying for free. Later, I thought I was confident enough to start charging for my services. Today, I confidently sign up for gigs to earn extra money.

Unlike medicine where you notice impact when a patient heals, spinning the decks is instantly rewarding.

In college during weekdays I learn to isolate and examine bacteria. But spinning decks during weekends comforts me.

Even with the exhaustion from overnight gigs, I manage to attend all classes.

At first it was difficult to balance my time. The thought of sitting for supplementary exams also scared me. I adjusted to working smart and managing my time effectively. It has made me a good time manager.

I am motivated by the fact that people believe that I will be a great deejay some day, that keeps me going. But there are critics who say I am on the wrong path. Then there are friends who are excited about what I do, this is fortifying. My girlfriend is paranoid and worried of my working environment. But she still supports me.

I pursue the hustle to pay bills. It also keeps me healthy since I unwind while making extra cash.

Laureen Mayoye, 19, law student and Online writer

Besides being a law student, I am an online academic writer. I get assignments from international university students and I do them as required. The assignments have strict deadlines. If one fails to deliver within the stipulated duration one is fined.

It is a hustle I took up in 2018, immediately after joining university. Online academic writing requires a lot of sacrifice and good time management skills.

I am forced to have a flexible study timetable and ensure that I balance between studies and my hustle.

Before I pick up any assignment, I check to ensure that it allows me adequate time to revise my notes and attend group discussions.

Many reasons motivate me to keep on with this hustle. There is financial independence. Then, the need for something to keep me busy when I am not attending classes.

I also love learning and researching which help me because the online assignments are of various courses.

Previously, I used to be idle. Then a friend needed some research work done and requested me to chip in. I did the work well and that was the beginning of my hustle.

Most of my friends think it is a great side job. They even help me with research when I have several assignments to work on.

While the hustle is important, I attach a lot of value to my studies. They come before everything else. I am glad that my education has not been affected by my hustle.

I get paid at the end of the month for work done and submitted on time. The extra cash foots my bills and emergencies. I also get to learn lessons from other fields.

Maureen Nyambura, 25, Journalism student and waitress.

Besides being a journalism student, I work as a waitress at a restaurant within the precincts of the university where I study.

Sometime I dodge lessons to attend to my side hustle. Serving two masters is difficult, but I do my best to satisfy both.

It is strenuous, especially when a lecture session coincides with the peak-hour of the business. I make up for the missed classes later.

The much needed cash I earn from the grind motivates me to keep up.

The hustle was God-sent. I found a better way of killing extra time. Hustling is easy because my classes begin on Monday and end on Wednesday noon.

I requested that my shifts be slotted on days when I do not have classes. I was in second year when the financial constrain became unbearable.

Then a friend who owns a restaurant called and asked whether I could refer friends to his business.

He needed waitresses. I decided to sign up for the job.

The side hustle keeps me away from dubious activities and the allure of crooked peers who indulgence in drug abuse and other vices. An idle mind is the devil's workshop, right?

Some of my friends think it is a great endeavour because it helps me raise money without depending solely on my parents. Others complain that the job has cut me off. The hustle does not have a negative impact on my education.

I continue to register sterling results, which I am proud of. The hustle is of great benefit; my friends envy me because I always have extra cash.

It also gives me an opportunity to explore the hospitality industry which I now understand better.

My passion has even shifted from journalism, hospitality is my new love.

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