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From an impoverished school in Central Pokot to Harvard: Young entrepreneur tells his story


How a young Kenyan entrepreneur beat all odds to study at Harvard

He appeared in the list of top 10 students nationally, having schooled in an unpopular school in Central Pokot. Ed beat many odds to become the country’s 6th best candidate in the 2009 KCSE exams.

2009 KCSE performance

From lowest in class to understaffed school in West Pokot

Ed had not always been the top kid in school. But in high school, it dawned on him that he could do better.

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“I enjoyed reading for fun. The Joy of Knowledge was my favourite. But when I got to high school, I realized that I could do wonders if I paid more attention to the main curriculum.”

Studying at a school with only 7 TSC teachers, a small decrepit library, and no water, Ed spent most of his time helping teachers and students.

“We did not have enough teachers, and most of the time I was teaching Geography and helping out other students to come up to speed in Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics.”

During an interview with K24, the St Paul Weiwei School head Gerald Orina said that temperatures in Pokot would get so high between 1 pm and 4 pm that no learning would take place in class at those times.

But Ed did not allow this curveball to derail him.

For the first time in over 20 years, the Catholic-sponsored school produced the first A in the district and the highest A ever in the history of Rift Valley province.

Watch video of students celebrating his victory here: 

Weiwei saw its first A alumnus get direct admission into Harvard!

Asked what his secret was, he said: I was a curious kid and sought knowledge voraciously.”

The dream to become an Electrical Engineer

Until the time he completed his KCSE exams, Ed wanted to become an electrical engineer. He first realized his potential after mock exams in Form three.

“I emerged the leading student in Pokot District in Mock exams with straight As in all the sciences.”

After he emerged 6th in KCSE, an Assistant Minister called Ed and enrolled him into a program to study for extensive tests and undertake college applications to some of the world’s most competitive schools.

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Six successful scholarship applications into Ivy League Universities

“I didn’t even have a laptop to do the applications, so I would borrow from a friend once or twice per week and return it the following day.”

He applied to 7 top universities and was accepted in 6 with full scholarships.

“Harvard is among the universities that gave me a full scholarship.”

Harvard gave Ed a full scholarship to pursue a degree in Math

Life in Harvard

Though his childhood dream was to become an electrical engineer, he chose to pursue Math at the university.

“In college, I was privileged to pursue a liberal arts education that exposed me to a lot of disciplines allowing me to reassess my interests and realized that Math was more suited to my thinking,” he says during an interview with Kenya Witness.

He attributes most of his success to his mom and granny who nurtured him to be a balanced kid.

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“My mum was very open-minded. The focus was never on homework alone; she encouraged me to play in the field and interact with the environment, same as my granny.”

His advice to students seeking scholarly success is to seek a balance in life, be explorative, and manage their time well.

“By August of 2009, I was ready for KCSE.”

Giving back by helping students enroll in Ivy League Universities

One of the many skills he learned from his granny is generosity.

In line with this, Ed registered Upstart Consult, a platform to disrupt young leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa.

how to get into harvard

Buy Ed Magema’s book and get ready for Harvard

The platform brings together young academically gifted people into leadership, entrepreneurship, and Ivy League preparation program to equip them with business and leadership skills, as well as get them into the very best universities in the US, UK, and Canada.

Ed has also written a book to help other people get a chance to study at Harvard. Get your copy below:


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