How Nelly Cheboi rose from a poor rural village in Kenya to become CNN Hero of the year

Abu Mubarik January 24, 2023
Nelly Cheboi at TechLit Africa Photo credit: POCIT.

Nelly Cheboi is a Kenyan software engineer and founder of TechLit Africa, a Kenyan company that recycles technology to rebuild computer labs in African schools. The launch of her company was influenced by her background.

Cheboi grew up in poverty in rural Kenya. Like many of her kind, she did not have access to computers but eventually got a scholarship to study computer science at Augustana College in Illinois. 

After her course, she worked in the software industry and realized that companies just throw away computers when it’s time for an update. This inspired her to found TechLit Africa to repurpose the computers for rural schools in Kenya.

“I came up with this idea to build a school, and the idea for this school was mainly focused as being a source of income for the family,” she told POCIT

“The kids would go to this school and pay about $10 a month, and that money is enough to keep the school running, pay for the teachers, pay for food by stationaries, whatever was leftover could support my family.”

According to VOA Africa, TechLit Africa now serves 10 schools and hopes to expand to 100 more within a year. Cheboi teaches her students various computer skills like coding. The students can also engage in remote learning.

“They can go from doing a remote class with NASA on education to music production,” Cheboi said. “My hope is that when the first TechLit kids graduate high school, they’re able to get a job online because they will know how to code, they will know how to do graphic design, they will know how to do marketing. The world is your oyster when you are educated.”

Cheboi’s philanthropic work saw her being named CNN’s Hero Of the Year. The 29-year-old beat 10 other nominees to emerge victorious. She received a $10,000 grant to help her expand her work to more African schools. The grant is also to assist her to recruit more students and hire local teachers.

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