Mary Okello’s rise to the Kenya’s billionaires’ club is a story of a woman who has realised her holy grail through blood, sweat and tears.
Mrs. Okello sold 71% stake in Makini Group of Schools in April at a price estimated to be a whooping Ksh1billion.
She sold the school to UK investor Scholé Limited and Advtech Limited, a South African company with interests in education.
“A 71 per cent interest in Makini School Limited (via Schole Mauritius Limited) was acquired on 1 May 2018 for a consideration of R130.8 million (an equivalent of Ksh930 million),” Advtech in a trading update two weeks ago.
The prestigious Makini group of schools was founded by Dr. Okello and her late husband Dr. Pius Okello under the name Riara Gardens Academy in 1978. At the time, it only had eight students and was located at a colonial bungalow where Dr. Okello and her late husband lived.
In 1996 the school was divided into three sections – Junior, Middle and Upper sections. The same year, the Makini Academy was created for secondary school and enrolled 27 boys in Form 1. The following year, it began admitting girls.
Currently, the school has four campuses: the Ngong Road (mother) campus, the Makini Junior Academy on State House Avenue, the Migosi and the Kibos campus both in Kisumu. It is now a respected institution and is renowned for good academic performance in Africa with around 3,200 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Makini additionally has a number of offshoots which include Makini College, Makini Training Consultancy, Boresha Limited which specializes in creating digital content.
Also within the family’s vast business empire is AFBE, the first association of Family Business Enterprises in Kenya.
The person behind the entreprenuer
In an interview with Parents Magazine in November 2017, Dr. Okello described herself as a Christian and a woman of strong faith which goes a long way in explaining how she has built an empire that many people can only dream about.
She is the daughter to Canon Jeremiah Awori, an Anglican clergyman and hails from a family of some of Kenya’s biggest names including former Vice President Moody Awori and Nelson Awori, the pioneer cardiologist in Kenya.
Dr. Akello went to Alliance Girls High School for her A-Levels after which she joined the Kenya Prisons briefly as a cadet.
The mother of three later proceeded to Makerere University where she acquired her Bachelor’s Degree in History.
After her undergraduate studies, Dr. Okello worked a short stint at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before discovering that she did not have the diplomatic nous needed to last there
“I didn’t consider myself diplomatic enough for that career,” she said during the same interview.
She would later head to Barclays Bank for a graduate trainee job, a position she got after being thwarted countless times for being a woman.
Dr. Okello was sent to London for a management trainee program where she met her husband Pius in 1968. Shortly after, they got married in the British capital.
The latter died in a grissly road accident in 2004 which the former has described as the most painful occurence in her life.