Post main image
Photo by


To Pay Or Not To Pay Interns?

The debate that's never been settled.

BY Agnes Amondi

Apr 18, 2023, 07:26 AM

Photo by

Can we define this as a generational question? It has just refused to go away. I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across this question, yet again.

A well-known Twitter user put this up for debate and asked Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) to share their experiences. From the looks of it, most people who’ve done internships locally weren’t compensated.

Yours truly also did a four-month unpaid internship at a local company. I didn’t expect to even get an interview leave alone a spot so I was very excited when I was accepted. 

I was in my last year on campus and going for an internship was my first choice because I really didn’t want to do a solo school project.

From the start, I was okay with the fact that I wouldn’t be compensated as I saw it as a stepping stone to a full-time paid job. At the end of my time there, I was offered an extension but I politely declined.   

Many people have different opinions when it comes to this subject matter. Let’s evaluate some of the arguments at hand.

It’s A Form Of Exploitation.

Many argue that companies take advantage of their internship programs because of the existing demand. 

Having work experience is one of the most valuable things a student can have on their resume because it demonstrates their employability. 

As a result, it has created a loophole for employers who give students a take-or-leave option and will not make any considerations for them. 

Many interns complain of being mistreated and overburdened with work while the paid staff did the least and were reluctant to offer help. 

The Cost Of Interning.

Interns are expected to check into work just like paid staff and commit up to eight hours a day at the company.

During their stay, they foot their own bills which makes it difficult for some of them to undertake the program which only leaves the opportunity for those who can afford it.

Some students live with their parents who pay for their expenses while others have to have a side job to keep up. During my internship period, I heard several stories of people who stopped interning because they could no longer afford to come to work. 

Are Interns Considered Employees?

The labour laws do not clearly stipulate this and thus, it is the sole discretion of an employer to determine whether they’ll treat interns as employees.

In some organisations, interns are entitled to monthly stipends and in others, they are salaried and entitled to similar benefits that other employees get. 

In 2021, a proposed bill sought to have interns who work in government ministries earns a monthly stipend as well as sick, maternity and paternity leave. 

The Member of Parliament Samburu West Naisula Lesuuda argued that interns contribute to the bottom line of organisations and thus deserve to be compensated accordingly. 

Interns Should Take Advantage Of The Opportunity.

We’ve heard of the great stories that have come out of unpaid internship programs. Students who went in and got hired or put their heads down and later on blossomed in other companies. 

If you land a foot in the door, instead of complaining about not getting the money, focus on building your skills and making yourself valuable because it’s a matter of time before an employer extends a contract with a full compensation package and benefits. 

Interns Are Entitled.

Well-known economist David Ndii argued that interns are entitled and even went a step further and stated that they should pay for the program. 

According to him, you are at the company to learn and that is what you should focus on. Additionally, firms that aren’t able to pay interns will not offer such a program and graduates will be on the losing end.

This debate is not about to end. We’d like to know what you think about it. Have you done an internship? Was it paid or unpaid? Should interns be paid or not? Send your letters to [email protected].