Anti FGM Champions

FGM has physical, psychological, and social impacts on people’s lives. Dressed in colorful red, blue and white cloth, with necklaces of white beads adorning his chest, 32-year-old Ole Lelein Kanunga sings and dances with his fellow Masai warriors. He is carrying a long dark-brown stick, symbolizing that he is their leader. The dance, the attire, the symbolism — it’s all very traditional. But Ole Lelein is also a revolutionary. He wants to end the practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM, among the Masai in southern Kenya. We have worked with Lelein on a number of workshops with the Pokot girls under the Helen Valverde Scholarship program. He has been very instrumental in bringing change to his community. The Masai warriors referred to as Moran’s are taught that it is unacceptable to marry an uncircumcised woman. When they are ready for marriage, the family of the man will pick out a suitable wife for him. The wife to be will be cut and passed on to the man. Age does not really matter, from 8 years onwards the girl is ready for marriage. We became interested in Lelein’s story because he stood against the practice and is educating the Moran’s against it, too. He encourages the Masai to say no to FGM by marrying women who are not cut, and not to marry underage girls. Initially, he was not very popular in his community; the members could not understand why he would advocate against a practice that was part of their culture. Despite the ridicule and humiliation, he encountered, he pressed on and because of his efforts, there has been a lot of change within his community. Many of the girls now attend school, they have escaped the cut and have become a voice against FGM for the other girls in the community. Lelein also has to deal with the fact that he is a man campaigning against a practice widely considered a women’s affair. But he says he won’t give up.  Although Masai men tend to make all the decisions at the household level, mothers have a big role in the execution of FGM. They initiate, organize and prepare this rite of passage for their daughters, so an important aspect of the programs is to teach mothers and their daughters about the consequences of FGM. When he called The Choice Club for a function in his rural home, we...

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Boy-Girl Relationships

Having conversations about sex, relationships and communication from a young age makes it possible for children to feel comfortable talking about their feelings and relationships in their adolescence. Not all teenagers do, but most teenagers experiment with sexual behavior at some stage. Giving them clear information on safe sex, consent, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections means they are equipped to be safe. Plus, having this conversation early and more than once, means you can also talk about unwanted sexual behavior and peer pressure. A lesson on boys and relationships would have been a topic that most girls would avoid in the past, but not today. Girls are struggling with relationships; they want to keep their boyfriends, at whatever cost, and mostly they suffer the consequences. Teenage pregnancies are on the rise. Most girl schools are asking for help on educating the girls on the need for abstinence; the girls, on the other hand, want to be taught about contraceptives and safe days. A number of schools have had to send girls home, so they can go and deliver their babies, then come back to school. A sad reality for the teachers and parents alike. Today’s discussion at the Choice Club meeting focused on boy-girl relationships and body image.  Many of the girls gained weight during the Covid lockdown. They stayed home and indulged a lot and being at an age when they easily put on weight, they are feeling the effects of overeating. Being back in school, the girls who put on weight are being taunted by their fellow school mates. As teenagers, they have a picture in their heads of how a perfect body should be like. The problem is a “perfect” body doesn’t really exist, at least not in the way it is defined in the media. So, chasing the “perfect” body can end only in disappointment. This leads to poor self-esteem, which can impact all other aspects of life. Girls naturally lose weight when in boarding school because the school diet is usually not very good. Unlike at home where they have access to snacks and junk food, at school they do not have such luxuries. In today’s discussion, the girls said they feel the need to look their best because they want to impress the boys. None of the girls wants to lose her boyfriend to a better looking girl, and so they will do...

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Managing Classroom Behavior

Growing up, we attended a school in the countryside or what we would call ‘a village.’ We did not have much. Breakfast was rare, and when we got something to eat, it was a welcome relief. We walked for an hour and a half to get to school. The climate was very unfriendly. We endured extremely cold conditions; we walked bare feet. If by any chance we arrived at the school late, we would be caned in the palm of a hand or made to lie down and canned on our bottoms. The teacher used a wooden stick, or a hose pipe cut into pieces.This was the way of life, and no one was spared. For every misconduct, there was a punishment, some as harsh as digging the school farm for an entire day. Not once did we see a parent come to school to complain about the punishment. We endured and we finished school. We turned out fine, very disciplined, and we passed our exams. No one died because of the harsh treatment we received.Fast forward to the current situations we are seeing in schools. This week the debate on the media has been on why the cane should be reintroduced in schools. Schools are struggling with student unrest and teachers feel the only way to deter the situation is to cane the students as a form of punishment. As much as this method worked before, we are dealing with a different generation. Technology has totally changed the way life was in days past. No student is going to allow to be caned and not retaliate.This week we are looking at ways to help the teachers manage the school unrests. There are guidelines they can use that will have a positive effect on the students without necessarily resulting back to the use of the cane. Since punishment is not yielding positive results, we feel the teachers need to find other ways they can help alleviate the situation.Teachers must balance a great deal in the classroom on a daily basis. In addition to giving lessons, grading, giving students assistance, and managing administrative tasks, teachers must manage student behavior.Without appropriate consideration for behavior management, classrooms can become unruly and chaotic. This creates an environment that is not conducive to learning or academic performance.Teachers must find strategies to define the student’s behavior management that will be effective during the school year....

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The New Reality

As schools nationwide gear up for a new school year during the pandemic — whether virtually or in person — meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of students and staff will be a huge challenge and priority for the school systems. Helping schools adjust “to the new reality” of COVID-19 and addressing the significant emotional challenges students face is paramount. In the last week, the schools have witnessed a lot of aggression from the students. The students are acting out and behaving in a dangerous and harmful ways. One student took a knife and attacked his teacher, inflicting serious injuries on him, The teacher was admitted to the hospital in need of urgent surgery. Another student attacked a fellow student, badly injurying him; another was caught with a knife in his bag and had to be bound up with ropes as the school administration waited for the police to come take him away. Student unrest in schools is escalating every day. The stories in the media are sad to listen to, and yet we need to hear the stories, so we can focus our energies on addressing the issues presented. Many arents have reached the point where they are unable to manage their children. The parents send their children to school hoping the teachers will do what they have failed to do.  A school watchman in one of the schools was sacked because he was buying alcohol and cannabis for the students and bringing the substances to school. In this case one wonders, if the security person is a parent himself, if he has daughters, how would he feel if someone were supplying drugs and alcohol to his daughter in school?  What leads someone to carry out such an evil act?  He is aiding in ruining the lives of young girls, and for what? These girls cannot be paying him much for these service, so one wonders what drives him to do such a thing.  One student in the school has got so used to smoking cannabis that she has totally lost focus. When the school administration called the parents, the mother said they have tried everything possible but she just won’t stop the drug habit. The parents have gotten to the point where they are so afraid of her, they just let her be.  The daughter being in school, gives them a sense of relieve; they...

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Classes Resume

Our school runs have started for 2021. There are mixed reactions from both the teachers and the students. We had only the candidate classes resume last year after 8 months at home. With the new year, all classes have resumed and the teachers are quite overwhelmed. Some students have transferred schools, especially the Form 1 classes. Some schools have lost teachers who have also moved to other schools. Some teachers have lost their jobs due to Covid, and the children are having a hard time adjusting to tight schedules coupled with the shortage of teachers. We anticipated challenges with the new norm of social distancing, wearing of masks and the frequent washing of hands. One of the biggest challenges we have witnessed is the lack of school facilities to facilitate learning. The student numbers remain high, which is common in most schools. Those that were not able to construct new classrooms have been forced to conduct classes out in the open. Studying under trees is a common occurrence, never mind the elements; it has been very hot and when rain hits it comes down in torrents. Our task at the moment is to help the students adjust to the new environment, encouraging the students to make do with what is available, and to read hard. Those in Form 4 sit their final exams in April, and they will be ready to join college. Our Choice Club activities continue with the members we had started with before Covid hit. We had covered most of the curriculum. We will do a recap and then progress with the remaining topics. We will then graduate these members in April and form new groups in June. Our Pokot girls have resumed teaching in their schools. Alexine has moved to Nairobi, and she hopes to get a teaching job here. The demand for good teachers is high because the schools need a lot of support especially for the younger children in Primary School. The Ministry of Education is very strict on the schools adherance to the rules set out to prevent the spread of Covid. Being in school is hard enough as it is, children lose their masks all the time, there is rampant theft of masks. The teachers feel that they have not received enough support from the Ministry of Education. The students are either taught out in the open or sent  home. The...

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Summary of the year 2020- Kenya Program

We mentored, guided and offered counseling sessions to over 150 girls in the slums during the Covid pandemic. We visited and encouraged our girls who were part of the Helen Valverde Scholarship Program in Pokot. We donated sanitary towels, masks, toiletries, fliers to educate the girls in their community on the need to say no to Female Genital Mutilation and early marriages. We visited and supported the teachers in the various schools where we offer the Choice Club Mentorship Program. We wanted to let the teachers know they are appreciated and to offer the teachers our support as schools were closed down due to Covid 19. We visited children’s homes, and took care of other needy and vulnerable members of our society. We resumed the mentorship classes for the Form 4 students when restrictions were relaxed. We helped them cope after being home for 7 months. We visited various girls who fell pregnant as well as those who had babies during the pandemic. We encouraged both sets of girls to return to school. We responded to distress calls from parents when their teenagers were unmanageable during the long break and managed to convince those that had run away to go back home. We supplied 4 schools with a Career Chart. The chart will hopefully, guide the students to make informed choices about the current job situations as well as future career moves. We hope it will guide them on which subjects to focus on for the different careers. We supplied a Thanksgiving meal for the teachers at Shiners School. Later, we guided the teachers on what signs to look for in girls who are going through depression and to alert us whenever necessary. The Choice Club continues to be very helpful to the students. It advocates for personal growth through healthy lifestyle choices, stability, independence, assertiveness and respect for teenage girls. Weekly reporting and the Kenya News Blog website updated.  Taking care for and loving the less fortunate in our society. Appreciating the teachers at Shiners Girls’ School. Form Four girls at Shiners School during parade as we get ready to address them. Sharing snacks with the girls at Shiners School as they get ready to close school for the December holidays. Happy faces, looking forward to the Christmas break. Choice Club Members 2020 Form 4 students at Njabini School HAPPY HOLIDAYS! A very blessed...

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