Taking Personal Responsibility

Form 2 students at Kimuka School learning about taking personal responsibility. Accepting responsibility and accountability for our actions, is the topic we covered with students at Kimuka School this week. Being in boarding school comes with its own unique challenges. Adolescence can be a difficult stage for any teenager; there is quite a lot the students struggle to cope with and try to comprehend. Teachers will tell you they go through a lot handling students who are in Forms 1 and 2. The ages between 13-16 is the self-discovery stage. The young girls at this season of their life are trying hard to discover who they are in the world; the majority have self-esteem issues and get easily frustrated. Blaming their peers, teachers, and parents becomes the most common scenarios. They do not generally want to take responsibility for their actions since blaming others comes easier. During our talks regarding personal responsibility, we encouraged the girls to look inward and realize that change, of whatever kind, begins with them. Complaining about every little thing does not help, finding solutions within and owning up is the best way out of problem situations. It is simple to blame others for our mistakes, and it takes an introspective and disciplined student to take responsibility for their own actions. Life will always be full of challenges; how we respond to those challenges, however, determines how we will live our lives. If we let people tell us what we can and cannot do, we limit our abilities and give them too much power over us. One must take control of their own life and face challenges head on; we cannot give up just because we feel defeated. Taking control of one’s thoughts, words and actions will result in a far better life. There is a lot of peer pressure at school; choosing to be different and walking a different path, when all others are in a self-destruction mode, is both a brave and intelligent choice. We have all been given choices in life, and our choices all have consequences. We asked girls who fell pregnant because they engaged in risky behavior, why they felt the need to engage in premarital sex. The majority informed us their friends were participating in sexual activities, which enticed them to try it. That is peer pressure at its worst and having someone to blame seems the easiest way...

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International Day Of The Girl Child

The girl child was celebrated globally on the 11th of October 2021. The international day of the girl child was declared by the United Nations to amplify the voices of young girls around the world and increase awareness of issues faced by young females. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population, and it is crucial to accelerate their development through both awareness and action. There is need to empower young girls and women by providing them with proper healthcare, skill-based learning facilities, equal opportunities, and a world free from gender-based violence and discrimination. As we celebrated this day, our thoughts were on the many challenges women face. We based our talks at the Choice Club this week on gender-based violence. Gender based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual due to their gender. Such violence is rooted in gender inequality through an abuse of power, and harmful norms. Gender based violence (GBV) is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue. Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic, or national boundaries. This past week we had an unfortunate incidence occur in the city when two ladies were attacked in a high-profile hotel by twin brothers. The incidence was aired all over the media and it caused quite an uproar. Women came out and spoke strongly against the incidence. The twin brothers are being interrogated by the police, and we can just hope that justice will prevail. The chances of the brothers bribing their way out is very high, but people are alert, watching, and listening.. Kenya has had quite a number of gender-based violence acts taken against women, such as the incident, below. Kenya is known the word over for its prowess in athletics. Whenever there is an international marathon, and Kenya is represented, victory for the country is always almost guaranteed. Most of these runners come from very humble backgrounds. Jokes have been told about how the athletes are ‘swift on their feet, but not so much with their tongues.’ These athletes have a hard time answering questions when interviewed by the international press. Most can barely speak English, and it is almost heart-breaking to see them struggling to answer questions after a race. This does not discourage them, however; they are giants on...

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Where There Is A Will

By Grace Wandia~    Sandra Kemer is one of among eleven girls who went through the Helen Valverde Scholarship Program through Valvisions Foundation. Sandra, for some reason, grew on me after I met her the first time. I remember Sandra being timid and very skinny. She was always quiet but also very observant. She barely said much; she had a sadness about her. When the rest of the girls would be jumping up and down and chatting away, Sandra kept a safe distance and just watched. I was always curious to find out what was going on in her mind. Because of the circumstances the eleven girls had come through, it was hard to tell what had happened to each one of them. They had all come from a rescue Centre because they were at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). They had run to the rescue Centre or had been taken there by the authorities for their safety. The eleven girls all received scholarships to join secondary school sponsored by Valvisions Foundation through the scholarship fund. It was hard for them to adjust at school. They had all come from a village set up, and they did not know much about town life. They had never seen a proper toilet. In Pokot, where they came from, pit latrines were used and those were for the fortunate few. The rest just helped themselves by going into the brush. Taking a bath was a rare occurrence too. Bathing took place at the river when the girls took their animals to drink or when they went to fetch drinking water. The watering wells were separate for the men and women. A group of women would be at one point fetching water, below them would be another group of women and young girls bathing, and below them the animals would be drinking. It was, therefore, very confusing for the girls when they arrived at school and found showers, toilets that one could sit on, and other facilities they had not seen or used before. I remember them all laughing and huddling together in a corner to discuss the facilities and wondering if they would be able to use them. As the other girls excitedly discussed the facilities, Sandra just watched with no emotion on her face. As time went by, I slowly managed to crack the shell that Sandra had been hiding...

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Virtual Mentorship

As students continue to enjoy their short break from school, we are getting many calls from some of them looking for emotional and psychological support. Most of the calls are from the Form Four students who have a few months before sitting their final exams. The other calls are from students who are finding it hard to cope at home for a variety of reasons. Those that completed the semester with outstanding tuition fee balances are worried they won’t be allowed back into school until the tuition fee balances are paid. There are a lot of challenges in the homes due to the harsh economic times, but we encourage the students to keep hope alive. The girls from the Masai community are in danger of facing the cut, but thankfully we have taught them to say ‘NO’ and have shared information with them on what to do if they feel threatened. One Masai girl told us she threatened to report her parents who were preparing to have her cut. She told them she knows circumcision is against the law and that it is illegal for her parents to force her to undergo the cut. She told us via the phone that her parents were shocked to see her stand up for herself. She has an elder sister who never saw the inside of a secondary school classroom. Immediately after finishing her primary education, she was cut and married off to an old man who offered many cows and goats in exchange. Though this sister cried and begged her parents to let her join secondary school, she was told her parents needed the animals, instead. The Masai girl watched as her sister, barely 15, was carried away to the man’s home, barely recovered from her wounds. As schools went on break, she was one of the students who was worried for her safety. And true to their traditions, her parents were waiting to have her cut, and marriage would have followed. The parents did not care that this daughter was already in secondary school and performing well. (Her tuition fee is paid by a well-wisher, so her parents don’t have a financial investment in her education). We were happy to hear she followed our advice and stood up for herself. She told us she knew if she threatened to report her parents, they would be deterred from cutting her younger...

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Taking A Break and Appreciating Life

At the end of this week, all schools take a one week break from studies. In normal situations, schools would be closing for at least a month, but due to the tight schedule caused by the time missed by Covid, the school curriculum will be back to back until the final exams for the Form Fours and Standard Eight are carried out in March next year. Students are not happy with the short break; they wish they had more time at home, but that will not be possible this year. Our task this week will be helping the students cope with the changes in the school calender and making the best of it.  Many of them feel overwhelmed; they don’t understand why they have to be in school for such a long period of time. Being in boarding school has its own unique challenges, and students usually look forward to going home to get a break. The Form One students are really looking forward to the break; they are still adjusting to boarding school life after being day scholars in their previous 8 years of Primary School. They face many challenges at school; some say they have faced bullying, some keep losing their personal effects, the majority are, too often, home sick, and there are those that feel the climate in their school area does not favour them. Most would like to change their school, but no parent has the money to spend all over again for a new school. School transfers require new school uniforms, stationary and other supplies. It would usually cost a parent up to Ksh 120,000 for a student to join a new school for the first time. Most of these parents do not have stable jobs and those who do, earn very little pay. They are thus forced to take out loans to have their children join Secondary School, and most often, they have other school-going children to think about. Changing schools is something most parents don’t want to consider. The Form Four students, on the other hand, have their final examinations coming up in March next year; they do not have much time left, and fortunately they all understand that fact. The one week break will be enough for them to spend with their families before returning to school for their studies. Tough as the times may be, coping with the changes is...

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Appreciating Teachers

Thank you. … We appreciate you. … Your sacrifices don’t go unnoticed. … You made this easy to understand. … You make me see things in a different light. … You truly care about your students. … You’re making a huge impact. … I wouldn’t be where I am without you. Teachers, such an instrumental part of any child’s life. Most of us would not be where we are if it was not for the teachers who sacrificed their time and had the patience to impact knowledge into us. But teachers are likely, working in the most unappreciated profession, and this truism cuts across the entire world. The amount of work teachers put in to educate their students, is unimaginable. They put extra work and hours into their schedules to stay ahead of the system they are taxed to teach. Teachers participate in additional schooling, and work nights and on weekends. We would not have lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, professors, and many other enviable professions without teachers. The commitment most teachers give to their students is to be highly commended. Teachers would be tremendously encouraged if they felt appreciated on occasion. Being a teacher in Africa comes with a lot of challenges. The infrastructure in most schools does not favor teachers at all. Often, a teacher will be posted far away from the teacher’s hometown to go and teach. He/she will be expected to cater to the students every need without a hardship allowance. Most of the arid areas in Kenya lack teachers because the climate is not conducive for teaching. A teacher who is posted kilometers away from home will be expected to leave the family back home. Commuting back home to family, then becomes a challenge. The roads are very bad, the few vehicles that ply over these routes charge a lot of money because of the wear and tear on the vehicles. There are also some areas that are bandit prone. In 2015, 147 students and teachers lost their lives in an area known as Garissa where they were attacked by the Al-Shabaab militia. Of the teachers who lost their lives, their families were left struggling, and did not get any support from the government. The Ministry of Education posted new teachers to the University when it re-opened. Many of those posted, however, refused to go to the University. They were threatened that they would be...

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