High Cost Of Living

Kenyans are an angry lot. Everything from gas, cooking oil, cooking flour, sugar, salt, rice, local transport, and generally all basic commodities have increased in price. It started with the increase in fuel, and other commodities soon followed. Many people have not stabilized from the fall-out of Covid, and it is, therefore, tragic that the cost of living has shot up so high, now. The situation has worsened for the families with the current closure of schools and the children being at home. In Kenya, most households cannot afford three meals in a day. Breakfast and dinner are the most observed meals, but not when the children are home; the children need to eat more frequently, especially the younger ones. This school holiday is also the circumcision period for most of the boys. With circumcision, comes added expense, as visitors frequent the home of the initiate.  According to tradition, it is an offense not to feed the masses during the ceremony. The initiates are kept in the house for eight days. During this time the initiate’s mother cooks for the men who come to check on the initiate, as well as her fellow women who come to congratulate her. After the eight days are over, a big feast is prepared where the community and other family members join in to celebrate the initiate. Today, with the current hike on food prices, most homes with initiates are only preparing tea and porridge. Pride in being able to host people is not an affordable luxury. Cooking oil has more than doubled in price. The outcry from Kenyans has been so loud there is tremendous pressure on the government to lower food prices. Many Kenyans have taken to social media asking the government to look at ways to lower food prices; too many household are going without food. Using the hashtag #lowerfoodprices, Kenyans are voicing concern that the basic food commodities have all gone up. Whenever there is a reduction in certain commodities at the supermarkets, people are limited in the amounts they can buy, individually. Those living in the slums and in the middle class are really suffering, yet the government has not done anything to change the situation. According to the latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), food prices rose by 8.89 percent in January making it hard for thousands of Kenyans to put food on...

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School Holidays

The children are home for a long break from school. The Form 4 students are sitting their final examinations, so they can join University in September, while the Standard 8 students are sitting their final Primary examinations. This group will be joining Secondary School when schools reopen in April. This is a long break and as usual the children need a lot of attention from their parents, so idleness doesn’t set in causing the students to engage in risky behavior. In the city, it is very hard to keep track of the children. Most parents are back at work and rely on relatives and domestic workers to tend to the children. The younger ones are easier to look after because they don’t have as many needs; if they are fed and entertained, the younger ones are generally okay. The older ones are the big problem, especially the teenagers. They have a lot of time on their hands and are generally on the lookout for adventure. Because of the devastation reeked by Covid, those parents lucky enough to keep their jobs had to take a pay cut, since most companies suffered loss. Things have not been the same for most employees since, and though things are getting back to normal, the losses suffered will take time to recover. Children, especially the youth, do not understand hard times. Due to the pressures they feel from both society and their colleagues, they want to move with the times. More often than not, they are not conscious of the struggles their parents and caregivers are going through. Powerful, negative influences exist that can lead restless kids to drug abuse, and reckless, irresponsible behavior that can easily result in teenage pregnancies and inductions into militia groups, like the al-Shabaab. Though we may not have school activities, we help the parents in our communities manage their teenagers. We have interacted with them for a long-time and tend to understand their issues. Keeping the children and teenagers busy with outdoor activities is the best way to keep them safely engaged. If left to their own devices, the teenagers will sit behind the television the whole day and play video games. This is not healthy behavior; teenagers need activities to keep them healthy as they also learn new activities. Most parents in the city send their children to the village, so they can keep away from mischief...

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International Womens Day

The theme this year for International Women’s Day is ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.’ In Africa, where the woman is looked down upon, forced to live a life that is oppressive and downright degrading, we are seeing positive strides each year. More girls are going to school, the rate of F.G.M has gone down, and women are taking their place in the workforce. More and more women are standing up for their rights and not allowing negative talk or prejudice towards them to affect their way of life. But even with the positive strides, a lot still needs to be done. As we celebrated gender equality today, women in Kenya held a demonstration aimed at the Ministry of Gender asking that a stop be applied to rogue motorbike riders that have become a law unto themselves. In Africa, motorbikes are used as a means of transport by most of the middle and lower class. The motorbikes are famous for beating traffic jams and getting people where they need to be on time. The motorbike as a means of transport is an inexpensive way for people to get back and forth to their destinations. Over the years, however, the motorbikes have taken over the roads. The motorbikes are dangerously driven by rogue and unqualified riders who have caused countless accidents. The motorbike craze has contributed to many schoolboys dropping out of school. Seen as an easy way to make money, most boys struggling in school dropout and opt to become motorbike riders. The problem is they do not go for professional training so cause a lot of accidents in the process. Young schoolgirls, enticed with ‘free rides,’ too often become impregnated by these riders. The riders are known to harass women in almost every part of the country. If by bad luck, a driver hits one if these riders, regardless of whether the driver was right or wrong, the riders gang up, beat the party involved, burn the vehicle, and, if the driver is a woman, chances of her being sexually assaulted are high. This week, we had an unfortunate incidence where a young lady hit a pedestrian on her way home from work. As she got out to help the victim, the motorbike riders, who typically jump out of nowhere, descended on her and harassed her ruthlessly. She clung to her car and begged the group of...

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Choice Club Graduations, Shiners And Kimuka Schools

We had our graduation ceremony at Shiners Girls school last weekend, and today, we had the final graduation ceremony at Kimuka School. In total, we have graduated over 220 girls in all three schools. Graduation ceremonies usually elicite a lot of excitement. The students prepare well before the graduation day. School uniforms are washed, dried and put under the mattresses to remove the creases. There are no iron boxes at school; each girl has to invent a method to keep her uniform clean and neat for the big day. Th guests usually invited to help grace these events, are always very welcome as they bring a new message and hope to the school. The girls are usually very happy to receive a new face in the school and to learn something new from our guests speakers. The school administration helps us a lot with the ceremonies. They ensure that everything needed for the ceremony is delivered, and they help the students organize the meals with the help of the school cooks. The school compound is cleaned thoroughly, and the entire environment is well-maintained and welcoming. As much as it is usually a graduation ceremony for the Choice Club, we took time this year, to appreciate the Form 4 class who will be sitting for their final examination. At the three schools, we had a joint ceremony with the Form 4 classes where  we gave them a success card and spoke words of encouragemnet to them. The meals we prepare for the graduation ceremonies are shared with the entire school. We believe in the spirit of sharing and being mindful of the welfare of the other girls. We squeeze our budgets as much as possible, so we are left with enough finances for the food budget. Graduating class with their school matron and deputy principal. A happy girl at Shiners school displays a message on a manila paper. As beautiful as the message displayed. Shiners’ Choice Club members get ready to cut their cake assisted by an invited guest. Representatives of the Form 4 class receive their success card from the club patrons. Sharing a meal is always a welcomed gesture from the club members. Students at Shiners school listen to a speech from the invited guests. Teachers at Shiners school share in the graduation lunch. Kimuka graduating students. A teacher at Kimuka school gets ready to present the graduation...

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Teenage Trauma

Since the beginning of January, we have been addressing an issue with a young teenage girl who is deeply traumatized. She joined Form 1 in a girls-only boarding school three years ago, but she had to revert to being a day scholar. The girl’s father told us that his daughter was very excited to join boarding school, and he was equally happy for her to do so. She had worked very hard while at Primary school and passed her exams well which enabled her to join the boarding school of her choice. The days that followed were busy with school shopping as well as covering and labelling her books. Then it was time, and she joined the Secondary school. The first term of school was nice and enjoyable for the girl. She met other girls her age from different parts of the country and from different communities. She enjoyed listening to stories that her roommates shared about their homes and life in Secondary school. She was happy; she was sure boarding school was the best option for her, and she looked forward to meeting her new subject teachers and learning new things. She was ready to excel in all her subjects, and as a result, was a promising student. In the second term of school something went wrong. She went home for the school holidays looking sad and would not talk much after she returned to school. The glow and excitement she previously had was gone, and in its place was a sullen, sad girl. The mother tried very hard to talk to her, trying to understand what was wrong. The father comforted the mother telling her that was typical teenage behavior. But as time went by, things only got worse. The girl would lock herself in the room and keep to herself; the slightest provocation from her siblings made her yell and become confrontational. The parents were now sure that their daughter needed help. After seeing a doctor, they were told there was nothing medically wrong with her, but she needed to discontinue with the boarding school and revert to being a day scholar. It seems there is something she revealed to the doctor that she had not told her parents. The only thing the doctor said to the parents was she was not ready to go back to boarding school. Then the fits begun, every time she...

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Choice Club Graduations

There are many benefits of having a mentor in high school, which can have far reaching implications for students and their overall academic performance. Mentors become someone that the student can turn to when they are having issues with friends, struggling with classes, or unsure about something in life. They are trusted advisors and friends who have themselves gone through similar situations, and whose only goal is to help the student succeed in high school and beyond. Mentorship programs come in a lot of different forms, and the type of help and support they offer can be as varied as the schools themselves. Valvisions Foundation has supported many schools and teenagers in the slums with mentorship programs that have been immensely beneficial. The youth both at school and home need someone who can walk with them and guide them through the many challenges they will inevitably encounter as they mature. A wide selection of the necessary life skills we teach the girls helps them lead a balanced life that will help give them a successful future. Our students face a lot of challenges growing up, hence the need to be equipped with the necessary skills to face life in and out of school. This month, we are graduating students who have gone through our mentorship classes. We have 10 topics in our curriculum we teach the students before they graduate at the end of the period. Graduation ceremonies are usually carried out at the end of the year but due to changes in the school calendar, we are carrying out the graduations this month as schools close on the 4th of March. Our students always look forward to the graduation ceremonies. We provide a lunch that is shared by the Choice club members, their teachers, and other students. The sumptuous meals are cooked with a lot of joy, and there is great teamwork between the students, the school cooks, and the school administration. The meals we provide are a welcome change to the boring school diet, as one student indicated. For dessert, the graduates, their teachers, and rest of the students feast on different types of fruits and the most favorable of all- the cakes shared by all! We always bring a guest speaker to motivate the students. We focus on individuals who have faced challenges and overcome them through hard work and commitment. Below are pictures of our...

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