Teaching By Example

Maria, a brilliant, young girl from the Masai community is a member of our Choice Club Mentorship Program. Maria lives in Narok with her parents and eight other siblings. We singled Maria out from the rest of the club members because she always has a kind word to say after the club meetings and is quick to contribute to the topic of the day. Maria comes from a very humble background, and every so often, we assist her with school supplies. She comes to school with an empty metal box that doesn’t even contain a piece of tissue. Once the schools closed because of the pandemic, Maria still finds a way to stay in contact, even if it means begging for a phone from the local chief in her village. This past week we made a journey to Narok to visit Maria and her family. They have been hard hit by the Covid crisis; they barely have food to eat, and Maria’s father is in bed seriously sick as a result of the cancer. Getting to Maria is a hard task; their village does not have roads. Once we left our transportation, we walked for over an hour to get to their home. The walk was a difficult one; the sun, always hot in Narok, was even hotter as many of the trees have been destroyed by the charcoal the villagers are burning to earn an income. There was no shade to wade off the sun. It was a relief when Maria and her mother finally reached us, and we went with them to town where we shopped for the family. Maria’s mother was besides herself with joy. She said she has been struggling to feed the family and having a sick spouse only made matters worse. She said her priority was making sure that the father of her children ate; her kids out of necessity, had become a secondary priority. The look on Maria’s mother’s face when we shopped for them was enough to make us cry. She said she had not seen that amount of shopping in all of her life; she kept looking at the trolley full of supplies and shaking her head. Maria said they slept on the floor without any mattress; they laid a polythene bag on the floor, and the girls shared pieces of blankets. Getting 3 new mattresses and 3 blankets was...

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Uncertainties And Scholarship Update

We are planning to visit our girls in Pokot, so we can give them moral support. We cannot help but pray they will remain calm amid the uncertainties we are experiencing in Kenya and, in Africa, in general. The current updates are that schools will remain closed until September. The children will lose a whole school term, and the teachers will remain home, most of them without an income. The balance of life will be affected; the uncertainty that Covid-19 will have on the populace is, most likely, going to be felt for a very long time. Other than the candidate classes, all other students will have to repeat a class. The loss of an academic year will place an extra burden on the families and donors who sponsor some of these students. Intake of new classes from the nursery level all the way through to the University level, will be impacted. Psychological balance among the children is at greater risk right now. Staying at home for prolonged periods of time has significant challenges, even causing mental health issues to rise. Keeping the children occupied in productive ways is a considerable challenge for most parents, who often relent to the children’s use of the Internet and social media as a means of keeping them occupied, regardless of the consequences. Boarding school is traditionally, a secure place especially for the girl child, creating a safe haven away from the community where she is protected from the practice of FGM and early-child marriage. Now that the schools are closed, FGM and early marriages will be on the rise, especially in marginalized areas. Unfortunately, the young girls, home from school, will be unprotected and considered an easy means to produce some income. One shudders to think what will happen to the girls who are cut and, as a result, require urgent medical care. The families, as a general rule, are going to need extra support; times are difficult as is, but with the loss of jobs resulting from the influence of Covid19, ‘difficult’ quickly turns into ‘desperation.’ Those with terminal illnesses are suffering a great deal. One of the students we will be visiting in Narok has a very sick father. He has cancer and because the hospitals are giving priority to the Covid-19 cases, he, like many others with terminal illness, will not receive medication and psychological support. We are hoping...

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Emergencies Due To Covid19

Today is a public holiday in Kenya; we are celebrating Madaraka Day (Independence Day). It has been 57 years since we attained internal self-government. Madaraka Day is the day we celebrate our freedom. Unlike previous years where there were bright colors and pomp displayed at the celebrations, today the activities were significantly minimized due to the impact of Covid 19. This past week we also celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day. The news featured communities in the slums where it has been reported that some of the girls are selling themselves to men so they can obtain money to buy sanitary towels and other personal supplies. As much as the government is trying to support the slum dwellers and other marginalized groups, the demand is too great, and the outreach extends to only a small fraction of the needy. Our Pokot girls are reporting the same challenges; they feel obliged to buy sanitary towels for girls in their community who do not have access to them. The support from our girls is limited, however, as they are not able to get their allowance from the schools at this time. One of our Valvisions Scholars has been going to the villages talking to the teenage girls, pleading with them to agree not to get married off because of the hard-economic times the country is facing. She reports back that most parents are feeling desperate and will readily have their daughters cut and given away for marriage in order to survive. Menstrual Health Hygiene News.   Our Scholar recognizes that talking to the girls has more of an impact than speaking to the parents. The girls relate more to a female who has a success story and is a part of their community. She talks to them from a point of knowledge, herself having once been a girl at risk of FGM. During one of her visits, she unfortunately, met up with a boy who had been shot by cattle rustlers. She called me panicked and in tears. I was able to calm her down and assure her that the boy would get help. I sent airtime to her cell phone, and she was able to contact the local authorities who came to help the boy. Boy shot by cattle rustlers. I have been given a few suggestions on areas where we can help during this crisis. I will apply for a letter...

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Gearing Up For School Re-Opening

This past week we managed to get a special pass that allowed us to visit Njabini school. Despite there being restrictions on movement, we were allowed to pass the police barrier, which was a great relief after being indoors for almost three months. We met with the Director and the Principle of Njabini school and were able to deliver the career chart and pin it up on the school wall. The chart, which is accessible to all the students, together with the motivational charts we will hang in the classrooms, will hopefully benefit the students even as they prepare for their final examinations and, as they forge forward towards a college education. Mr. Kanyi the Principal of Njabini Girls and Grace       Mr. Kaniu and Mr. Kanyi The school Principal, Mr. Kanyi, told us that students have been calling him to say they are looking forward to the school reopening. As much as they have typically looked for a break from the tedious school routine, this time they are tired of staying at home and desiring to return to school. Mr. Kanyi impressed us by showing us his list of telephone numbers for all of the students and their parents. He has been calling them on a regular basis to check on them. He feels concern about the students staying home because like we all fear, idleness and boredom often breeds bad behavior. Keeping the students engaged and motivated is the best way to keep them out of trouble, yet we do not know how long the lockdown will continue. There is hope that though the whole school may not reopen on the 6th, the students who are candidates will be allowed to resume classes. The small numbers will ensure that the students are able to manage social distancing and maintain high levels of hygiene especially hand washing. Most parents are skeptical about sending their children back to school with the numbers of those infected going up on a daily basis. They are concerned their children may lack the discipline to keep their masks on; there is also a concern that some of the students will steal masks from one another and cause disruptions. The Ministry of Education has taken the grievances of the parents into account and will likely put strict measures into effect if the schools open. Mr. Kanyi shared the telephone numbers of the...

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Appreciating Teachers

The lockdown has been extended for another 14 days; this means schools will not resume until June, that is, if things get better. It is a tough time for students having to stay at home and follow the curfew restrictions. Many are being caught flaunting the curfew guidelines and are sent on quarantine for 14 days at their own cost, stressing their parents who are already feeling the pressure of having the kids at home. We have continued to engage with the students via social media for those that have access to the Internet. Those that do not have Internet access will send a message, and we will contact them afterwards, thus saving them on calling rates. The students appreciate the calls and chats on social media. We have also been in touch with the club patrons, as much as we are not able to meet, they also need moral support. With the schools shut down, the patrons are missing out on a lot. They also have to find ways to keep the students engaged by sending their tuition material via email. Everyone is so busy thinking about the students that they have forgotten about the teachers. Teachers need support and care, too; they need attention. They also have their families and children to deal with during this strange time. Too often we forget that the teachers are also prone to depression. For some of the teachers in the village, especially for those seen as heroes, there is an expectation that they know everything. Such teachers are required to be at the ready to answer questions from anxious parents who see them as the solution-makers for their problems. One teacher was telling us how a parent insisted that her son move in with the teacher until school opens. Despite the corona pandemic, this mother was not considering the risk she could be imposing on the teacher. Her son is abusing drugs, drinking alcohol, and has basically, become a nuisance to them all. The mother has taken him to the local chief, so that he can be disciplined, but the boy purchases more alcohol and drugs as soon as he is released. The teachers are busy setting exams for the children to take online all the while realizing that their efforts will only reach a small percentage of the students, those with Internet access.  Regardless, each student will be gauged...

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Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus

Pain changes a person; it makes them trust less, overthink more, and shut people out. Women, hurt by men over the years, have asked this question repeatedly: ‘What does it take to make a relationship with a man actually work?’ Boy/girl relationships are always a favorite topic for the members of The Choice Club. The girls want to know how they can tell when a boy is serious about their relationship, how to keep their boyfriends away from other girls, and how to make their boyfriends happy. We generally empathize with the girls, knowing well, however, that relationships at that age can be damaging, emotionally and otherwise, and can prevent the girls from focusing on their studies and their future. As is typical at their age, most of the girls would rather believe that the relationships they are in will last a lifetime, like some sort of fairytale romance, than hear about taking caution or any negative aspects. On Saturday the 9th of May, we woke up to a sad story. A 33-year-old man working as an aero plane engineer had been stabbed in the chest by his 29-year-old girlfriend. The girl was arrested for murder. A kitchen knife was recovered and motive for the murder centered around a disagreement the couple was engaged in among themselves. When the young woman was interrogated, she claimed she had no idea what transpired, only that her boyfriend has been beating her. On the day at issue, she claims she threw a cup at him while they were fighting but had no clue what happened afterwards. She alleged not to remember picking up the knife but conceded that she stabbed him. When the relationship was going well, neither of them would have imagined that death would occur due to misunderstandings and arguments. They were most likely so in love that murder was the last thing on their minds. This is the same mentality the girls at the Choice Club possess; they believe in a ‘perfect’ relationship and would do anything to see their relationships work. Understanding how men are geared and how they reason is something we decided would help the girls more realistically reach their goals for fulfillment in a relationship. Men and women are different, vastly different. When men and women accept their differences, love has an opportunity to blossom. Love is magical, and it can be sustained if each...

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