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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FGM Monthly Article – September 2021

By: Brenda MulinyaVoice of America Survivor Leads Anti-FGM Campaign in Somali Community in Kenya NAIROBI, KENYA — Female circumcision, known as female genital mutilation, is illegal in Kenya but is still being forced on young girls in some areas. Cases increased after schools closed due to the pandemic, but one survivor is fighting the practice in an ethnic Somali community. Twenty-three-year-old Yasmeen Mohammed volunteers with an organization that champions the rights of young girls and women in Kenya’s Garissa County. Mohammed says her focus is on eradicating the illegal and harmful practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM. “As someone who has gone through the act, I know how harmful this is,” she said.  She and other activists have joined the government’s drive to end cases of female genital mutilation. A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads “Stop the Cut” referring to female genital mutilation, during an event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. The number of FGM cases jumped after the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close, particularly in Somali communities in Garissa. Mohammed says the long closure of schools was detrimental to the fight against FGM. “During COVID, it was a moment of staying together, so that was when parents would realize that these children are growing,” she said. “So, for the ones who were young, there is need for them to go through the cut. For the ones who are going through puberty is when you see, ‘Oh, this one is supposed to be married.'” The practice of FGM is illegal in Kenya, with the government pledging to eradicate it by the end of 2022, eight years ahead of the global deadline of 2030. Maka Kassim, a community leader involved in rescuing girls from the practice, says it still thrives in places like Garissa because of strong cultural and religious beliefs. “The Somali culture believes, they believe that a girl who doesn’t go through the cut, she is like someone who is not clean, she is (an) unclean person,” Kassim said. “They also believe that a girl who doesn’t go through the cut, she is also not clean to do the prayers.” The Kenyan government’s anti-FGM board is leading the campaign against the harmful practice. Another volunteer, Bernadette Loloju, says keeping schools open is critical to combating the problem, but...

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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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National Suicide Prevention Week

National Suicide Prevention Week was observed from the 6th to the 12th of September. At AIC Ngong school, the Choice Club members requested we talk about the issue of suicide. A few of the students said they have had friends or family members that took their lives when things got too hard for them to cope. They have also had school mates that contemplated suicide, and it was very scary for them. The issue of suicide is one that no parent wants to address. When the topic comes up, the parent usually tells the girl not to talk about such an issue. The schools also stay away from the topic because the teachers feel that they could be opening avenues of thought for students to attempt suicide. The sad thing is that despite everyone desiring not to talk about suicide, it still happens, and cases go unreported. In our opinion, prevention is better than cure, and that is why there is need to address the issue and help the students before a suicide takes place. We all know that depression is one of the major causes of suicide. Looking out for students who are depressed and helping them manage their lives is one of the key ways of keeping suicidal thoughts at bay. Giving hope to those that have been affected by suicide and trying to prevent individuals from becoming victims are aims we hope to achieve with the students. Some of the students who have had suicidal thoughts said they were mostly affected by situations at school they could not control. Most of the situations at school had to do with fellow students making life hard for them. Of the majority of students we talked to, the issues were school based and took place with other students, not with the teachers. One girl said she reprimanded some students who she had caught misbehaving. Being a prefect, it is her duty to ensure that the school rules and regulations are followed. The students she reprimanded ganged up against her and incited other students in the class not to talk to her. Every time the prefect walked into class, the rest of the girls clicked their mouths and sneered at her. This significantly impacted the prefect emotionally, and she could not cope. She cried a lot that week; she did not want to report the misbehavior to the school authorities....

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