Dealing With Substance Abuse

Substance abuse differs from addiction. Many people with substance abuse problems are able to quit or can change their unhealthy behavior. Addiction, on the other hand, is a disease. It means you can’t stop using even when your condition causes you harm. Many people, but not all, start using a drug or first engage in an activity voluntarily. However, addiction can take over and reduce self-control. Being in school poses a challenge for many students. They have so many emotions to deal with and process. Most of them struggle with everyday issues, some have coping mechanisms, but most don’t. The students have many subjects to deal with, and minimal time to handle them all. Waking up at 4am, getting very few breaks in-between, and going to bed after 11pm can be draining for anyone. Many of these children are traumatized by life situations that they have not been able to deal with, and have, therefore, not received recovery. There is a strong link between childhood trauma and addiction. Most of the children who are addicted to drugs and or alcohol will report to being abused as children. The war on drugs is often a war on traumatized people that just need help. Talking to the girls at the Choice Club mentorship program brought many of the above facts to light. The girls all know of a friend who abuses drugs and the toll it has taken on their lives. One girl said that her friend who was very bright in school suddenly started abusing alcohol after her parents separated. She did not know how to cope with the situation, and she was initially not able to share her emotions with anyone. She became a loner, was easily irritable, and not long after she started running away from school and hanging out with the wrong crowds. It took the intervention of the guidance and counselling team at the school to bring her back to her senses. She learnt to open up, share what she was going through, and eventually received the help she needed through counselling. Helping the students learn the dangers that drugs pose is easier than having to deal with the consequences of drug addiction. When a child or anyone in a family abuses drugs, the whole family suffers, and more so in a school set up. We teach the students to create a life in and out...

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Fathers Day- My Memories

Written by Grace Wandia  Fathers hold a very special place in the lives of their children, especially for the girl child. A girl who has grown up with a loving dad has more confidence, is happier, and has a very optimistic way of looking at life. She feels like she can conquer the world with her dad by her side. Growing up, I remember how much my dad meant to me. He was in the police force and wore his uniform with pride. I always admired how smart he looked in that uniform, well-polished shoes and his cap. Because of him I wanted to be a policewoman, but he would not hear of it. He always had a serious face, sometimes I thought the serious face was part of his training. Getting my dad to smile was hard, he always approached things from a very serious point of view. I lost my mother when I was barely a year old, and so I imagine it was tough for him to bring the four of us up without the help of a mother. His job meant he was away from home most of the time leaving us under the care of our aunts. As I grew up, it became clear my father was not going to change his demeanor, but I also discovered he had a very warm and loving heart. I guess he just didn’t know how to show it. He made sure my siblings and I had all we needed growing up, but he also made sure he did not spoil us. Thinking back, I never heard my dad say that he loved me, but I genuinely felt the love through his actions. He was a typical African man who believed in providing for his children; showing affection was a sign of weakness. I would catch him watching me from across the room on occasion, and he’d quickly looked away if our eyes met. I guess he must have been wondering how I would turn out in life, maybe concerned about his absence in my life, but he never voiced his concerns. I saw other girls in school run and hug their dads when they came to visit them at school; I was in a boarding school. Many times, I promised to hug my dad when I saw him next, but his stern face and firm handshake always...

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Two Girls – Two Stories

The above girl is lovely, right? The beads look pretty on her long, elegant neck. She is quite a beauty. The beads on her neck unfortunately spell doom for her. Beading in the Masai and Pokot culture means a whole lot of things. To the untrained eye, they are just ornaments of beauty. Beneath the surface, however, the beads across her neck and shoulders means there is one Masai warrior (known as a Moran) who is publicly known to have sex with her. She sleeps in a different hut from everyone else at her home. Because she is not truly married, other Moran’s have access to her, and she cannot say no. The Moran and other Morans in the neighborhood are allowed to visit her for sex. Worse still is that if she conceives, she will either be forced to procure an abortion or the village elders will wait for her to give birth. The elders will then put tobacco in the nose of the child and block the mouth until the child dies. None of the men will take responsibility for marrying the girl. This is molestation and rape, and it goes unreported. Thus are the ways of the culture. The girl’s parents will build a hut for her, so they will not be an impediment to the Morans who visit the girl at night. Beading starts at the age of 9 upwards. And so the question begs the answer: ‘Who in their right mind would allow their child to go through this?? Suffer the African girl-child…. The above girl is an excellent student. Extremely intelligent, she has a bright future ahead of her. She excelled at the just concluded examinations. She not only topped the charts at her school, she had the highest marks in her county. Unlike the Masai girl who is in danger of FGM beading and being tossed away as a sex slave, the student above is in danger of early marriage if she does not get into a Secondary School. Her mother is struggling to feed her and her other 3 siblings; this girl has already lost an older brother due to neglect and hunger. This student needs funding, so she can go to a boarding school. She will then have the opportunity to better her life and afterwards, help her mother take care of her siblings. She is willing to learn, and...

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Staying Positive

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst. Positive thinking is a mental and emotional attitude that focuses on the bright side of life and expects positive results.” We have had the privilege of interacting with a great number of girls in the course of our work. We learn a lot from these girls in as much as they learn from us. It is always refreshing to meet new girls at the beginning of a mentorship class. They come with so much expectation; they are hungry for information and each girl has something special that she brings to the group. There will be the quiet girl who silently listens and takes her notes, rarely says a word in class, but will call one of us aside after the class to ask a question regarding something that is going on in her life or something we taught. Then there is the girl who raises her hand at every opportunity to answer a question; she is attentive and does not fear asking questions, no matter the subject. Then there will be the controversial one who will tend to look at things differently and loves a challenge, but is also very engaging. And then there is the timid, intimidated and very quiet one who will not speak, does not ask questions, but faithfully takes her notes. If one tries to befriend such a girl, one is amazed at the wealth of knowledge she has but fear of public speaking keeps her silent. This month as we teach on positive thinking and work to build confidence in the students, we try to keep in mind that the students are each at different levels of understanding and reasoning. Despite all the negative things going on in the world today and in each of their lives, there is also a lot of good happening, too. Choosing to focus on the positive things and keeping the right attitude is therefore very important for the students and for us all. Teaching these girls ways to maintain a positive attitude will help boost their self-esteem and overcome obstacles they face both at home and at school. Everyone in life wants to be...

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Bridging The Gap Between Teachers And The Schools

A school that has a high turnover of teachers faces enormous challenges. Getting students to adjust in school has its own challenges especially when it is a boarding school. Teachers are the glue that binds the students to a school. It is, therefore, very important that the students form a bond of trust and dependability with the teachers. Today’s homes have a lot of challenges, more negative than positive. There are students that beg to stay back at school even during the school holidays; they would rather be at school than home. People tend to change their jobs for various reasons but that does not bode well in a school setup. There has been a lot of challenges with student behavior due to the changes presented to them in the recent past. Students that should have been out of school last year in December just finished their exams. They were kept in school for an extra four months due to the change in the school calendars across the country. Keeping these children grounded in school and boosting their morale is very important. At the Choice Club meetings, we are looking at ways of helping the school community have a cordial relationship between the teachers and the school management. Hiring and firing teachers causes a huge setback for the entire school. Teachers who do not feel appreciated will leave a school the minute they get a better job elsewhere but those that feel appreciated will stay on no matter what challenges or opportunities they may face. It is also important that schools hire teachers that are suitable for their students. A school that hires a young male teacher in a ‘girl only’ school will eventually have problems. As much as the teacher may be qualified for the job, he may not be able to handle the pressure from the girls. It is, therefore, better that such a school hire a female head teacher, a mature woman who will enforce discipline at the school, not one who will fear the students. Students can be very disobedient and some schools have students that actually bully teachers, such teachers have a hard time teaching their lessons, and the students end up failing in that particular subject because their needs are not met. As much as we mentor students, we have been forced to step in when such situations arise. As schools look forward...

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Back to School

All schools reopened last week. There was a beehive of activity as students settled in and jostled for the best desks and chairs. The Standard 8 and Form 4 students who have already sat for their exams have created space in the schools. The new students who will be joining Form 1 classes will resume in August after the third term of school is over. The old students are enjoying the extra space. The Choice Club activities will resume in the four schools: A.I.C NGONG, KIMUKA SCHOOL, NJABINI GIRLS and SHINERS GIRLS SCHOOL. These schools just finished examinations which were not very well performed. The students struggled and most did badly. Poor school performance not only results in the child having low self-esteem, but also causes significant stress to the parents. Many girls fell pregnant due to the long period out of school as a result of the Covid pandemic. Most of these girls are in Form 2 and 3; these girls will definitely be included in the Choice Clubs. Emotional problems, broken homes, and poor health affect the girls at school in a tremendous way. Most parents do not support their children when they join school, mostly due to ignorance and sometimes, due to a language barrier. Most of these childrens’ parents are illiterate, so they do not have the intellectual capacity to support the children. There are also a lot of in-discipline issues at the schools. Students who are sent home due to in-discipline miss a lot of learning. Catching up with the other students becomes almost impossible. No teacher is willing to give a make-up class for a student who is sent home due to unacceptable behavior in school. Good school performance helps the schools attract students as the new school year begins. Some Kenyan schools have been performing so poorly that the Ministry of Education has been forced to close the schools down. The trend at the moment is for schools to compete for students. If the situation has become extreme, certain schools will use brokers who are paid a commission for each student the broker brings into the school. This is especially common in the privately run schools. In the government schools, a student joins the school by merit.  These schools are very strict on the students’ performance. The Choice Club, being a mentorship program, provides valuable support to students who are not performing...

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