Embracing Mentorship in Kenya's Baringo County

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Members of Peace Ambassadors Kenya together with Ngubereti High School Students Members of Peace Ambassadors Kenya together with Ngubereti High School Students Photo Courtesy of Peace Ambassadors Kenya

I was at it again with Mumo of course. This time round in Baringo, on a mission to mentor high school students on a vast number of issues. In order to aid their transition from high school to tertiary level of education accompanied with resilience in tackling societal difficulties such a sex in relationships at their age and career choice and development.

I was sitting next to the plumb, dark, pot bellied man who wore a grin to let me know he was the driver and my companion in the matatu till we reached our destination. I experienced a quality inherent in all drivers; the travelling made them so talkative and so knowledgeable. History and other vital information was brought to my attention about sites such as Lake Naivasha being a fresh water lake and that people mistook it for Lake Elmentaita because they were both rift valley lakes and they were not very far from each other. The shimmering blueness of the waters at a distance accompanied with the vegetative fence was proof enough that water held life in high regard and in return offered a delight to the sight of many.

Topics were switched without my knowledge and at some point I found myself comfortably agreeing that clandestine relationships led to wastage of wealth. “Too many consumers, lead to the hurried depletion of money, a resource which is very hard to get a hold of” he explained confidently with a scorn to emphasize the point. This he did as he offered me roasted maize, water and many edibles he bought by the road side with me in mind

Throughout the journey I wished I were a robber, because by the time we were getting to Nakuru, which is where we would board the next Matatu to Baringo, I knew how much wealth my driver had, and where it was stored.

We assembled in Nakuru in order to wait for every other Peace Ambassador coming from the East, the West, South and Northern Parts of Kenya to ensure Ngubereti Secondary learned lessons with everlasting value.

Peace Ambassadors Kenya, a youth led organisation which was established in the year 2012, to ensure peaceful coexistence among communities was the host organisation. This organisation adopted various strategies in implementing its vision; one of them being the mentorship of the remotely placed high schools. The programme which pairs a high school and a university student or a professional with similar interest, works to ensure students who are exposed to a myriad of challenges feel like they are part of a bigger Kenyan picture. The programme is currently in three schools, one in West Pokot, Lamu and Baringo.

For the two full days of mentorship and the three arguably greatest nights in the history of Peace Ambassadors Kenya, I managed to mentally record stories to make this blog post interesting and informative enough. First it was our arrival which had the word adventure written all over it. It was raining heavily, which we came to find out would happen throughout our night stays. During the daytime, the sun would suck dry all the water making an attempt to reach the roots of the scarcely populated vegetation. The hot sun gave everyone a permanent tan that is usually difficult to spot on a melanin engulfed skin, but this was not the case, dark became darker.

The newbie’s came packing, reminding everyone of a form one student and a freshman reporting to school or university respectively for the first time. This was a ploy by the veterans to make fun of them since they had no idea of what transpires during our visits to the schools for mentorship. Three to four t-shirts with one bottom is enough

Just like the case of Mau, mattresses were laid on the ground but there would be no exploring on this rainy night rather, the participants made use of this time to catch up, play board games and to make unnecessary noise just to annoy introverts. A hot meal of sukuma wiki, ugali and meat was served officially allowing every individual to decide how their night would end.

Baringo is a lovely county, with very hospitable and very loud people who straight away notice that you are new in the area but become very helpful. The number of acacia trees and shrubs that cover the bare rocky land gave clues of the climatic condition of this region. Sisal does very well here. The presence of the equator monument near Ngubereti Primary school added to the number of clues about the weather of this region.  

The first official day of connecting with students came, received with a compulsory shower to the few who thought the morning dew and chill could not penetrate the traces of blubber underneath their skins. The morning circle which is a well preserved tradition of Peace Ambassadors Kenya, allows individuals to make known their expectations, disappointments and their inspirations in joining the mentorship programme. It is at this point that individuals introduce themselves by mentioning, where they are from, their full name, and the professional course undertaken in the institutions of higher education.

We all got a chance to meet our mentees. My mentee is called Judy Korir, a gracefully tall and slender form four girl with a beautiful face and aura about her. I met Judy last year and she made clear her passion for travelling, which was sparked by the only trip she has ever been on; National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Ever since then she has been dreaming of visiting Eldoret for reasons she is not aware of, “Probably it is because I will be meeting my destiny of bathing in luxuries over there” said Judy amid laughter that had an indication that she was not serious nor obsessed about luxuries and the thought of it was enough for her.

She also wanted to become a doctor but was afraid the lack of access to information would deter her dreams. This was a school that did not have a television to show what was happening outside their school. The school did not have the capacity to purchase newspapers neither did it have even the smallest collection of literature to fill the eager minds with knowledge. I asked Judy whether she knew any female leaders; the response I received was disheartening as she gave me a straight “no”.

We got to have interesting times with our mentees, it started with photos which were shared on social media immediately and after the visit. We enjoyed sessions of team building exercises and challenges with the most innovative and creative team emerging as the winner. These sessions allowed our minds to be refreshed for yet another session of intimate discussions for the different sexes. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are was the topic of discussion allowing the girl and boy students separately to speak openly about the challenges they face on a daily basis both in school and at home.

I am a woman so I only know of what girls were taught. Various mentors spoke of the dos and don’ts when it comes to handling the down-town madam who is also known as the vajayjay. We used all sorts of names on the vagina to make it fun and in order to reduce the awkwardness that comes with this topic; it also becomes our free pass to getting access on the issues that bother them. We equipped them with information they would need in case, God forbid, they were raped.

We hypocritically discouraged sex and recommended it for marriage, yet at the back of our minds we are aware that engaging in sex should be a personal choice. The remoteness of the school; makes it easy to impart such knowledge on delicate subjects such as premarital sex or sexual orientation. We mainly capitalize on what they know and reduce the amount of new information coming to them. This is usually a risk we are willing to take, however, we remain reachable on phone when a tough one comes knocking.

The evenings were made official by the heavy nimbus clouds, announcing what would befall the land for the better part of the night. New games were invented for each night we spent in Ngubereti Secondary School however poker prevailed and on the last night an improvised dance ceremony.

With that said and done. We left the place feeling like we deserved a second life for giving a feel of importance to persons who felt undeserving of such a visit. We will not be allowed in the school next term, no one will, orders from the government, leaving us with the option of visiting in 2017.

Green Note

While in Baringo, I saw the Prosopis Juliflora shrubs that didn’t stand out in any way until I learnt that the  Cummins cogeneration Company is seeking to generate 11.5 MW worth of biofuel from them. If this works out well, then Baringo will be one of the few places in Africa where energy is literally grown!

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