Nairobi, Kenya July 28- Zawadi (not his real name) is a class eight student at a local Primary School in Kenya. As per the Kenyan education system, he is supposed to seat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in November this year. Students in this class are encouraged to put more effort in their school work as their scores in the examination will determine the kind of secondary school that they shall be admitted to. Zawadi, a 13 year old boy, is the first born in his family. He has 2 younger sisters, a mother who is below 30 years of age and a step-father.
We first met him during one of our field visits to his School. As we were receiving the greenhouse initiative reports from the Head Teacher, Zawadi walked into the office escorted by one of the teachers in the school; teacher Maggie.
The Head teacher shared with me that Zawadi had been away from school for the past 5 months. As soon as she noticed Zawadi’s absence, she contacted the mother to find out his whereabouts with no success. Through the community, she learned that his’s father had moved out of their home and relocated to a different town. Shortly after, the mother remarried; a move that prompted Zawadi to flee from home to go and live with his maternal grandmother.
The school through the local administration summoned the mother to appear in school. The mother was instructed to make sure that Zawadi reports back to school, failure to which she would be reported to children’s service department.
The Head Teacher asked Zawadi to explain to her why he had not been attending school. Amidst sobs, he shared that the grandmother lived 10 kilo meters away from the school. Yet every time he arrived at school past the required time, he received punishment from the teacher on duty. After some time, he gave up on coming to school all together and resorted to pretending that he was attending school to avoid disappointing the grandmother. He later on realized how wrong his actions were but was afraid of going back to school and receiving more punishment for skipping school for so many days.
The Head teacher asked him, why he couldn’t go back to living with his mother who lives closer to the school compared to the grandmother. He shared how on several occasions his mother had expressed that she did not care about him at all.
The head teacher encouraged Zawadi to come back and pursue his education as it’s the only thing that would guarantee him a better life in future. He was given a book and instructed to go to class. He expressed that he wanted to go to his sister’s class who was 5 classes behind him as he was afraid of his class mates and teachers. For that day, Samuel was allowed to join his sister’s class and the teachers were instructed to encourage him to stay in school. The Head Teacher pledged to pay for his lunch for the remaining part of his school life.
As we watched Zawadi leave the Head Teacher’s office to attend class, we realized how important Global Peace Foundation’s family self-reliance model would be to the likes of Zawadi. Through our boy-child mentor – ship program, boys like Zawadi, will interact with volunteer mentors who will not only act like their father figures but also equip them with skills that will facilitate a smooth transition from childhood to adolescence.
Moreover, fathers like Zawadi’s dad will be empowered to be leaders in their homes by taking responsibility over the well-being of their spouses and children. Mothers like Zawadi’s mom and grandmother will go through a value based training that will empower them to know their key role in instilling values and nurturing their children into becoming responsible adults. This in the long term will result into healthy families that will give birth to ethical societies