The journey to Churo, Baringo, commenced on the morning of Sunday, August 6th, 2023. Despite its eight-hour duration spanning several counties, the trip was nothing short of fascinating. We marveled at the breathtaking landscape our country offers.
Upon our arrival at Churo Girls Secondary School, the girls greeted us with celebratory songs and dances at the school gate. The exhaustion from our lengthy journey vanished instantly as we were warmly received by the school principal, Ms. Sarah Chelagat, the teachers, and the students. We felt the love as we joined in the singing and dancing. Later, we were ushered into the school hall for an entertainment session, followed by introductions by both parties. After this plenary session, we anticipated retiring to our lodgings, but to our surprise, a delicious meal awaited us. ‘Nyama choma’ (roasted meat), boiled meat, meat soup, and the customary cup of tea had been prepared in abundance. Needless to say, we were elated as we wrapped up the day.
The next day, August 7th, marked our first official day of mentoring the girls and providing training for the teachers. Our team, comprising professionals and students, was divided into those engaging with the students and those training the teachers. Student sessions were further divided by grade, from Form 1 to Form 4. I had the privilege of interacting with the Form Four students. Their intelligence and ambitious dreams deeply impressed me. Their aspirations ranged from becoming nurses and doctors to pursuing careers as beauticians and models. Witnessing their positivity and hope for the future, despite the challenges within their community, was truly inspiring.
During our sessions with the students, we covered various topics, ranging from academics and career choices to personal and social life. The sessions were interactive and enjoyable, featuring games to encourage laughter and relaxation. The girls displayed remarkable vulnerability, sharing their challenges, including early marriages and, in some cases, female genital mutilation. It was disheartening to learn of these realities. Some girls expressed their fear of returning home during holidays, risking falling victim to these practices. However, it was encouraging to see their determination to pursue education and resist early marriage. By the day’s end, the impact of our interactions with the girls was palpable. It was gratifying to know that they felt seen, heard, loved, valued, encouraged, and, most importantly, capable.
The following day, which was the school’s closing day, we addressed the girls’ parents, who had come to pick up their daughters . We were pleasantly surprised by the number of parents attending the seminar. We educated them on the importance of educating girls and being actively involved in their children’s progress. Sensitive topics such as early marriages and female genital mutilation were discussed openly. Men, as the influencers of cultural norms, were particularly challenged to discontinue practices detrimental to women’s progress. Genuine concerns were raised and addressed during the discussions. It was genuinely revitalizing to witness the parents’ receptiveness and attentiveness.
The entire experience was both humbling and fulfilling. Addressing cultural change within a community can be challenging, even when certain practices have proven harmful. Nonetheless, as we departed, there was a glimmer of hope that by educating a few members of the East Pokot community on the evolving nature of culture and the need for traditions to adapt with time, a positive impact is imminent.
The culmination of my experience was the farewell ritual conducted in our honor the night before our departure. Mr. Ali Kapusia, the school board chairman and a Strathmore alumnus, led the ceremonial gift-giving session. The school principal, board members, and school friends joined in songs and chants. Each of us received a beautifully handmade headband and a jar of pure honey as tokens of appreciation and physical representations of the rich Pokot culture. Other gifts included a beaded traditional necklace and a multi-coloured ‘shuka’(blanket). We were reluctant to bid farewell to the warm-hearted people who had welcomed us into their home and shown us immense love throughout our stay. It is safe to conclude that the project was indeed a resounding success.
During our stay in Baringo, we were privileged to be hosted at the Tangulbei Mission Resort in Tiaty sub county. This lodging area was started by the Catholic mission of the Holy Ghost fathers. The objective of the mission is to improve the lives of the local Pokot community, particularly in the areas of water supply, education and the provision of medical services. In addition to the mobile clinics held frequently in the Tiaty constituency, the Tangulbei Catholic Mission was fortunate enough to establish a Mission Hospital in the area, meeting the criteria of a Level-4 hospital.
In conclusion, I want to express heartfelt gratitude to the exceptional individuals and teams that made this transformative journey possible. We are eternally grateful to the Community Service Centre for their immense financial support towards this project, which made it a success. Special thanks to the Strathmore Mentoring Services team, led by Mrs. Celestine Kanjama, for their unwavering commitment to empowering the girls of Churo Girls Secondary School. We also deeply appreciate the invaluable support and expertise provided by the Strathmore Institute of Family Studies (IFS), under the visionary leadership of Dr. Jane Wathuta, in fostering positive change within the community. Special recognition goes to our project lead, Andrew Nderitu, whose passion and tireless efforts were the driving force behind this endeavor. Remarkably, Andrew planned and executed this project alongside his Bachelor of Commerce students, showcasing a level of dedication and commitment that has truly inspired us all. Lastly, our sincere appreciation to Mr. Ali Kapusia, the head of the school board, for warmly welcoming us into the Churo Girls Secondary School family and for the touching farewell ritual.
This project was a demonstration that through education, mentorship, and unwavering commitment, transformation is not only possible but inevitable.
This article was written by Eva Muthoni.
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