Over the years, there has been a remarkable transformation in how men approach the concept of mentorship. The inquiry arises, “Why unmask your emotions as a man?” A prevailing sentiment persists – “Vitu zingine hatusemi… wacha umama… weather it in silence!” You know the narrative; men should be the epitome of strength, and any hint of vulnerability is portrayed as a blemish, a frailty to be hidden away.
But is this truly the case? Men, too, yearn to be heard. They also seek a safe space where they can open up without the weight of embarrassment because, fundamentally, they are human too.
From November 20th to 24th, 2023, the Mentoring Department on campus hosted a “Mentoring Awareness Week” where mentors and their mentees got an opportunity to come together, fostering bonds. In spotlighting male-to-male mentorship at Strathmore University, we had a conversation with Raymond Mutura, a mentor, and Kennedy Wangari, one of his mentees, on their unique mentorship journey and how they’ve navigated the twists and turns of life.
How did you establish meaningful connections with your mentor/mentees and maintain the relationship?
Raymond; In my role as a lecturer, encounters with mentees naturally occur within the classroom setting. Take Kennedy, for instance. I had the pleasure of teaching him Social Ethics during his Diploma studies. When he made the transition to pursue a degree, he expressed a desire for me to continue being his mentor, thus marking the commencement of our journey together.
You have to be very intentional in your mentorship journey with your mentee. From our initial interaction, I make it a point to collect their phone numbers and introduce them to a WhatsApp group (R – Mutura Mentees), creating a space where they can connect with my other mentees. They all know where my office is. I encourage them to drop by for a casual greeting or, in case of an emergency, seek assistance.
Each dawn, I set aside a moment to offer personalized prayers for every mentee, seeking the benevolence of Pedro Ballester. This extends beyond mere academics, I pray for their health and life journey.
Engaging in their hobbies is a shared joy. For instance, I play table tennis, and for those mentees who share an interest in the sport, we carve out time over weekends or whenever schedules align. It’s not just about the game; it’s about actively becoming friends and forging bonds beyond the mentorship dynamic.
Birthdays! It feels good when someone remembers when you’re born. So I go the extra mile to remember these special occasions. Whether it’s a small gift or a shared lunch, the effort to acknowledge and celebrate their birth adds a personal touch, fostering a sense of appreciation and connection in our mentor-mentee relationship.
Kennedy; In the midst of bustling schedules, Raymond juggles his PhD studies, and I navigate my academic commitments. And despite the workload, we both recognize the importance of carving out time—a deliberate choice that speaks to the value we place on our mentorship journey. Even in the brief moments we have and the chance encounters along the corridor, we manage to catch up. Though, there’s so much to talk about and update each other, but little time.
How do you deal with mental health challenges?
Raymond; Certainly, the process of a man opening up may take time, and in some cases, it may not occur at all. However, this doesn’t negate the importance of taking the initiative to understand who they are and uncover any concerns they might be harboring. Recognizing the subtle shifts, particularly when someone begins to withdraw, serves as a potential indicator of underlying issues. In such instances, I deliberately make an effort to connect with them, aiming to create a safe space for open communication and addressing any challenges they may be facing.
Kennedy: “I am thinking about… and is everything okay?” Words that we often see popping up on our WhatsApp from Mr. Mutura. He has created a secure and nurturing space where we, as mentees, genuinely feel valued. The balance in our interactions is notable; we find ourselves doing most of the talking as Mr. Raymond actively listens, occasionally jotting down notes on his phone.
How about other challenges?
Raymond: Individuals come with diverse personalities, and it’s important to embrace them for who they are. Even when they make mistakes, or find themselves in trouble, we navigate through challenges together. I’ve been contacted by my mentees during disciplinary issues, and some have even faced suspensions. Instead of using these moments to criticize them, it’s an opportunity to offer guidance, understanding why the mistake happened, and finding ways to prevent it from occurring again.
We even tackle job applications together, sharing opportunities within the group. Take Kennedy, for example, who made two attempts to secure a position on the Student Council and successfully got elected as the 15th Secretary General this year. A proud moment for sure!
As a male mentor, do you actively seek mentorship from others, and how has this influenced your approach to mentoring?
Raymond: Having been a part of Strathmore University for 30 years, I was introduced to mentorship from the onset and have walked alongside mentors for three decades. Remaining open to advice and guidance has been crucial, with figures like Dr. George Njenga and Dr. Joe Sevilla offering valuable insights in my professional life. On a spiritual level, mentors like Fr. Paul Mimbi and Fr. Alphonse Diaz have played pivotal roles. Mentorship, for me, is ingrained in my DNA—I embraced it, and I am committed to perpetuating this enriching practice.
Now, the tables have turned, and my mentees are teaching me. This is the essence of reverse mentoring, a powerful concept where learning flows both ways.
Raymond: “A mentor a day.” Advice I got from my good friend Roy Were, which constantly challenges me to ensure that I meet with a mentor each day. While it’s not an easy feat, it remains a work in progress, demanding a considerable commitment.
Looking ahead, despite previous attempts being unsuccessful, I plan on organizing a meet up with all 26 of my mentees for an enjoyable get-together day.
Kennedy: To my fellow male peers, approach mentorship not as an interview, but as an opportunity to connect with someone who has trodden the same path you’ve walked and can offer guidance and encouragement in your journey. It’s entirely okay to be vulnerable with your mentor. The distinctive approach employed by Mr. Mutura, uniting us in a WhatsApp group alongside his other mentees, has truly fortified my personal growth. Within this group, I’ve found brothers I can rely on—individuals who have become my family.
Did you know that as a Stratizen, you automatically become a mentee?
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Article written by Jemmy Kamau
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