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Some Friday in April: Mentoring Pt 1

It’s a Friday afternoon ; the date is 22nd April,2022 and I’m very excited because in a few hours’ time I am having my maiden meeting with Andgate Foundation students for a brief chit chat. You know chit chat with teenagers is bae! You get to hear their real and perceived fears as far as life in school goes and I wouldn’t trade this hour for any thing.

Having previously engaged Mwalimu Khana to identify an appropriate location for our tea chat with the young boys and girls; I was winding up my commitments at work since my University was hosting the 9th Congregation for the conferment of Degrees and awards of Diplomas and certificates. This usually calls for a near balance (near; because there’s no such thing like perfect). Mwalimu Khana’s calls came in; as many times as I had anticipated. This was Friday, so we experienced a lot of back and forth because most of the meeting spots had been converted into graduation party venues or the would-be hosts were asking for a fee which was way above our small budget.

He finally got a venue; a less preferred restaurant within the dusty outskirts of Bondo town off the Bondo-Siaya road. But it had the quietness needed for an academic discourse and I said yes..

So when the time came, I pleasantly rushed out to interact with these promising young men and women on academic and social progress ahead of school re-opening the following week. Andgate Foundation believes in inculcating life skills and creating safe spaces and building trust through dialogue to address the social and economic challenges encountered in their day to day lives as they pursue secondary school education.

Our Andgate Mentorship initiative is a vehicle for candid talks on student life experiences within the school environment aimed at identifying short and long-term interventions that will keep the boys and girls at ease in school despite the myriad socio-economic hurdles they encounter. The students come from backgrounds of mixed ‘misfortunes’ and Andgate Foundation has opened its doors to embrace this diversity.

There were interesting stories about school from these young ones. They all seemed to be struggling with the sciences namely: Mathematics, Biology, Physics and Chemistry at their schools yet this was the year most of them had settled on their elective subjects. The boys did not seem confident to tackle the languages either (Kiswahili and English) and we had to come up with very practical solutions. They were however determined to get the best of it all; and this was reflecting on their anxious faces. The teenagers were leaving nothing to chance. We discussed the usual misnomers of boarding schools: not much bullying going on for them but isolated incidences of indiscipline, gross misconduct, theft of property and a lot of congestion in class and the dormitories in most of the schools.

The teens were letting it out, slowly but surely and our job was to listen and weigh in on how best they were to navigate these challenges. Not forgetting social media influence during the holidays; constant peer pressure; drug and substance abuse that had driven some students to acts of arson at their schools; and religious extremism which has since sneaked into learning institutions.

My oh my! We agreed that they will open up and speak to their teachers, parents and the Foundation when the going got tough. We also agreed that everyone was to work hard and remain focused in their studies, sharing notes and revision papers across their various schools and staying away from trouble of course.

I got my eyes on Bramuel and Alyzen; they are both poised for a great finish and I can’t wait to celebrate! Nicole and Florence are the usual understandable shy teenage girls, they will outgrow this I bet; (Florence happens to be my favorite girl though), I’m not sure I am allowed to take sides but she stole my heart when we connected under very difficult circumstances when the school sent her away for fees. This will be a story for another day.

Our mentoring sessions are a continual commitment towards nurturing talents and capabilities of the students to achieve their dreams.

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