I am back to Nairobi and determined to save just one boy. I had travelled to my rural village to bury one of my favourite aunts. She was the only one who actually knew and supported my work with boys. Spending 5 days away from Nairobi helped to open my eyes more to the plight of boys.
As I traveled to Kisumu last Friday, I had hoped the situation would be different. However, each motor bike ride I took deep into our village confirmed recent findings by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra). According to the research, children who join Class One and continue to Form Four is below 20%. Those who actually continue to the university level is 1.69%.
60% of learners who finish secondary school fail to attain grades required for the university. In essence, this means that close to half a million Kenyan learners end up dropping out of school and have no chance of being employed. This does not affect education alone. It goes much deeper. The Kenya Vision 2030 largely depends on the education sector to empower learners with skills that will massively contribute towards building adequate human capital.
The things that happened before, during and after my aunt’s burial broke my heart. One of my nephews – a 17-year-old – is repeating Class 7 for the third year in a row. He has been unable to attain enough marks so he can proceed to Class 8 and sit for the KCSE national examination. 95% of parents in my village – most of them widows – do not have a secondary education certificate and are having a challenge encouraging their children to take education seriously.
Back to Nairobi and determined to save just one boy
After my aunt’s burial, all the adults went home to sleep. Meanwhile, our sons and daughters were busy twerking into the night and probably having sex in the bush. There animated voices joined the likes of DeMarco, Emma Jalamo, Fally Ipupa and other musicians as they sung and danced to their favourite songs.
Just before 3 am, all hell broke loose.
The music stopped playing as rocks flew in the air. It turns out the boys were fighting over a girl. In the end, a 17-year-old boy’s was rushed to the hospital after another boy slashed his wrist.
Here is what I overheard during the fracas.
“It is good to educate a girl,” a woman said.
“Yes, that’s true! A girl will focus on going to school while her brothers are busy dropping out!” the woman standing next to her replied.
This statement forced me to join their conversation.
“Is it true that boys are dropping out of school?” I asked.
“Boys in this village are dropping out of school like flies,” she replied. “Take my own son, for instance. He recently dropped out of Class 6 and went missing for 3 months.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, struggling to find the right thing to say. “Would you like me to have a word with him tomorrow?” I asked.
“Yes, but I doubt whether he will listen to you,” she sighed. “But you can try. You’ll actually be the first man to speak to him.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, my brothers in law don’t talk to him much unless they are sending my son to the market or to herd their cattle,” she replied. “You’re the first man to take interest in him. Perhaps, he may listen to you.”
Her last statement has kept ringing in my mind for the last 5 days.
Lack of parental involvement
Much as I am back to Nairobi and determined to save just one boy, one question lingers in my mind. Are men causing more damage by their silence and inaction? The answer is an absolute Y.E.S! My interactions with parents through Lifesong Kenya, reveals that women are more involved in the affairs of their children than the fathers are.
Our women are independent, strong and capable of bringing up a family. This does not mean that their children don’t need a man or a father-figure in their lives. This is where the fathers in my village and the ones whose children I meet in the city, are found wanting. Men have chosen to keep quiet and watch from a distance.
They are doing all they can to ensure their own children do well in life, which is a commendable thing for every father to do. However, it is also their duty to help provide guidance and direction to the children belonging to widows and single mothers both in the village and in the city. Of especial attention is the plight of boys.
A survey conducted by the National Taxpayers Association (NTA) reveals that a majority of school dropouts are boys due to the rising neglect of the boy child. Other factors contributing to boys dropping out of school include:-
- Rising marginalization of boys in education
- Lack of parental involvement
- Insufficient funding of free primary education
Well, I’m back in Nairobi and determined to save just one boy. That’s what my work is all about. Much as I work with hundreds of boys, my aim is to continue saving just one boy at a time. Luckily, we are currently piloting the Standing With Boys program in two schools in Nairobi.
We hope to gather enough information and learn valuable lessons that will enable us to effectively meet the needs of boys back in my village. Feel free to contact us for information about this revolutionary program for boys. Your involvement may enable us to empower just one boy at a time! I hope to hear from you… soon!