“With SHINE project we protect our future”, says Splynta Buluku. The young teacher works at one of the 15 project schools in Kilifi County. Part of his work is to help in strengthening and supporting integrity club established in Township Secondary school. SHINE means Students acting for Honesty, Integrity and Equality. The students are organized into clubs to identify problems existing in their school communities, initiate possible solutions and inform the public on their status. Problem-solving through being pro-active – instead of opting for violence, strike or looting.
The need to address problems
The number of unrests at Kenyan schools is alarming, even for the government. A report tabled in parliament indicates that in 2018, 107 schools out 8,900 public and 1,800 private institutions were affected. The causes were amongst others; bad food provided by schools, fear of exams, lack of sufficient time to sleep or engage in extra-curricular activities, immense autocratic rules or being highly pressurised to perform. Resulting in students fear in addressing their problems or asking for help.
“Whoever asks critical questions is criminated”
Boarding schools, which account for at least 80 per cent of schools in Kenya, are often the target of unrest because students feel imprisoned there. “Missing occasions to express yourself and your needs can lead to rebellion or misbehaviour”, is written in the report. Many young people complain that there is no dialogue between them and the administration which hinder peaceful solutions. Students resort to unrest with the impression that they will be noticed or heard. “Those bold enough to approach the
Splynta, teacheradministration in a diplomatic way end up being victimized and slowly the administration will look for a reason to push them out of the school through expulsion or frustrating them.”
Searching for solutions instead …
Many grievances at Kenyan schools have their roots in corruption, mismanagement, lack of competence and fraudulent activities. SHINE project intends to involve young people in the fight of corruption and to form their characters at an early age. They are to learn or identify problems in their schools, look for solutions themselves and to act against corruption – without causing chaos and unrest. “The students are involved in decision-making processes and learn to be honest and act with integrity also when not being observed.”, explains Sharlett Mlongo from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) in an interview about SHINE project at Baraka FM in Mombasa.
When the school ran out of water…
End of 2018, Kesho Kenya introduced SHINE project and its Integrity Clubs in 15 Secondary schools in Kilifi County. 20 more schools will join in 2020. One of the partner schools is Kilifi township Secondary School. Even though SHINE project exists only since a few months, successes are already visible. Once the school ran out of water. “The students did not strike but sat down to discuss how the problem could be solved and water is provided,” says Splynta Buluku. In the end, the students themselves took jerrycans and organised the transport of water from the regional sampling point – without causing unrest and chaos.
Public observation of the project’s state of affairs
The Integrity Club members identify problems or challenges at their school, develop ideas for their solution and document the process and state of affairs on a tablet. They are supported by a patron teacher and a monitor who is a fellow student. Everybody can download the Development check tool as an app in the play store and thus access information about the project’s progress and if the problems were solved to the complete satisfaction of all involved parties.
Lets’ work on the library!
To everyone’s satisfaction, the Integrity Club of Kilifi Township has solved the problem with the school’s library which was quite messy. “It initially took one quite long to find a book. So, students had the idea to introduce a directory which now allows them to access books more easily and, in less time”, says Splynta Buluku. The Integrity Club convinced the headteacher to acquire a big shelf from an abandoned table outside their classrooms. Supported by the librarian, they set up a systematic register and sorted the books during their breaks. “Now we find the books we look for in a short time”, says Everest George, head of the Integrity Club. “There was a book I could not find from the library for five years. After the library was organised and books arranged per subjects, I asked for it – and actually, it was brought to me!”
Now the library’s redesign is in its second phase. This time, the purchase of seating furniture is on the list so that reading becomes more comfortable. “We needed to either stand or sit on the floor to read as we did not have enough tables and chairs”, explains Everest George.
Beautification of the school
The Integrity Club also had the idea to beautify the school by constructing a flower bed. After seeking for the headteacher’s consent, students raised the required funds. “When we started planting, other students grabbed plow tools and rakes to help us”, says Everest George. Definitely, there are setbacks he and his team are suffering from. “After planting the flowers in the beds, younger students went heedless over it and tread down the young plants.” Nonetheless, the Integrity Club members were not discouraged but replanted. Since then, everybody pays attention.
Hoping for an end to corruption
“Through SHINE project, students learn and apply leadership qualities”, says Damaris Aswa, SHINE program officer at Kesho Kenya. “They acquire skills on how to face challenges and sort them out themselves instead of striking. Students are being taught and inculcated with integrity in such a way that it becomes part of them. When they leave school, they are used to acting with integrity and then can have an impact on other people.” The hope is that in the long run, this will end corruption because a generation has been brought up that acts with integrity and honesty.
(audio in Kiswahili, English summary below)