Mentorship is vital for young people to grow up into responsible beings. Identifying a role model, who has been through similar challenges as those of a young person and has successfully transitioned to the next phase of education beyond all odds, can be emulated especially if this mentor is a peer.
“Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu” (WWW) means “Let Our Girls Succeed” and is a holistic project specifically designed to remove cultural and socio-economic barriers that have prevented or made it difficult for primary school girls in Kenya to transit to secondary schools and other alternative pathways. Girls in project schools form one on one mentorship clubs where the mentor is a peer who went to the same primary school and is currently in the next level of education.
The vivacious mentor
Zawadi, a form two student at Mwangea Girls is a mentor for two mentee groups in Mtepeni. We met with grade seven girls in Mtepeni primary school who are Zawadi’s mentees a school she previously attended.
“It was kind of difficult to mentor them at first. I was a bit shy and my mentees were not very free with me thus would not open up concerning their challenges. I started by befriending each of them, told them my experiences and they gradually developed trust in me, started opening up and sharing their challenges.”
She adds that she has taught them on how to study, developing time tables that include time for studying, playing and doing house chores which has helped most of them improve their performance and start-up discussions with their guardians on not overburdening them with house chores so that they get ample time to study. They have also discussed Sexual Reproductive Health, goal setting and career selection.
Juggling between mentorship and studies
Since Zawadi is a student, she has learnt over the period how to manage her time in order for her to meet up with her mentees, perform her house chores, study and still find time to meet up friends and relatives. “The most challenging incident I ever tackled was when one of my mentees opened up to me on something that was so personal and touching. I did not know how to go about it and I had to involve teachers because I felt it was over and beyond my capacity.”
Mary states that the mentorship has helped her as an individual as her sister has been her biggest derailer. She kept discouraging her from going to school and studying as she did not value it. “Zawadi helped me reach out to my aunt who encourages me to stay in school and work hard. I currently live with my aunt and my sister doesn’t talk to me anymore.” She utters sadly. Mary explained that she was able to find a prayer partner in Zawadi who would pray with her whenever her aunt was unable to pay up school fees.
Yasmin is also a mentee and for her, she was glad for what the mentorship program has helped her overcome. She says that her performance was wanting initially. Yasmin says, “I at first did not even have the courage to discuss my grades as my performance was very poor. Zawadi helped me come up with a timetable and linked me up to a teacher who supports me academically. Now, my performance has greatly improved.” She adds that Zawadi and her mum counsel and advise her accordingly and she is very grateful for that.
“Mentorship has given me friends with whom I can sit down to discuss academics and how to improve our grades.” Says Mwaka, another mentee. “I initially did not have friends to offer me support as I support them too. Zawadi has taught us how to love, look after and care for one another. We still meet when she is in school and support each other where possible. There are mentorship groups that aren’t working because members aren’t cooperative and they try to discourage us but we do not pay attention to them.”
Mentorship has not been a bed of roses
Zawadi with a grin on her face explained that at some point, two of her members were not in talking terms and this made their meetings unbearable as they would argue all the time. She called them individually and established the root cause of the problem and later called upon the two girls to forgive one another.
Zawadi explains that she is proud to see what has become of these young girls. She adds that it has not been easy especially for another group she oversees. “What really broke my heart was when one of my mentees got pregnant. To be honest I really cried because this was a girl I had talked to on several occasions on how to protect herself. Her mother was so furious and was blaming me for her daughter’s pregnancy.” She adds that together with the Community Health Volunteer, they managed to calm her down and explained what the project is about.
Zawadi Thanked the WWW project for supporting the girls with sanitary towels as those were major challenges her mentees were facing. She also urged the project team to engage parents once in a while by enlightening them on what the one on one mentorship is about. She added that her reason for doing this is because some parents do not allow their girls to attend the sessions.