“Education alone is not enough to mould a responsible individual in society. Important virtues such as integrity are essential and should be instilled to students while in school through participation in clubs,” says Ali Juma, 22, a former member of the SHINE integrity club from Shariani Secondary School.
Speaking to SHINE’s advocacy officer Costa Kalanda, Ali continued to say, “When students are equipped with integrity and see the impact it has in schools and neighboring communities and how it strengthens the relationship between them and the school when they learn how to identify amicable solutions to problems and improve the learning outcome in general, they embrace it and become ambassadors for the same in society.”
I joined the integrity Club when it was introduced in our school in 2019. Thereafter, I was elected as the vice-chairperson. Despite being in form four, I actively participated in the club activities.
We implemented a waste management project in which we improvised buckets which we placed outside of classrooms so that students would no longer litter the compound and we made it our personal responsibility to take turns in emptying them. This instilled a sense of responsibility in us, by making us responsible for emptying the bin, and the other students, by making them ensure there was no littering this resulted in a conducive learning environment for everyone.
Figure 1; Youth who are members of the Pamoja Act group participating in group discussions and Figure 2; Group members holding a meeting.
After completing my studies, I witnessed the challenges that young people are facing in society, and with no proper guidance on how to counter them, they are sinking into depression and starting to abuse drug substances such as Khat and bhang, they are engaging in crimes to make ends meet. This prompted me to join a Community Based Organization that the local area chief who is also a family friend is in. He, together with the other CBO members who comprised of area chiefs, sub-chiefs, and village elders, agreed to let me in despite the age difference. They allowed me in so that I would gradually learn from them and be able to influence my peers on the right path. The group has a total of thirty members and is currently implementing a project that deals with the prevention of violence among children and another that will sensitize the community on gender-based violence.
Although funds have been a challenge, we still go out of our way to carry out our duties. Our duties include referring cases of child abuse to the respective offices for them to be assisted and sensitizing the of the community on various important issues such as advising victims of HIV/AIDS who have been stigmatized or neglected to accept their status and take their medication. We do this by going door to door. This has worked well for our cause because the community gets a platform in the comfort of their homes to discuss with us the different challenges they face and offer support where we can.
Figure 3; Mwangaza CBO, which Ali is a member of, distributing items to the community.
During one of our home visits, I came across Amina (not her real name) who was so depressed after she was diagnosed with the HIV/AIDS virus. She had been stigmatized by her family and the neighborhood she lived in. I talked to her about accepting her status and seeking treatment, and I also advised her that everything would be fine as that was not the end of life. She got motivated and visited Vipingo Health Centre where she sought treatment.
Figure 4: Ali, during a home visit to sensitize community members against violence against children and gender-based violence
Other than being an active member of the CBO, I have formed a safe space for the youth through a group named Pamoja Act. Here we get to discuss issues affecting the youth and we propose solutions. Given that majority of young people are idle after completing school. Not out of choice but because of lack of funds they are not able to enroll in tertiary institutions.
We started performing short skits to keep ourselves entertained and attract members. So far, we have performed three educational videos to raise awareness in communities about issues such as stigmatization of HIV/AIDS victims, drug abuse, and the importance of Mijikenda culture.
Despite the unavailability of funds we have managed to have 25 young committed members. We meet every Saturday where we sometimes do voluntary cleanups of the marketplaces.
The ability to identify problems and propose solutions with integrity has also enabled me to be an entrepreneur. I believe successful businesses are ones that identify a gap or problem and find solutions for it. I currently work at a cyber-shop where I offer mentorship to one boy just to ensure he is not idle. He assists me in the cyber; he gets money for airtime and is able to meet his basic needs
Figure 5: Youth group member leading the rest in discussing issues
that are affecting the youth.
I also sell women’s shoes. The money from this business has enabled me to pay for computer classes and driving school.
I mentor the club members and motivate them to reach for their goals regardless of the obstacles they face. I want all of them to realize their dreams, and in doing so, I will have accomplished my purpose.
I want to influence as many young people as I can, by reaching out to them in their different areas and advising them. I’d like to run for the Member of County Assembly position in the future.
Other members of the club have are still carrying the legacy high long after school. I know one who is currently in university and volunteers at a children’s home during the holidays.
With the many problems our country, Kenya, is currently facing, the majority of which are caused by lack of integrity would be abolished if we all were members of integrity clubs and we carried this virtue with us after school. Problems such as looting of government funds by leaders, misappropriation of funds/office, and nepotism cases would all be a thing of the past.
I strongly advocate for the establishment of integrity clubs in all schools and in working on ways to pass on the skills to parents during parent meetings, seeing how that knowledge has been impactful in my life.
Figure 6 :Ali mentoring and advising other youths to stop abusing drugs and focus on achieving their dreams and goals