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Girls: Dads’ role in boosting their performance

By | February 3rd 2010

By Mwadimeh Wa’kesho

Concerned that mostly mothers showed up when the school invited parents for open days to follow up on the progress of their daughters, the Principal of State House Girls’ High Joan Rampei Muoti wondered how to get the absentee fathers involved.

Her desire to get fathers to participate in the upbringing and education of their daughters is fuelled by her belief that they have a crucial and special role to play.

As society remains unconvinced of how crucial fathers are to their children, particularly to their daughters, studies back Muoti’s views. One study conducted in the US and New Zealand by Prof Bruce J Ellis from the University of Arizona, finds a strong link between good father-daughter relationships and healthy sexual behaviour.

Students of State House Girls’ School: The principal of State House Girls held a fathers’ day

"Father absence was an overriding risk factor for early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy. Conversely, father presence was a major protective factor against early sexual experience, even if other factors were present," the study that followed 900 girls from preschool to late adolescence, reports.

Negative results

The study lists the negative results of early sexual debut, including lower educational and occupational attainment.

For Muoti the relevance of fathers in parenting was reinforced when she discovered how much her students yearned for their fathers’ attention. "I was surprised that the girls bought more cards on Father’s Day than Mother’s Day. This spoke volumes about the girls’ yearning for their daddies’ attention," Muoti says. Whenever she engaged the girls in conversation they incessantly referred to "my dad this, my dad that".

Muoti inadvertently found a way to bring fathers on board when watching the play Beheaded with the school Chaplain, Judith Ong’weno last October. The play by Fred Owino revolves around the troubled world of Elvis Taabu, 19, who is ridiculed by his peers for having a father but living like an orphan. His father’s absenteeism sends him into a rage that sees him turn into a murderer who beheads innocent people in revenge against society.

Found a way

"After watching the play we felt a need to share the experience with our students’ fathers," Ong’weno, who is also Head of English Department, says. The school sent invitations to parents for an important meeting without disclosing the purpose. On the morning of Sunday January 24, about 500 parents arrived at the school to find Muoti waiting at the gate. She turned away the women.

The day’s events began shortly after 10.30am with a poem: Letter to My Father by Form Four student Sharon Mburu. Fathers listened uneasily as she decried a father’s lack of interest in her daughter since she turned 12. "Yes, yesterday I brought home my report form…

You looked at it and threw it in my face and said I was a shame to the family; stupid like my mother and not good enough as Alfred, my brother,’ she recited to her to the attentive audience:

"Daddy, please don’t leave. In the family portrait we look pretty happy; if nothing can work out can we just pretend at least, for a minute?"

The moving poem set the stage for the play and discussions that followed, including why most men sent their wives to represent them at school meetings. It emerged that the fathers assume that fulfilling their families financial obligations is enough.

Motivational speaker Kinyanjui Ng’ang’a delved into issues like the difference between parents offering "presence over presents" to their children. Information Technology from Microsoft experts gave tips on helping children use computers and mobile phones responsibly.

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