By JECKONIA OTIENO
With more young people engaging in sexual activity — without much thought — new interventions to mitigate the effects of early sexual activity are being mooted with schools as the key targets. However, the campaign aims to reach out to young people both in and out of school.
One such school is Namilama Secondary in Bungoma County. The school has a project that targets teenagers who are considered the greatest at risk of irresponsible sexual engagement among other vices.
According to the National Aids Control Council, most new HIV infections occur among couples who engage in irresponsible sex accounting for 44 per cent of all the infections. Men and women who engage in casual sex contribute to 20 per cent of new infections, while sex workers and their clients contributed 14 per cent.
School-going teenagers are likely to fall in the category that engages in casual sex but what worries many is safety.
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Namilama School, therefore, has come up with a group that is reaching out to other schools in the area — both primary and secondary — to educate them on life skills, including reproductive health matters.
The group, modelled on the Centre for the Study of Adolescence’s (CSA) Youth for Youth Programme, is meant to help teach young people about safe practices.
The school’s guidance and counselling teacher, Mr Protus Simiyu, says girls are dropping out of school to either get married or as a result of pregnancy and this needs to be arrested as a matter of urgency.
“A girl just dropped out of school this term to get married and I cannot just sit back and watch this happen,” says Simiyu, who is also in charge of the school’s pastoral programme.
The problem does not face Namilama only. A similar case was reported in Chepkurkur Primary in Mt Elgon.
The Namilama School group currently has 60 members under the leadership of Marceline Kuloba among others. It advocates good behaviour among young people. The group has outreach activities every Tuesday and Wednesday within and out of the school compound.
Kuloba says, “We visit primary and secondary schools to preach the message of safe living among the young people.”
However, this does not come easily as Kuloba explains, “Sometimes we find it hard to make an impact because some pupils look at us and wonder why as young people as we are we are talking to them about sex matters, which even their parents dare not touch.”
Kuloba says some of the problems the youth in the area have to contend with are early pregnancies, dropping out of school, drug abuse and negative peer pressure.
Kuloba says of adult males who perpetrate the vices, “These people mostly just misuse schoolgirls then dump them when they get pregnant. In most cases you find girls resorting to abortion which can be dangerous to their reproductive health.”
To deter joyriders out to have free outings, the school group set a mandatory registration fee of Sh20 and a monthly contribution of Sh30. The money is also used to keep the group’s activities running and allows it to be self-reliant.
CSA’s Maurine Amwayi says the organisation seeks to empower such groups within and out of schools through capacity building and training.
“We train young people to educate their peers because they understand each other better than when they are talked to by adults,” says Amwayi.
Namilama is not the only school where the organisation has rolled out the programme. It has done so in other schools in Kapsokwony and Chwele. However, one thing that makes the Namilama group stand out is the talent it incorporates while spreading the news. Other than comedians, the group has one of the best traditional harpists in Bungoma County - Godfrey Baraza - who plays the eight, six and one-stringed instruments to enchant the audience being visited.
The group now plans to start reaching out through social media to have a wider reach and greater impact.