When students go to universities and colleges, they experience a sense of imaginary freedom that is nothing but a smoke screen.
Lilian Mutheu, a second year construction management student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) says she has, through the Brighter Future Programme, made choices for her future that she would not have made if she was not part of the club.
“We learn and teach young people about health, especially their sexual health, but more importantly the decisions they make concerning their future,” Mutheu says.
As the club’s vice-chairperson, Mutheu says her interaction with various young people has made her realise there is a serious information gap which leaves them susceptible to adopting various vices.
She says many think the programme only focuses on sex education which is not true. She says adults want to run away from the reality that young people are having early sexual encounters which leave them having to deal with unplanned pregnancies, broken relationships, abortions and sexually transmitted infections.
And for their stance on safe sex practises, the programme has been on the receiving end of religious clubs at Jkuat. They, however, have backing from the university’s dean of students, Emma Omulokoni, who says the club is one of the agents of behaviour change at the university.
“The programme focuses on producing a holistic person, not just an academic machine, rather a person prepared to face the challenges of life,” she said.
Omulokoni says depending on the number of students each year and their needs, the programme takes about six to eight weeks. It targets first year students and has currently has 130 members both male and female.
“Over 3,000 students have gone through the programme and they have been trained by 40 of their peers,” she says.
Felicity Karimi, who has gone through the programme and is now a trainer, says that it has changed not only her life but that of her fellow students. The fifth year pharmacy student says she is now adequately prepared for life after campus.
“It so happens that most young people are left to their own devices only to later learn that the world after school is more than just books,” she says.
On the health component that has received a lot of complaints from some students, Karimi says theirs is not to encourage people to engage in sexual encounters but rather to let them know where they can get help in case they find themselves in such a predicament.
“We teach young people where to get help and when for instance which contraceptives are available and provide information on these,” she says.
Confirming that the programme is having an impact, Catherine Twini, a nurse at Jkuat hospital says the number of sexually related issues that existed before have since gone down.
She says cases of unplanned pregnancies and cases of abortions, plus affiliated complications, have seen remarkable decrease over the ten years she has been at the facility.
“We would deal with many cases of unwanted pregnancies and abortions that had gone wrong but after inception of this programme, students have been flocking here not only for services but also to seek information regarding their sexuality,” she says.
Twini is one of the health workers who was trained by the programme and she says the training has helped her better understand young people.
The Brighter Future programme is currently in different Kenyan universities and has so far trained 80 students to be life plan mentors.