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Vibes from the north leave audiences gasping for more

By | April 16th 2012 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300


In Kenya’s north eastern region, the day is usually hot and the nights can get exceedingly chilly.

Occasional rains come in torrents causing massive flooding and soil erosion.

This scenario discourages the much-needed pasture for cattle, camels and goats from flourishing, making life more difficult for the nomadic residents.

HERE WITH A MESSAGE: Schools from northern Kenya at the annual drama fete presented beautiful and strong pieces on real life experiences and challenged culture, which has slowed down their development compared to the rest of the country. [PHOTOS: GEORGE ORIDO/STANDARD]

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In turn, this hardship affects the people’s lifestyle. Education is the greatest victim of these circumstances.

But it is from this sun-scorched earth that Farhiya Nagane, 17, hails from. Being a girl, Farhiya has to combat many challenges including early marriage and poor attitude towards education of women in her Wajir County, and focus on her dream of one day joining other Kenyans in a quest to contribute to the country’s development.

Farhiya, the deputy head girl at Wajir Girls’ Secondary School and her fellow school mates are participating in this year’s Schools and Colleges Drama Festivals at Kakamega High School. "I am really excited to be here since it is my first time to travel this way," says a hijab-clad Farhiya. Her brightly coloured costume of red, orange and white make her and her group stand out.

On stage, they present their Kiswahili verse, Mwokozi, with confidence and action. The verse is in praise of Kenya’s new Constitution.

Free from harm

The verse pays particular attention to the Bill of Rights and especially the right of a woman to education, employment and peace as well as her being free from harm such as wife battering and female circumcision that is widespread in the region.

Ilikuwa kwamba wanawake hawawezi kupewa nyadhifa za ngazi za juu, sasa basi Katiba inatuwezesha kwa nyanja zote tumefaulu (Hitherto there were jobs reserved for men only, today the Constitution guarantees us equity at all levels), the verses declares.

Farhiya’s colleague, Kauthar Mohamed, encourages her peers to take to extra-curricular activities such as drama. "Drama has taught me so many things about life and leadership."

Their counterparts from Takaba Boys’ Secondary School from Mandera presented a play, Family Portrait, whose focus was on national cohesion and integration.

Written by their teacher Antone Oketch Oduor and produced by Abdirashid Shabure, the play depicts a talented sprinter who is struggling to feature in the Olympics but is hindered by rivalry in the athletics management body, tribal stereotypes and later, ill health.

The metaphor works well in conveying the message of tribalism and poor governance in our public institutions.

Furaha Mixed Day Secondary School won the hearts of many by their creative dance Nagaah.

Choreographed by Noordin Mohamed, the dance revolves around a boy and a girl coming from different neighbouring communities.

The boy would like to marry the girl but inter-communal conflicts and stereotypes have no room for such adventures.

He hatches a plan to elope with the love of his life.

He catches up with her at a borehole fetching water and this precipitates a major war between the two communities.

Truce reached

Elders come in to quell things and a truce is reached after dialogue starts. The two communities reconcile and the two lovebirds are allowed to marry. This is historic and opens the way for other young people to look for love beyond ethnic barriers.

"Our storyline is inspired by the realities of life," explains Oketch, who has taught in Mandera for three years and has brought his school to the nationals each year.

Shukri Mohammed Abdiow, 18, has been a cast member for his Takaba School for the same period of time.

Shukri says: "As a result of being in the drama club, I have toured the nation and now understand my country better."

Whenever he goes back to Mandera, his friends ask him, "How is Kenya, my brother!"

Well, many Kenyans in the nothern frontier have had this sense of not belonging because of the distance from the capital city Nairobi.

For example, it took the Takaba crew three days to reach Kakamega.

Even in drama, they keep their traditions. For instance, unlike other schools from other regions, male actors from the north cannot act with girls in the same play.

In mixed schools such as Furaha, the play has boys only actors while the girls would perform in the choral verse. Even in class, girls sit separately from boys, and the sexes don’t share amenities.

Vibes north eastern Farhiya Nagane
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