February 21, 2019

I recently attended an education event which took me down to memory lane of my high school days.  A mentorship program and policy was being launched on Saturday 16th February by Ministry of Education so as to roll out a structure into mentorship programme in Kenyan schools.

Arriving at the Upper Hill High School where the mentorship program was being launched, I found scouts and St. John Cadets practicing for a guard of honour fit for the much anticipated for C. S Cabinet for Education. Hon. Ambassadeur Dr. Amina Mohammed.  The cadets in black and white uniform St. John Ambulance brought back a nostalgic flash back of my high school days. I started out as a cadet, and by age 16 and plunged into leadership roles. As a Divisional Nursing Officer of Division 17 of St. Johns Ambulance Brigade, I was mentored with life skill activities including first aid and disaster management training that anchored me early in life.  Also included in the curriculum were outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain climbing, which gave the youthful cadets an outlet to expend our energy. Mentorship was deliberate, intentional and structured.  Younger cadets had the opportunity to ‘job shadow’ the older cadets until skills were transferred to the younger cadets.  This really kept us out of mischieve. We were kept so busy we had no time or energy left to indulge in risky social behaviour such as substance abuse or criminal activities.

I learned various lessons on mentorship. “ Effective mentorship enables the mentee to stand on the shoulders of one who is experienced so that they see ahead  and go further in life.”

Yet in our Kenyan setting, I see a gap in the education system.  With a bulging youth population, there are many who need positive role models to emulate. Old boys and alumni desiring to go back to their schools to mentor the students can be a confusing experience. What will you tell the students?  Is there a guide on how to do it? Who vets the mentors? How do you even measure impact on effects of a mentorship programme and the list of concerns around mentorship goes on and on.

Why Mentor?

According to Eng. Mike Mutungi, CEO of I Choose Life-Africa (ICL) research supports that school based mentoring services have positive outcomes for children and youth  which include increased completion rates, improved attitude towards learning, social skills, behaviour and resilience. A study by I Choose Life – Africa (2017), depicted that 82.3% of learners reported improved performance and motivation to stay in school as a result of mentorship. “In the last five years, we have mentored over 188,172 youth across 23 counties where we have observed that there was major improvement in performance, discipline, self-esteem, self-awareness among the students,” says Mutungi.

Based on the above research findings, ICL purposed to engage Ministry of Education to adopt the development of a National Mentorship Policy and Guide that would provide direction and a co-ordination framework for effective and efficient delivery of a mentoring programme in Kenyan Schools and institutes of higher learning such as universities, who can then mentor the high schoolers, who in turn mentor those in primary schools.

Launching the National Mentorship Program at Upperhill High School on 16th February, Education Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Amb. (Dr.) Amina Mohamed, Education Cabinet Secretary said, “There was a growing concern that mentorship in schools is not co-ordinated and that various actors in the field of mentorship have different curricula depending on their areas of focus”.

The study by I Choose Life-Africa revealed that, while mentorship is highly effective in molding learners, it is either unstructured or missing altogether in schools. In view of this, there is need to enhance a co-ordinated framework for implementation of mentorship programmes in order to protect the learners from any form of negative influence or abuse. It is in this regard that the Ministry has developed this Mentorship Policy and Guide for Early Learning and Basic Education to provide direction and a coordination framework for effective and efficient delivery of mentorship services to all learners.

The Ministry of Education through this Mentorship Policy will mainstream mentorship programmes across all Basic Education institution of Early Learning and Basic Education to ensure that mentorship programmes are in line with the provisions of the Mentorship Policy which will go a long way in realization of the national goals of Education. Mentorship programmes will connect learners with mentors who they can look up to as role models to help learners make informed decisions in their education, career and life in general.

Adopt a School Challenge

But so that this is not just another good policy on the shelves of Ministry of Education, I would like to challenge you to adopt a school and go mentor the students. It can be your former  school or the school next door.  If wondering how to do that, get a hold of the mentoring programme manual to get your talking points. Register as a mentor and pour out your life into the youth of this country. You never know what oaks or baobarb trees will grow out of the ‘seeds’ you sow, because You might just mentor the next President.