NATIONAL INITIATION RITES CONFERENCE REPORT
Theme: The Making of a Kenyan: Towards National Identity and Character Values
24 – 25 July 2017
Conference Convener: Pamela Abuya
Rapportuers: Florence Sipalla & Sylvia Njoki
The inaugural National Initiation Rites Conference, convened by the African Initiation Rites Programme (ACIP), brought together stakeholders in rites of passage from the different parts of the country. The participants included local and international academics, government officials, members of the clergy from different denominations, youth, parents, teachers, leaders of various initiation rites programmes, donors, ACIP alumni and mentors.
During the three-day conference, participants reflected on how the various rites of passage, currently practiced in Kenya, could help forge a national identify based on character virtues. The conference participants shared best practices from people and organisations mentoring youth with the aim of imparting positive character values. Majority of the groups and individuals were faith-based.
The participants also discussed the impact of harmful cultural practices that are part of initiation rites in different communities, for example, female genital mutilation. Participants also heard from ACIP alumni and parents who reflected on their experiences. They also reflected on emerging gaps in modern rites of passage and the genesis of these practices, particularly in multicultural urban settings. The conference provided a networking opportunity that underlined the importance of merging theory with practice through linkage between the academia and community.
The ACIP founders also shared research findings from a study they conducted to help them look back at the work they have done since inception. The tracer study, which combined quantitative and qualitative components, indicated the need for a longitudinal study. It was noted that the ACIP alumni, who were some of the respondents and research assistants, graduated from the ACIP at different times thus their experiences are somewhat varied. The study provided ACIP with valuable feedback on its impact, highlighting what was working well. It also enabled the founder members identify existing gaps.
Participants worked in groups to identify the character values that are key in forging a Kenyan identity. They identified the following: Integrity, equity, social responsibility, justice, good governance, cohesion, love for one another, patriotism, recognition of cultural diversity and a God-fearing nation. The conversation was hinged on Vision 2030, Kenya’s development blueprint, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Prayer and singing of the ACIP anthem marked the beginning of each day.
Opening Welcoming Address: Prof. Laban Ayiro, Vice Chancellor, Moi University
The official opening remarks by Prof. Ayiro were made on his behalf by Prof. Peter T. Simatei, the Dean of the School of Arts.
The VC gave a warm welcome to the local and international participants of the ACIP conference, which he described as the first of its kind in the country. He urged all participants to actively participate in brainstorming and sharing at the workshop. Below is his speech as read by Prof. Simatei.
The goal of all human activities is sustainable development, where sustainable development refers to that development in which human beings pursue happiness, relate with their holistic environment in a way that does not jeopardize the quality of life for future generations. The essence of sustainable development therefore calls for health and stable human relationships with themselves, with each other, and with the entire natural world, implying the centrality of human identity and values.
It is no wonder therefore that Kenya’s development blueprint, the Kenya vision 2030, identifies patriotism and integrity as the foundation on which social, political and economic development must be laid. This is a moral foundation without which sustainable development would be elusive.
Moi University, located in the North rift region of the country, is the second public university in Kenya. The University is mandated to offer teaching and training in Higher Education and to spearhead research and extension for local, national and international development. Moi University has positioned itself as a key agent to the realization of the SDGs and at the national level, to the realization of the Kenya Vision 2030 through this mandate.
For a long time, universities operated as ivory towers with little or no relevance to local communities. They would conduct research and generate new findings that would be compiled into beautiful reports. These reports would be stacked in library shelves to gather dust. But this situation has dramatically changed. At Moi, under the research and extension mandate, the university has keenly promoted research, community extension and service to ensure research uptake for practical development. One of the research projects going on at Moi University with deliberate participation of local communities for sustainable development is the ACIP, a character values program.
The program was conceived in the early 1990s and founded in 2004 by researchers at the then Moi University School of Social, Cultural and Development Studies as translation of various research findings that they had generated in their research work with young people. ACIP was specifically developed to close a cultural void that exists in Kenya in initiation and mentorship of young people. ACIP does this by providing adolescents with information and life skills that build their character for effective transition from childhood to responsible adulthood. The vision of ACIP is to be a global leader in mentoring adolescents with values and life skills by offering guidance to adolescents of all races, sex, social class, religion, ability, political and ethnic backgrounds that build confidence and self-esteem in themselves, while promoting fundamental skills and values for responsible leadership in society. ACIP also equips adolescents and their parents to handle emerging challenges by providing relevant content and a conducive environment for spiritual, social, mental and physical growth.
Among the core values of ACIP are respect for creation which translates into care and compassion for self, for other humans, and for all environment in spite of differences, love, honesty, hard work, self-discipline, responsibility and spirituality.
In 2004, ACIP began engaging local communities of adolescents and their parents in various mentorship activities. Ten years later, in the absence of a systematic monitoring and evaluation process, the question of whether ACIP has had any impact in developing and sustaining character virtues inevitably emerged. The organisers of the programme therefore designed an ACIP assessment proposal with various expected outputs. The basic activity was to conduct a tracer study to access all ACIP alumni after which they would use a standardized tool to compare character virtues of the ACIP alumni vis-à-vis those of non-ACIP alumni and to establish if ACIP alumni associate specific virtues with ACIP. It also involved profiling of initiation rites of passage from childhood to adulthood across seven counties in Kenya in order to identify best practices that may be replicated and up-scaled to national level, among other activities. The proposal was designed that the ACIP assessment would culminate in national workshop on national character virtues that would bring together practitioners of and researchers on identity and character values across Kenya to begin to brainstorm on the subject. Today, as Vice Chancellor of Moi University, I am extremely gratified that the ACIP assessment has been carried out successfully and therefore we have this national workshop.
The ACIP project demonstrates that as George Eliot observed: “character is not cut in stone. It is not slid and un-malleable. It is something living and changing”. It validates the work that every one of you is doing towards national identity and character values. Further, the assessment demonstrates that character and character building can be subjected to careful and rigorous scientific study.
I am reliably informed that Sir John Templeton believed that human beings are capable of mastering their character for effective service to self and to humankind. He could not have been more right.
On behalf of the VC, Prof. Simatei thanked the Templeton World Charity Foundation, represented at the conference by by Prof. Andrew Briggs and Dr. Fiona Gatty, for generously funding the activities of the ACIP assessment. He also thanked the ACIP team for their service to community over the years and to affirm their dream that a future of virtuous Kenyans is possible.
Official Opening Address: Dr. Dinah Mwinzi, Principal Secretary, Vocational and Technical Training, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
At the time when ACIP was founded 18 years ago, Dr. Dinah Mwinzi worked in the Dean of Students office at Moi University. In the course of her work, Dr. Mwinzi was exposed to the daily challenges that students faced as they struggled to strike a balance in their newly found freedom, far away from home.
Dr. Mwingi observed the struggles of eager 18 and 19-year-olds, many of who were handling unsupervised time, money, competing ideas and a special new status as elite Kenyans who had qualified to attain a university education. Their struggles boiled down to choice, and how best to exercise their free will: Why go to class when no one will call out a register? Why go to sleep when you can dance all night? Why eat in the dining room when you can buy chips and chicken? Why remain faithful to your fourth-year girlfriend when younger models have just arrived in first year?
Working with the Dean of Students, Dr. Mwinzi participated in efforts to help students untangle themselves from consequences of their choices which included panic, regrets, unwanted babies, addiction, lost time and bungled examinations. She interacted closely with faculty members to mitigate all these negative consequences on the academic life of students. “One of our strategies at the office of the Dean of Students then was “prevention” – measures that could equip students with life skills to help them make intelligent choices; choices whose consequences would not surprise them; choices that would lead them to realize their dreams and fulfill their ambitions,” said the PS.
Dr. Mwinzi described her joy when ACIP founders, all of whom were lecturers in the School of Arts, decided to run Ladies to Ladies talks. This was a forum that provided female students an opportunity to interact with female lecturers outside their academic lives. “These were honest conversations in which female students raised their problems and the compassionate faculty gave them advice that would help the students safeguard their best interests and stay on course to complete their degree programmes,” said Dr. Mwinzi. She added that these conversations contributed to reducing the load of issues the Dean of Students office had to address.
The PS noted that she had always felt that female students at the university needed positive role models to help them chart their dreams. “Having these Ladies to Ladies forums in which our students could see the ordinary side of their lecturers as people who thought about “mundane” issues such as dating and romance, was god-sent for our students.”
After a while, male students asked to be invited to these forums as they felt they had been discriminated against. ‘“These girls are very difficult, they really give us problems with their demands for chicken, money to go to town to do their hair and so on,”’Dr. Mwinzi said quoting the young men describing some of the challenges they faced in their interactions with female students. In response to this call, female lecturers adjusted their initial project design and included the boys on campus. “This kind of flexibility and commitment is what ultimately gave birth to ACIP as an annual life-skills programme targeting 13-year-olds so that by the time they reached university, they would be equipped with some degree of competencies in handling their freedom and their relationships,” said Dr. Mwinzi.
The PS congratulated the ACIP founder members for never giving up on finding the answers to their initial research question: how can our society help children to transition into responsible adults and committed citizens? Dr. Mwinzi also lauded the research that ACIP has undertaken and the work by all the initiation programmes represented at the conference. She indicated that their collective work is of immense value to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. “This is because we not only promote the production of knowledge through basic research but, we are very committed to applied research that has a direct bearing on policy-making,” said the PS. “Whether we are dealing with formal education, vocational training or technical education, we at the Ministry know that no education curriculum can succeed unless it is underpinned by a wholistic approach that equips learners with psycho-social awareness and emotional intelligence,” added Dr. Mwinzi. She also noted that the work on initiation rites which immerses young Kenyans in a true awareness of their communities and their role in society is priceless as it supplements the work that the Ministry of Education does in formal and vocational schools and colleges.
The PS emphasized the critical role that all participants play in generating better opportunities for young people and realizing the strength of the social foundation that is the bedrock of this country’s Vision 2030. “Let us use the opportunity of this national workshop to forge new networks, to strengthen partnerships and to plan for a brighter future for our young people,” said Dr. Mwinzi in her closing remarks.
• Drawing from Prof. Brigg’s presentation where he spoke of obituary building, a participant asked Dr Mwinzi how she would like to be remembered. This is what she said: “I served my country with humility, integrity and diligence, every day of my life.”
• Dr. Mwinzi was also asked if the fight against FGM is addressed in the education curriculum. She indicated that it was included in the curriculum through modelling of an education system that emphasizes values and integrity from a young age. Thus, young people are aware that FGM is a vice. The education system also trains students through vocational strengths and talents, thus a student can choose different career pathways based on what suits them best. They also place emphasis on certain competencies to prepare students for the workplace.
• “People desire values, to do good, but they don’t know how. How do we choose good and make good choices? How do we stop engaging in corruption?” In response to this question from a participant, Dr Mwinzi indicated the way to fight vices like corruption was to focus on values and ensuring they are deeply ingrained. She called for choosing values that are productive for the nation’s development and decried the culture of celebrating wrong values. “We should change this attitude by choosing leaders who demonstrate integrity in our schools, churches and the government. Good leadership and guidance will translate in a people with good morals and character values,” said Dr Mwinzi.
• It was noted that the visual image of Vision 2030, has values as the foundation. Dr Mwinzi was asked what is being done to create awareness on this foundation as the public is aware of flagship projects and strategic actions on Vision 2030’s social, economic and political pillars. In her response to this question, Dr Mwinzi noted that government appointments are based on the integrity of the individual and how they are helping their communities. This is guided by the Constitution of Kenya 2010, specifically chapter six. Participants were also challenged to celebrate and reward those who embrace and promote positive values to create incentives.
• A participant also asked if Christian values had to be adopted to augment African values in youth education. It was noted that in the present day, a lot of the African values are influenced by Christianity. It was also noted that African spirituality goes hand in hand with Christianity in terms of character values.
• After independence, technical courses such as carpentry were marginalized as the education system valorized white collar jobs, where they were viewed as more prestigious and had better pay. A participant raised concerns about how this view has led to the job market being flooded by educated Kenyans looking for white-collar jobs that were currently unavailable while the government outsources some blue-collar jobs in the construction. Dr Mwinzi indicated that the government has an ongoing initiative to build and revive technical colleges and vocational training centres. Currently, the government has built 217 technical colleges all over the country and there are ongoing plans to build 87 more. The government has provided the job opportunities for the technicians to work on the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), airports and roads.
• A parent with a disabled child asked what the government is doing to cater for disabled children. The parent indicated that children with disabilities are currently examined under the same circumstances as their counterparts living without disabilities. He also asked if youth with disabilities are considered for vocational training to equip them with skills they can use to earn a living. Dr Mwinzi noted that there are specialized institutions that cater specifically for the disabled such as the Machakos Institute for the Blind and St Joseph’s Technical Institute for the Deaf in Nyang’oma. Youth living with disabilities are trained and engaged in income generating projects.
Keynote address: Addressing the Youth Gap: The Emergence of Modern Rites of Passage (1997 – 2016)
Dr Muhia Karianjahi, Graduate Programs and Global Initiatives Manager, HoneyRock – Outdoor Center for Leadership, Wheaton College, Illinois, USA.
Dr Karianjahi started working with street children in Mukuru wa Njenga in South B in 1997. He shared the findings of a study involving 16 street children who were asked to draw images of where they see themselves in fifteen years. Fourteen of them drew big elaborate matatus (public taxi), one drew a coffin, and the other a small family.
Karianjahi found it very disturbing that such young children could be so unambitious and with little hope for life. However this was a reflection of how society treats street children. There is a major disconnect between what we believe and what we do. We refuse to be kind and treat these street children as less than we are. We scorn them in the streets and are embarrassed to be seen talking to them. However, the touts are kind to the street children treating them as human beings. They address them by names and mentor them; joking and having laughs with them which makes them feel normal. This is why the streets children look up to touts and admire them.
There exists a definite youth gap that has not been clearly identified or defined. Where are we missing the mark? How do we narrow the youth gap? Dr Karianjahi models of rites of passage as follows:
Models of Rites of Passage
• The traditional model rites of passage- Its main aim is to restore the values and morals of a traditional society back into the modern world. It holds the value of traditional culture, involving both male and female members. It gives a sense of identity and growing up. However, it runs the risk of disassociating the participants from the modern society. Also it can dislodge the initiates fro the normal trajectory of life.
• Adhoc neighborhood rites of passage- Initiate is taken to hospital for the cut and then taken back home to heal. Sometimes two or three families bring their children together for this purpose.
• Institutional rites of passage- Done in an institution with professional caretakers who then mentor the initiates on valuable life skills. The advantage is leveraging on the institutional organization and the integrity of the caretakers.
• Renaissance rites of passage- Trying to restore an old model with sophistication of wealth and prestige. The traditional circumcisers are brought but only for the traditional song and dance, ceremoniously only. The initiates are taken to hospitals for the cut and back home to recuperate. Children living in diaspora sometimes come back home for this but there is a disconnect between the modern elite and their traditional sense of belonging.
How to bridge the youth gap
A majority (80%) of Kenyans are youth, aged under 35. There are numerous studies on the existence of the young gap. For many parents, the state of the nation’s youth fills them with dread. This raises the question of how to address the youth gap:
• By telling stories – Stories not only shape how we view life but how we imagine ourselves and the world. Who we are and who we are capable of being depends on the stories we tell, the stories we hear and the stories we leave out. Stories that capture the love, desire and gut of who we are as human beings.
• By instilling the right values in the youth, we can completely transform the future of our nation. We should take the time to diagnose the underlying problems that are propagating the youth gap and come up with the appropriate solutions.
• By addressing the myth of the nation state – Thinking that we can come up with a one size fits all solution for the youth. Every youth has a unique life and challenges, the solutions to their problems should be just as uniquely diverse.
• Brains on a stick assumption – An assumption that academic education captures the minds and heart of the youth. That as long as we cram as much information into the minds of the youth they will automatically translate it in their lives. There needs to be practical knowledge impact.
• Carrots on a stick assumption- An assumption that financial prosperity is the ultimate form of success. That we should work hard in school to get good jobs so as to be wealthy and successful. How about we teach our children values of patriotism, family, friendship, compassion and respect? Financial wealth should not be the ultimate goal of our lives. Financial resources are important, but they do not stand on their own for one to be considered successful.
• The magical cut- An assumption that once you get the cut, you automatically become an adult. That having foreskin is lacking foresight. The uncircumcised are considered immature, dirty, immoral, but once they get the cut, they become respectable members of the community. There is a nationwide misunderstanding of what the cut does and how it works.
How can we counter the youth gap?
We need to align and clarify what is our ultimate goal and do it with actions. Human beings try to pursue what we believe is our ultimate goal. E.g Wangari Maathai’s life’s goal was to protect the environment; Usain Bolt’s is attaining the ultimate speed. We all have personal goals. So what values are we communicating with our youth that they should aspire towards? For example the six C’s which have measurable outcomes.
c) Connection with society and peers
d) Character and respect for societal norms
e) Caring-sympathy and empathy for others
f) Contribution- Positive contribution to the society that can propagate it further.
• Design rituals that align with the telos. This is accomplished by actions. Crafting stories that encourage and are realistic to the present realities of life. The rituals and ceremonies that we do, especially in religion, are for the benefit of the congregation and not the deities. Those are things we can use to capture the imagination of the youth, to craft a story that people can believe and abide by.
• Empower the priest; the right priests for the liturgies. Let’s interrupt the negative stories from negative priests. Influencers of the youth are:
a. Parents – Let’s stop subcontracting parenting to the nannies, teachers and society. Let’s ensure that parents have a significant role in the designing of rites of passage programs. Let’s stop detaching from the youth, embrace and take an active role in the shaping of characters of our youth.
b. Non-parental adults – Facilitators, Counsellors We need to look for the right non-parental adults and empower them. Can teachers who are significant people in the children’s lives come and become part of the interpretive communities. The soccer coaches, we need to be intentional in determining who does that.
c. People working with youth – Re-imagine the cohorts of rites of passage. In our context, rites of passage have to be community-based. How can parents be involved in choosing who these cohorts are. In their churches, schools, encourage those friendships in an intentional manner, invite them to their homes. If the parents, and non-parental adults are talking, you have network closure, which allows all adults dealing with adolescents to know what information they are exposed to and what challenges they face.
d. Peers – We need to examine what other rites of passage adolescents go through. What is helping youth transition from high school to college and is there a rite to help them figure out life out of college? Creating an riika (Gikuyu for age set) would help the youth navigate these life stages together.
• In the interactive question and answer session, it was noted that the environment can contribute to the development of young people’s values especially in schools, churches and social groups.
• Technology was highlighted as a positive tool in maintaining contact in permanent cohorts for youth as they can communicate through social media, e.g. using WhatsApp regardless of geographical distances. This allows people to move on with their individual lives but also have common connections and open lines of communications.
• However, some participants shared that cell phone use is banned during their initiation rites as it creates distraction.
• Participants were challenged to embrace the information age and use technology to suit their purposes. For example, cellphones provide quick channels for communication with parents in cases of emergency or even to keep them in the loop on what their children are learning during initiation camps.
• A participant asked how the sharing of different rites of passage, both modern and traditional could be used to come up with guidelines aimed at forming youth with positive character values. It was noted that there is beauty in diversity.
• The different stakeholders at the inaugural ACIP national conference were urged to share trade secrets while keeping in mind the value of diversity in the curriculum that allows for multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic rites of passage by different players.
Character Virtues and Sustainable Development – Prof. Andrew Briggs, Templeton World Charity Foundation
“We can determine how to be masters of our habits and we begin with self-control.”
Sir John Templeton.
In his address, Prof. Andrew Briggs highlighted the benefits of character values to young people and society at large. These include confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-control, honesty and hard work. These values are mainly built on the choices the youth make. Prof. Briggs noted that ACIP is helping young people to make these choices.
Prof. Briggs highlighted the importance of teaching and practicing character values. Parents teach children to give thanks. This in turn helps them demonstrate the values taught through thanksgiving. He also noted that one can choose to exhibit a character virtue at any instance or train oneself to do so through practice. For example, joy does not come to one by happenstance, one chooses to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he urged participants, noting that to do so, one has to practice the character virtue of joy.
Forgiving is another character virtue that one gains through practice. Prof. Briggs gave the example of Eric Lo, a railway engineer who became a prisoner of war when he went to work on the Japanese Burma railway. He was water-boarded, tortured during interrogation. Lo chose to go back to Japan to meet the man who tortured him and forgave him. “If you do not forgive people who harm you, then your Father in heaven will not forgive you.” Prof. Briggs noted that forgiveness is a hard choice. He also highlighted the importance of sometimes going against the grain. He gave the example of instrument flying, indicating that at times there is a mismatch between what one’s body is telling you and the instruments.
Prof. Briggs urged participants to concentrate on obituary building rather than CV writing. He indicated that often, young people are focused on building their CVs. He urged participants to think of how they would like to be remembered and work on building the character values that they would like to be remembered by. In conclusion, Prof. Briggs noted that ACIP motivates and equips young people to make good choices that will lead to characters that are worthwhile.
Chair: Rev Wilfred Kogo, PCEA
Experiences of Adolescents in Kenya
Sharylne Nekesa Cheptoo
Sharlyne shared her experience as an adolescent, describing her own transition to from childhood to adulthood. She is a university student, entrepreneur who heads their household. She is the guardian of her 10-year-old brother who is in primary school. After the death of her father, her mother emigrated to the United States of America, leaving Shirley as the head of the family. She lives with her sibling and a 19-year-old cousin.
Sharlyne describes the transition from childhood to adulthood in four stages that occur in primary school, secondary school, university and after university. The first is in primary school, when pupils are between Standard 6 and 8. In Standard 6, she was introduced to sexual education. The class learnt about learnt about body changes, sexual discovery and peer pressure. At this point, she noticed that the girls who were her peers were developing breasts and hips while she was only growing tall. Her classmates observed that developing the same body changes that were expected. Sharlyne noted that they were not told about late bloomers thus her peers assumed that those who were not displaying the expected changes at adolescent were an anomaly. Owing to her height, she was nicknamed ostrich. She credits her mother for teaching her to accept herself. “Do not shy away from the names,” was her mother’s advice which made Sharlyne embrace her nickname.
“Parents need to talk about adolescence,” emphasized Sharlyne, urging parents not to leave education to teachers. “They will use facts in textbooks and textbooks do not have experiences.” She also urged parents to speak to their children about hygiene in relation to the bodily changes that occur in adolescence.
The next stage Sharlyne described was secondary school. “New level, new devil,” is an expression she used to describe the new things that get introduced in the lives of the youth at this stage. These include drugs, social media, drugs and other negative trends. In many boys’ schools, bullying is prevalent especially towards students in Form one. She noted that where in girls’ schools, bullying was not very common.
It is also at this stage that students feel the need to create illusions to fit in as they want to also participate in dorm room discussions. It is also the stage where the adolescents start experiencing self-discovery. Sharlyne highlighted that parent to child conversations are very important at this stage. It is in secondary school that Sharlyne learnt that she could organize events and speak in public. “Unless a child is guided at this point, there will be no self- discovery, there will be loss.”
Students are beginning to make career choices at this stage thus it is important for parents to speak to have career discussions with their students at this point. “If your child is on social media, make sure you follow them. You need to know what your child is posting online,” said Sharlyne who indicated that her mother is her friend on social media.
Social media can be positive but it also has negative components. This is exemplified in the trend on social media where young girls aspire to be ‘slay queens.’ They earn money from pictures posted on social media, thus their main quest is to have as many followers as possible. This has become a career for socialites, the highest ranking slay queen has 100 million followers. They follow the mantra, ‘sex sells,’ and they use their sexuality to generate content that can sell commodities.
The third stage is university. Sharlyne describes the previous stages as trailers to this stage. This is where the youth are exposed to unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and drugs. At times, youth use humour to normalize vices they encounter at this stage.
Financial management is a major challenge at this stage. Many young people do not have bank accounts, are not keen on saving money and do not know that they have tax obligations, for those who are earning money. There are no talks on financial management and students have a lot of idle time. As a result, many get sucked into betting that is easily accessible and end up losing valuable items such as their laptops and furniture. “Betting is a big problem for youth in our country but no one is talking about it,” said Sharlyne.
Issues related to sex and sexuality start manifesting at this stage. There are young women who would say they would rather have AIDS than have child as no one would know they are HIV positive but a pregnancy would be visible. Such views lead to young people making unwise choices that reflected the twisted morality in society.
The fourth stage is after university. This is the point when youth are starting to think about how to correct the wrongs of yesteryears. This is when the realization of what true friendship is dawns on many. It is also at this point that many are thinking about suitable life partners.
Sharlyne argues that to help youth navigate the challenges of these transitional stages, candid conversations from an early age are key. Teaching children life skills at different stages in life is imperative. She was quick to point out that lectures would not work but rather parental guidance would. “At kindergarten, you should speak to children about how to relate to the opposite sex.” She also urged parents not to over-react to what their children are experiencing. This observation is drawn from her experience as her brother’s guardian. She gave the example of her brother’s request for a Valentine’s Day gift for a girl in his class. When he gave the girl a pair of earrings, the teachers felt it was inappropriate and summoned the parents of both pupils to the school. As a guardian, she feels that it is important to teach children that they can have platonic relationships. She explained to her brother that he and the girl in his class could be platonic friends until when they are both at an appropriate age to have a girlfriend.
Cheryl Ivy Abuya
Cheryl is an undergraduate student at a Christian university. She indicated that contrary to popular belief the students in the Christian institution are not exempt from unhealthy habits such as drug use and peddling. This is facilitated by a group of students who leave the university campus for town for practical component of their studies. In addition, the nursing students sometimes help their counterparts procure abortions by providing drugs to induce labour.
Parents are urged to me more open with their children to prevent such vices. They are encouraged to be friends with their children on social media to monitor their activities online and offline to facilitate open communication. This would enable them to provide support to their children as role models and mentors.
Panel discussion: Initiation Rites in Kenya II
Chair: Rev Wilfred Kogo, PCEA
This panel discussion brought together participants who were mainly from communities that practice female genital mutilation (FGM). They spoke about their work in their communities that encompassed equipping young girls with life skills within the school curriculum and in other activities. Some panelists also shared their life experiences, one sharing how she escaped FGM and another describing suffering from a fistula after delivery as a result of FGM performed on her as a child.
Chairing the session, Rev Kogo emphasized that success is not accidental and has to be planned for. This was a fitting introduction for the panel as participants spoke about how collaboration in their initiation work. “You have to collaborate with similar minded people to achieve maximum success,” said Rev Kogo.
Sarah Gichungu, Narok County
Sarah Gichungu is a teacher in Narok County. In primary school, pupils are taught life skills. This helps them cultivate responsibility, assertiveness, self-esteem that help them navigate societal expectations. The teachers are also trained in guidance and counselling to equip them in dealing with the adolescents during the transition from childhood to adulthood.
In some parts of the county, pastoralism has paralysed learning. During dry spells, boys and girls often leave school to attend to livestock and fetch water. The community is also tackling the challenges of FGM through sensitization campaigns to raise awareness on the negative effects of practice. The alternative rite of passage is common in the area, where girls go through an initiation rite without undergoing the cut. In addition, role models in the community have changed the dynamics of the county as they demonstrate the benefits of education.
Naserian Torome, Narok County
Naserian Torome is a teacher in Narok County. She indicated that the inhabitants of the county are drawn from diverse communities who then interact. The teachers are involved in highlighting the dangers of the traditional circumcision rite for boys e.g. risk of contracting HIV when the circumciser uses the same blade on all initiates. The community is also seeing an increase in the Christian-based alternative rite of passage for girls.
Robi Marwa, Kuria Girl Rescue Centre, Migori County
Robi Marwa is from the Kuria Community where FGM is prevalent. She is a mother of eight children, four of whom are adopted. She escaped FGM in 1972 because her father, who was pastor rescued her from the ritual. As a result, her family was rejected and declared outcasts by their community. They discriminated against and were the target of arson when their house was set on fire at a point.
Robi identifies education as thepillar that propelled her forward in life. At Kuria Girl Child Rescue Centre, a community based organization (CBO) she started, she instills the values of education, respect, confidence and patriotism. She is currently writing a book: Complete Without a Cut.
Gladys Nyasuguta, Hope Foundation, Nyamira County
Gladys Nyasuguta is from the Kisii community where FGM is prevalent. She underwent FGM at the age of 9. She was quick to dispel the myth that if parents are educated their daughters would escape the cut as her father was a teacher.
Nyasuguta is a mother of four. When she was expecting her first child, she experienced prolonged labour and was referred to the teaching hospital. It is at this point that she experienced the negative effects of FGM firsthand as she developed a fistula. After receiving treatment, the medics also counselled her and her husband.
After her third child was born, Nyasuguta went to university to pursue a diploma in adult education. She is a passionate anti-FGM campaigner and is actively involved in educating her community on the negative effects of FGM.
Initiation Rites in Kenya I
Camp 360 works with churches in Nairobi, these are drawn from the Nairobi Chapel outshoots. Below are highlights on Camp 360:
• A one-week camp at the end of the year – participants get to do physical exercise, fun and games to create an enabling environment to speak out on issues.
• Facilitators are people who are mature in their faith and are engaged in planning the programme.
• Counsellors are people have been through Camp 360 and work as volunteers involved in the youth ministry in their churches. in their churches, working with youth.
• Campers are drawn from all the churches where the ROPES programme is in place.
• Participants aged between 15 and 19 years focus on discipleship. The individual churches do the follow up. The counsellors in the individual churches do the follow-up and continue the with the youth over the year.
• The focus is to develop a bible reading culture, as it is the school’s foundation.
• The ratio of counsellor to teenagers is 1:5. They share what they read and have a reflection.
Mary Nga’ng’a – Thahabu Thamanini
Thahabu Thamanini programme has been running for 10 years. It is a family run entity, Ng’ang’a, a mother of six boys works with her children in managing the programme. Their motto is: Our youth, our future! They invest in the future of the family through the youth.
The programme is both a physical and mental initiation. “Parents are the foundation in a family,” said Ng’ang’a, adding that they are the constant factor in the life of every person. They therefore take time to prepare parents through seminars.
The family is central in their interventions. This is because they view the family as foundation of society, noting that the relationship that parents have as a couple has an impact on their children. They also teach initiates about African cultural values.
Thamani Thamanini also work with nurses, who take care of the physical wound after the boys undergo circumcision.
Dr. Paul Nyongesa, Moi University
Dr Nyongesa graduated as a doctor in 1983 and attained his qualifications in obstetrics and gynecology in 1991 and teaches at Moi university. The obstetrics and gynecology specialist is interested in integrating spirituality into maternal care. He teaches a course covering adolescent pregnancy and pregnancy in advanced maternal age.
In 2003, he developed an interest in self-empowerment. He later enrolled in a PhD programme in Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts at Moi University. In the course of his PhD studies, Dr Nyongesa learnt how to write advanced theory. Under Prof. Egesa’s supervision, he chose to conduct research in a sub-county in Busia.
Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood. The WHO definition of health is a state of complete social, physical and mental well-being. Often, when the youth are unemployed, they are not in a healthy state. “As long as you don’t have an income, you are still an adolescent,” says Dr Nyongesa adding that many young people are adolescents until the age of 26.
Rev. Joseph Samoei, Reformed Church of East Africa, ACIP Chaplain
Rev. Samoei is currently the chaplain at Wareng High School. Under Ushirika Intervention Centre, Samoei works with street children. They get boys who have not undergone the rite of passage and take them through some learning sessions. They also feed the children three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They have also integrated seven former street boys with their families.
While working a chaplain at Hill School, Rev. Samoei learnt to be available to young children. “Children need people to surround them. If there is nobody around them, they will feel insecure,” said Rev. Samoei. He conducted some research on 1200 children on whom they talk to about their experiences. About 1000 children said they can only share their experience and pain with friends because they are available always. “Be friends to your children,” urged Samoei.
In the course of his work, Rev. Samoei has also encountered cases of sexual abuse. He encountered a child who was being sexually abused by her father. On speaking to her mother, she was not willing to involve the authorities in addressing the matter. She argued that if the information became public, her husband would cut them off financially. The mother also said the man would be embarrassed and prosecuted and she was not ready to take the risk of facing the consequences.
Pauline Ngimwa works in a research organization involved in policy advocacy. She is involved in youth mentoring in her personal capacity. Pauline does not have children but is a godmother to many and has opened her house to her nephews at times when they needed support. In her experience mentoring youngsters in her family, she has observed that listening to them and offering guidance can help them identify career paths that are suitable for them. Below are some highlights from her presentation:
• She serves as a youth mentor and trustee in an education centre that started out as an orphanage. The institution was started by her former high school principal in Kinangop. The institution has now transitioned into a school, supported by well-wishers and volunteers
• The children who grew up in the orphanage have done well academically, leading to admissions in universities and vocational colleges. Many come back to give back to the school.
• The faith-based based school organizes life skills sessions as well as character building.
• One of the challenges they experience in running the school is the lack of a constant supply of funds.
Dr. Clare Rono, Moi University
Dr. Rono is working on a project on intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge and values. She is investigating why there was chaos in Nandi County, where youth participated in post-election violence in 2007/2008. Youth participated in destruction of property, burning houses and granaries, raping and killing women and children, all of which are taboo.
The researcher noted that this is because of a break in intergenerational transfer of cultural knowledge and skills from older generations to the teenagers. The traditional mentors who offered teachings in the Kokwet traditions were no longer the original tutors but just random people with no training, traditional or otherwise.
In the course of her work, she has observed that there is a gap in intergenerational communications. Women in the community have given up the tools of female circumcision but are now willing to teach the traditional virtues and character values instead. They teach the girls about responsible sexual behaviour and virtues.
Henry Kangwana, Kakamega County
Kangwana grew up in a family with a strict father. He was a military man who was aloof and did not communicate much with his children. He had a sharp and loud voice that further alienated the children. There was no communication about life skills and the only interaction they had with him was through punishment.
In his teenage years, Kangwana lived with his grandparents who brewed and drank busaa, the traditional alcohol. He acquired a habit of drinking busaa which he carried on into his adulthood, to the point that it was affecting his marriage and work. Kangwana met a man of God who helped him transform his life for the better. He is now sober and serves as a mentor for recovering alcoholics. Below are highlights from his sharing:
• Human beings are not trees, they can change the course of their life. With the right mentorship, one is able to change for the better.
• Parents plant seeds in their children, whether good or bad that they develop as they grow up. If a child is taught discrimination and hate on basis of ethnicity, tribe or geographical locations, this is what they embrace as they grow up. However, if good values; love and respect are taught from a young age, the child grows up to be a productive, honourable member of the community.
Reuben Kigame – Boys to Men Programme
Reuben Kigame is a Christian living with a disability (blindness). He is also a well-known musician, having received recognition for his singing talents. However, not many know of his work mentoring young men. ACIP founder Prof. Eunice Kamaara introduced him to the program after he appeared on the Churchill show and spoke about his boys to men programme.
Kigame challenged the participants to think about how blind youth learn about sexuality. “How did you learn to kiss?” He noted that most people learn how to kiss through vision, by watching people kiss on TV perhaps. “Who teaches a blind child how to be a man? How does he know how a girl’s breast looks like? How to Kiss? How to have sex?”
He also challenged participants on the gender biases society ingrains in children. “When a young boy comes home crying and says he was beaten by a girl, what do you tell the boy? How do we help the young men who endure violence in their homes? How does a boy become a man?
In his programme, Kigame also teaches young men about personal hygiene and responsibility. He mentors them on a personal level with a view to empower them. Kigame lamented about the reckless behavior of matatu drivers and touts. He described them as boys playing with big toys (the matatus) which is often dangerous for other road users.
Kigame also raised the issue of lyrics in pop songs. He asked why the world accepts ‘nonsensical’ songs and celebrates them. He gave the example of Rihanna’s hit song ‘Work.’
Hellen Kirui, Kapkogo Mentorship and Empowerment Programme
Before she started the interdenominational mentorship programme in 2007, Kirui was a youth officer. In the beginning, Kirui used her own resources to fund the programme. She saw the need for such a programme when she was approached by three girls for advice. One, who had a child as an adolescent, was contemplating suicide as she regretted the mistakes of her youth. Over 3 consecutive days, she prayed and reflected on this calling and decided to start the mentorship programme. Below are some highlights on Kapkogo Mentorship and Empowerment Programme:
• The most recent workshop was over a period of 14 days where they hosted 114 girls. In the past year, they have trained 427 girls in different constituencies.
• Topics covered included hygiene, drug abuse, taboos. The teachings are complemented with the word of God.
• After 5 years, they developed a curriculum for the work and conduct an annual camp.
• Having noted that the participants have varied issues, they divide them in age appropriate groups.
• At the camping site, the trainers do not the youth to have contact with their parents and discourage mobile phone use over the two-week period to allow for total concentration by participants.
• The youth have access guidance and counselling during the camp where they are able to discuss some of the challenges they encounter.
• The facilitators also invite medical practitioners for checkups. At times, they discover some participants have sexually transmitted diseases and get them treatment.
• Some participants have shared that there are incidences of incest involving fathers/sons and in some cases, mothers help to keep this a secret in the families.
• The facilitators get to debrief after the camp.
• So far, 520 women have been trained to be mentors and counsellors in their villages and churches.
Rev Kogo – Success is a sacrifice
If you want to test the depth of the river, test with one leg. The youth are testing with both legs.
Rev Kogo described education being key in allowing the youth to interact with different communities across the globe. “Education is an international currency,” said Kogo.
Emma Mithamo – ACIP Pioneer Parent
“We are the group which had a gap – Christianity cut the gap between us and the cultural rites of passage.” Emma Mithamo, ACIP Pioneer Parent.
Mithamo is the 10th born in a family of 11 children, she is also the seventh girl. Her parents were pioneer Christians who abandoned the traditional practices. This included female genital mutilation (FGM). During the initiation rite, initiates underwent numerous lessons including on sexuality. As a result, there was absolute silence on sexuality in her family. Mithamo indicated that even when Christian boys underwent the cut, it was without the teachings that came with the traditional rite of passage.
Mithamo lamented that no one spoke to her about menstruation. Her parents and elder sisters maintained silence on the topic. Learning from her upbringing, Mithamo was prepared to speak to her daughter about menstruation. She had done her research on the topic. However, she was surprised when her then nine-year-old daughter raised the issue of circumcision. The daughter asked when she would be going for the cut. This was because she had heard some of her peers talking about FGM.
As the mother was still pondering how to address the issue, she heard about ACIP from one of the founders. She then attended the first ACIP event – the parents’ workshop. “We all want our children to learn [about sexuality] and learn the right way,” said Mithamo, noting that ACIP provided such an avenue. “The parents would like to see ACIP grow and reach more youth countrywide.”
Micah Yego, Testimony Homes
“Our children have been mentored through ACIP and parents have been empowered.”
Micah Yego, Testimony Homes.
Yego is happy that he has been blest with the opportunity to work with children. He works at Testimony Children’s home as a house parent. House parents interact closely with the children and share meals with them.
Yego says his first days at the home were tough. When he joined the institution in 1998, he was a young unmarried man. He had thought he would work in a different capacity but his boss assigned him to work as an assistant parent. As he grew up in a foster home, Yego is grateful that he has had the chance to give back in similar capacity. In 1993, his German guardian asked what he wanted to do in future. Yego said he would like to be have his own children’s home.
“ACIP began very small. I used to see the founder members bring personal resources to buy food for the children in the Testimony Homes,” says Yego. “Whatever you put in a child, it will bring joy and love to the children.”
The Testimony Homes children have participated in the ACIP programme. “Our children have grown up, we have seen them change positively as a result of the ACIP,” said Yego. “Some of our children are now wonderful parents, have a solid foundation from ACIP in responsible parenting,” he added.
He advises parents to get to know their children but cautions against buying their friendship by giving them goodies. “Once you touch the heart of a child, they will be able to weather any storms that come their way. Eat, play, relax with them. If you touch the heart of a child, you are creating a good society,” said Yego.
Initiation Rites in Kenya II
Chair: Prof. Mary Getui
The Bukusu Initiation Rite – Prof. Omar Egesa, Moi University
Prof. Omar is a medical anthropologist who has studied the initiation rites of the Bukusu, a bantu community that is part of the larger Luhya tribe. The Bukusu circumcise the male children on alternate years. Eighty percent of all Bantu males are circumcised with the exception like the Zulu who stopped the practice after coming to a conclusion that it weakened them at war.
The Bukusu have two initiation rites, the traditional one and the clinical one.
a) The traditional rite is done to young males aged between 10 and 20 years. It involves pre-circumcision and post-circumcision rituals performed on alternate years carried out between August to December. Traditional songs are sung that have encrypted messages to the initiates. These include mockery and lessons that have passed on traditional cultural values from one generation to another. Values taught include discipline, responsibility, security and respect.
The pre-circumcision period involves a week of teaching these values. It is followed by the circumcision itself in the month of August and the post-circumcision rituals in the month of December where more lessons are taught. The initiates then graduate and are now called omsali. The traditional ritual is more costly as it takes a longer period of time and involves the bull sacrifice and singing overnight. The initiates family caters for these costs.
b) The clinical rite is more popular these days especially for the urban dwellers. The circumcision is done in the clinic where the initiates are surgically operated on. This method goes hand in hand with the religious version where the initiates go to churches or institutions overnight and are circumcised in the morning. It is looked down upon as it perceived less macho. However, the ritual is gaining popularity because it is safer, cheaper, the wounds heal faster and the boys are able to resume normal school schedules within a month. Moreover, complications of the cut such as over bleeding and poor healing are more prevalent in the traditional rite than in the clinical rites.
Prof. Egesa displayed pictures of the circumcision rites highlighting images of botched cuts, where initiates only got medical attention when the wound was in a bad state, demonstrating some of the dangers of the traditional ritual.
Prof. Emily Choge, ACIP founder
Prof. Choge conducted a study on the initiation rites practiced in seven counties in Kenya. These are Elgeyo Marakwet, Kakamega, Nairobi, Nakuru, Nandi, Narok and Uasin Gishu counties. Below is a summary of her findings:
a) Kakamega County – There was a lot of similarities in the different Luhya sub-communities. The traditional rite of circumcision is mostly practiced. Urban dwellers were more likely to practice the adhoc rite of passage but they had a religious aspect to it as they incorporated prayer. The values imparted included responsibility and love of God.
b) Elgeyo Marakwet County – The Tumdo Neleel is an alternative girl initiation rite practice that was started in 2004. However, the traditional rites of passage are still prevalent albeit very secretive.
c) Nandi County – The community practices the traditional rite of passage, however they incorporate the Christian, traditional and education values and virtues. There is a mentorship program for girls between ages 8 and35 that emphasize respect, hard work, chastity and love of God.
d) Nairobi County – Many go through the Christian based rites of passage like the ropes program. There is also the practice of renaissance rite programs for elite citizens who pay about KSh120,000 to go through it.
e) Nakuru County – communities in this county mainly practice the Christian based rites of passage.
f) Narok County- Girls are still circumcised. Modern Christian rites programs are also practiced.
g) Uasin Gishu County- Plenty of churches have started a Christian based circumcision rites such as ACIP.
• It was also noted that communities in areas where FGM was prevalent in the past were working hard to eradicate the practice. These communities are keen to offer alternative circumcision rites for girls.
• ACIP and Tanari are the two groups that incorporate both girls and boys in the program.
• Communities are concerned about the passage of cultural values such as hard work, respect and love of God.
• Most of these programs are Christian based and there was an issue of concern about catering to youth from other religious backgrounds e.g. Muslims.
ACIP Assessment Report – Prof. Eunice Kamaara and Ishmael Nyunya
Prof. Kamaara is an ACIP founder while Ismael is an ACIP alumni. He was involved the quantitative data analysis as he is a data scientist.
The ACIP team carried out a study to find out the impact of ACIP on its previous participants. First, they conducted a tracer study to identify all the ACIP alumni, where they were and what they are doing. The study targeted 300 alumni and got 267 valid responses. The study sought to find out whether the values instilled in the alumni are still with them. In addition, the study was also geared towards finding out whether the ACIP experience was still relevant to the alumni and its impact on their lives.
The tracer study was followed up by a comparative study which was both qualitative and quantitative. Each alumnus was required to bring two peers who were in the same class and school with them at the time the alumni attended the programme. This was in an effort to standardize the participants in terms of age and social status. One of the peers would have gone to a modern initiation rite programme similar to ACIP (the control group 1) and the other to a traditional rite programme (control group 2). All the three participants were given the same questionnaire to find out what their basic/core values were.
For the qualitative study, there were focus groups that were meant to find out what, how and why the ACIP programme is important to the participant and what impact it had on their lives. Alumni were asked to reflect on what was done well during ACIP and what they feel could have been done to make their experience of the programme better.
There were also individual interviews for the participators and parents of the alumni to find out how ACIP had impacted their lives and that of their children. In addition, respondents were asked what do they think should be included in the ACIP program and what components they felt were unnecessary.
• There were 21 questions in the portrait value questionnaire (PVQ test) which sought to evaluate values such as achievement, power, tradition/conformity, benevolence, conservation and security.
• Results of the questionnaire showed that the non-ACIP alumni displayed fewer values than the ACIP alumni. There is significant difference on how they applied these values in their lives.
• In the quantitative study, the alumni expressed that the ACIP programme has helped them in different stages of their lives.
• The alumni express caring for the environment, high confidence and self-esteem levels, conflict resolution skills, an ability to rebuff negative peer pressure, decision making skills and a clear sense of self assertion.
• The male alumni expressed that they were able to rebuff drugs and alcohol abuse, learned how to make constructive friendships, avoid bad peers, abhor negative ethnicity, came realize their talents as well as find spiritual awareness.
• Questions on how to define Kenyan culture emerged during the interactive session. What is the Kenyan culture? How does it differentiate from the African culture? What culture should we adopt as Kenyans? How do we incorporate the diverse cultures in the initiation rites?
• The western/European culture viewed the African culture as backward and uncivilized. We then adopted this view. Does the Christian way of life help us correctly judge our culture? Does it do our culture justice? In traditional initiation practice, what was the point of some activities such as over feeding the initiate, torture and being beaten up? How are values passed on to those who were circumcised as toddlers?
• New levels, new devils – It was noted that ACIP does not cater for adolescents in different stages of transition from youth to adulthood. ACIP founders noted that they need to review the programme with a view to ensure it targets all stages of a young adult’s life.
• On the research study, Prof. Kamaara indicated that across all communities, it appeared that there were certain values that were shared. Of the 267 valid questionnaires that were incomplete, questions 13/10 were unanswered. It appeared that the respondents did not understand the questions which read:
I like spoiling myself
I like showing off my talents
These two questions were excluded in the analysis across all the participants.
• Prof Kamara noted ACIP would need a longitudinal study. The respondents of the current study had participated in the ACIP program at varied times. In addition to the quantitative study, the qualitative component of the study provided illustrations from participants.
• As some ACIP alumni served as research assistants, involved in data collection, a question was asked about how ACIP ensured objectivity in data collection.
• Multi-cultural youth and urbanites were also discussed as they often do not have a set of traditional values and/or rites of passage that they can refer/revert to. Dr Nyairo highlighted that in the 1950s, Dr. Samson Mwathi was already thinking of the multicultural urban youth. He used to conduct circumcision/rite of passage for the youth in Nairobi. It was also noted that ACIP was born as a result of the founders identifying the need to cater for adolescents raised in Eldoret, a cosmopolitan town. Nyairo emphasized the importance of historicizing studies on initiation rites as they would capture rich histories.
Feedback from the ACIP qualitative research
Jairus: Non-ACIP Youth
I would like to work with ACIP forever to see it grow. I am impressed by the way ACIP gives back to society. Indeed, a giving hand is a receiving hand – one receives blessings. I wish ACIP all the best.
Carol Gitegi: ACIP Mentor
ACIP is a platform for growth anchored in Christian values, coordinated by professionals who impart tenets of character and ethics to the young generation so as to become reliable transformational leaders.
You are never too young to start an empire and you are never too old to keep a dream going.
Ever since I found out about ACIP, I really wished I would have been a part of the youth program. I feel like the life skills are taught to the students will have been of great help in my day-to-day life.
Micah Yego: ACIP Parent
As a parent, I thought I was the only one working with children. Now, I know I am with ACIP. It brings joy, peace and love when you see an individual grow. You can’t give up along the way, you have assist them grow. I thank God.
Previously, I felt like I was carrying the world alone. Sometimes you need to be energized. ACIP has energized us. I was talking to Ishmael and saying he must be green. But through these young ones, we will be delegating responsibilities and contributing good things to our present life. ACIP has come at the right time to mentor young people well. They are focused and ready to take on the world – they are mentored for life. I am very grateful. God bless ACIP.
John Kiarie: Mentor
Values and skills are important to young people – this ACIP has imparted over time. ACIP now needs to address new challenges that ACIP alumni may face. Many of them are were young when they went through the training, a number of them are now young adults. Some of these challenges are new ideologies, new relationships, religious choices, economic issues, political decisions, social life etc. ACIP requires another forum for these young people.
Rev Joseph Samoei: ACIP Partner
This is a program that needs to be embraced by all in leadership, church and community. ACIP is an integrated program as it enables the individual to graduate to adulthood and to be a wholesome individual who is being nurtured to be responsible. As a chaplain in this program from 2004, I would like to say I encountered ACIP students equipped with the right skills to enable them respond to life challenges and integrate into the community irrespective of background, colour, race or gender.
Ishmael: ACIP alumni
I am happy to have gone through ACIP training. I am forever grateful to ACIP. ACIP has saved me twice. It continues to build me.
Sylvia: ACIP Pioneer alumni
I am always happy to receive a call from ACIP. I am very happy that you keep following up on me. I really like the fact that you people are women and are doing this is very encouraging for us ladies – that we have people we can look up to. When I am that age, I would like to have accomplished something in life. I thank ACIP for the networks. May God bless ACIP and bless the work of your hands.
Film Screening – Dr Joyce Nyairo and ACIP documentary team
The conference participants had the opportunity to watch a documentary on the rites of passage in Kenya. The documentary crew was drawn from Moi University film studies students working guided by one of their lecturers. This was a work in progress which provided participants insights into the various rites of passage in different parts of Kenya. It was noted that some footage was destroyed hence it appeared that one community’s rite was more visible in the documentary. The documentary team would complete the work incorporating a narrator and subtitles.
Chair: Prof. Lucy Mule
The last day of the conference started with word of prayer and the ACIP anthem led by Prof. Emily Choge. Pamela Abuya gave participants guidance on the caucus session that was geared towards getting participants to discuss their vision of a new Kenya grounded in character values and the possibility of a national rite of passage.
Working in groups whose members were randomly selected, participants performed the following tasks:
1. As an individual, take 5 minutes to think about the Kenya you would like to see.
• Draw this new Kenya
• What does it look like?
• Are you happy with it?
2. Share your vision of a New Kenya with your group members
3. Envision a new Kenya with your group members
4. Discuss the possibility of a National Initiation Rite.
Below is a summary of the group discussions that were shared in plenary. These are the values identified by the different groups:
b) Recognition of cultural diversity
e) Good leadership
g) Love for one another
What should be done to achieve the above nationally?
a) Shift our efforts towards dealing with issues of character values in each of our groups.
b) Establish a technical working group.
c) Forge a network that will provide a common platform for all conference participants.
d) Use the mainstream media to increase awareness of the issue and open up the conversation to the entire country.
e) Use the research from ACIP and their efforts to understand the different rites programs and use them as an umbrella body.
f) Invite elected leaders to participate in future conferences and establish linkages between the government and ACIP to influence policy.
g) Encourage parents to start teaching their children these values so that by the time they join the initiation programmes they have a good foundation.
ACIP National Initiation Rites Conference Communiqué – Compiled by Dr Sam Ndogo, Moi University
The inaugural National Initiation Rites Conference organized by the African Christian Initiation Program (ACIP) in collaboration with the Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc. (TWCF) was held between 23 and 25 July 2017 in Nairobi. The conference, whose theme was “The Making of a Kenyan: Towards National Identity and Character Virtues” was characterized by robust engagements. Adopting the workshop model ensured participation of all in attendance. Indeed, it was a great gathering of people whose experiences are key in setting agenda for the current and next generation.
The conference was also a great forum for interaction of ideas and formulation of thoughts, principles and directions that might suggest a better kind of a human being; a better Kenyan.
Because of the diversity of participants, the clash of ideas the discussions generated was positive as it was an eye-opener on how wide and varied our view on rites of passage can be.
The fact that parents and other stakeholders could meet in this conference to discuss the welfare and future of their children is essentially a noble initiative. However, it would be great if more and more voices of the youth could be brought on board in such consequent meetings.
Another unique aspect of the conference is that the facilitation included a full-time sign interpreter. One alumnus of the ACIP alumni present has hearing challenges and therefore benefited immensely from these services.
The conference brought together participants from various Christian denominations and institutions—Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA), Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), Tanari Trust, The Navigators, and others.
During the conference, participants shared experiences in panel presentations and group discussions. As such, the conference was a platform for interaction of experiences from different parts of Kenya. Indeed, the conference drew participants from various counties, who told captivating stories on rites of passage. To display the rich diversity, the last evening of the conference was a cultural show, where the participants showcased fashion and music from various Kenyan communities. Representatives from the UK also got an opportunity to share their cultural experiences in terms of music and dress.
The ACIP conference also provided a great opportunity for linkage between the University and the community. The ACIP founders are university professors—Pamela Abuya, Eunice Kamaara, Joyce Nyairo, Mary Wahome, Emily Choge and the late Naomi Shitemi—who have pushed boundaries, moving beyond the lecture theatre to share knowledge with the community. In collaboration with the Department of Literature, Theatre and Film Studies of Moi University, ACIP has embarked on a project of archiving and disseminating the diverse experiences of rites of passage from different counties through a documentary film titled “The Rite Passage.”
We applaud the superb organization of this inaugural conference by the conveners. Indeed, bringing together participants drawn from the different parts of Kenya, as well as partners from the UK, the USA, is no mean feat. The venue of the conference—Maanzoni Lodge—was an ideal choice in terms of location, accommodation and exquisite catering services.
Closing Remarks- Dr Fiona Gatty, Templeton World Charity Foundation
At the end of the conference, Dr Gatty thanks the conference participants and organisers. In her remarks, she quoted from Sir John Templeton’s words of wisdom.
‘Wherever we find ourselves in life, whatever the circumstances, whatever the habits may be influencing our decisions, we can transform each situation into a learning and growing experience. We can determine how to be the masters of our habits so that our habits can be useful servants to us.”
Sir John Templeton, Wisdom from the World Religions, Pg 148
“Often, this is called character education. Even people not interested in spiritual research can often be enthusiastic for character education being used as an ounce of prevention for miseries, which can be more cost effective than a pound of cure.”
Possibilities for Over One Hundredfold more Spiritual Information: The Humble Approach in Theology and Science, Pg 130.