SPEECH DELIVERED BY Dr. DINAH MWINZI, PRINCIPAL SECRETARY, VOCATIONAL AND TECHNICAL TRAINING IN THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DURING THE NATIONAL INITIATION RITES WORKSHOP AT MAANZONI LODGE, 23rd – 25th, JULY 2017
The Vice Chancellor, Moi University
Professor Andrew Briggs and Fiona Gatty, our partners from Templeton World Charity Foundation;
The Founder Members of ACIP
Leaders of Initiation Rites, countrywide
All Invited Guests
It gives me great pleasure to be here today. I feel truly honoured to see the fruition of the work of ACIP which I saw at its inception nearly 18 years ago. Back then, I was working in the office of the Dean of Students at Moi University dealing with the daily challenges of adolescents in that critical moment when they are trying to balance their newly found freedom, far away from their homes. I saw then, 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 girl-friend when younger models have just arrived in first year?
Choices upon choices to make but also, afterwards, consequences without number to deal with. Working with the Dean of Students to untangle many of these consequences – panic, regrets, unwanted babies, addiction, lost time and bungled examinations – I interacted closely with faculty members to mitigate all these negative consequences on the academic life of our 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. I was, therefore, very elated when a group of young women in the School of Arts and Social Sciences took it upon themselves to run what they called the Ladies to Ladies Talk. 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 programmess. These conversations went a long way in lightening our load at the office of the Dean of Students.
In addition, I had always felt that the female students at the university needed positive role models to help them chart out 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 real godsend for our students. It did not take long before the male students shouted “discrimination” and insisted on being invited to these forums because in their own words “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”. I was amazed by the ease with which, the 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 years 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.
So today, I want to congratulate the founder members of ACIP 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?
The kind of research that ACIP has undertaken – and indeed, the kind of work that all initiation programmes represented here today do – is of immense value to our work at 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. 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 holistic approach that equips learners with psycho-social awareness and emotional intelligence. This work of initiation rites which immerses young Kenyans in a true awareness of their communities and their role in society is truly priceless for the way it supplements our work in formal and vocational schools and colleges.
Therefore, I wish to underscore the critical role each one of us gathered here today has to play in generating better opportunities for our 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.
It is now my pleasure and humble duty to officially open this national initiation rites workshop. Together we can find the right path.
Thank You, and May God Bless You All!