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Addressing the Youth Gap: The Emergence of Modern Rites of Passage, 1997-2016
By Dr. Muhia Karianjahi

Emergence of modern rites of passage in Kenya over the last twenty years is evidence that stakeholders in the formation of children and youth are aware of a huge disconnect between desired and actual identity and character virtues embraced by our young. I am aware of four categories of these modern rites of passage: the traditionalist, the ad-hoc neighborhood, the institutional and the renaissance model that mixes old and new. I suggest four reasons why despite our gallant efforts, we still miss the mark in our formational quest. We idealize the nation-state and institute one-size-fits-all strategies, we approach young people as “heads on sticks,” try to motivate them with unidimensional carrots and sticks, and hold onto the centrality of the magical “cut”. I will propose four keys to bridging the gap: aligning the stories we tell with those we intend to convey; designing appropriate “liturgies” that instill those stories; empowering the appropriate “priests”, and reimagining the rites of passage cohorts. I will conclude by sharing my hope that this conference helps bring clarity to the default liturgies we currently use to form our youth, determine if they reflect our intended telos, and perhaps begin mapping ways of bridging any gaps identified.