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Our Chief Guest, Dr. Dinah, Mwinzi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in charge of Technical and Vocational Education & Training, ACIP special guests, ACIP alumni and non-alumni, ACIP parents, leaders of and researchers of various initiation rites in Kenya, and our partners from the UK, Prof. Andrew Briggs and Dr. Fiona Gatty of The Templeton World Charity Foundation, ladies and gentlemen: good evening.

I would like to begin by officially welcoming each one of you to Maanzoni for this national workshop on The Making of a Kenyan: Towards National Identity and Character Virtues, the first of its kind in this country. Each one of you is most welcome to participate actively in brainstorming on this workshop theme.

The work the African Character Initiation Programme which has organized this event, is anchored within Moi University. Moi University, located in the North Rift region of the country, is the second public university in Kenya, The University has mandate to offer teaching/training in Higher Education and to spearhead research and extension for local, national, and international development. Through this mandate, Moi University has positioned itself as a key agent in the realization of Sustainable Development Goals and at the national level, to the realization of the Kenya Vision 2030.

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 University, under the research and extension mandate, the University has keenly promoted not only research but much more importantly, 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 African Character initiation programme, a character values program.

The African Character Initiation Programme (ACIP) 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. Specifically, ACIP was 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 skills for life 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, the African Character Initiation Programme, 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 had any impact in developing and sustaining character virtues inevitably emerged. The organizers 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 on 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 would like to take this opportunity, as I officially welcome each one of you to this workshop, to thank the Templeton World Charity Foundation, represented here today by Prof. Andrew Briggs and Fiona Gatty, for generously funding the activities of the ACIP Assessment. Thank you very much. I would also like to thank the ACIP team for their service to community over the years and to affirm their dream that a future of virtuous Kenyans is possible. 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. I think we all share in this belief and that is why we are here. Thank you every one for coming. I wish you fruitful deliberations throughout this workshop. God Bless you.