• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Taarifa News

Latest News Around the Globe

Elgon Centre For Education Strives To Change Teenage Pregnancies Narratives In Marginalized Communities

1,544 300

By Isabella Maua

It is disheartening and devastating to watch a young teenage girl walk around with a protruding belly, not for any other reason but as a result of either defilement or early marriage, predominantly initiated by their parents.

This may sound awkward to many people, but not to the parents of Mt. Elgon, who, according to reports, are vastly driven by either insatiable greed for money or ignorance and negligence, hence the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the region.

It is for this reason that Abdulkarim Taraja, an alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), founded by former United States President Barack Obama, thought of the best solution and came up with the Jilinde Initiative. “Jilinde” is a Swahili word translated as “Take care of yourself.”

The initiative, which is set to run for one year, is funded by USAID in partnership with YALI under Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, in corporation with the Elgon Centre for Education.

In an interview with Taarifa News, he discussed the genesis of Jilinde initiative and how the matter is close to his heart despite the murky waters he had to swim through for the idea to be bought by the community schools, which most happen to be very rigid given the bourgeois nature of the area inhabitants.

“After seeing our sisters and relatives burying their bright futures and termed school dropouts because of teenage pregnancies and early marriages, with some even losing their lives to alcoholism and sexually transmitted illnesses, I couldn’t hold back my idea,” reminisced Taraja.

According to medical reports for the year 2023, Cheptais and Kopsiro subcounties added up to 11% of teenage pregnancies across Bungoma County.

This was the driving force behind Taraja and his team, which marked 10 secondary schools in the area to execute their noble calling of educating girls in the quest to achieve social transformation.

“Together with my team of YALI alumni, whom we in unison converged to brainstorm this initiative, leadership and governance, life skills, and career guidance were among the key points we instill in the students we interact with in the ten schools we chose,” he reiterated.

Sexual and reproductive health has no doubt been a sensitive but one of the most evaded topics termed taboo by not only parents but also most teachers, especially those who hail from Mount Elgon.

In her statement, Mercy Cherop, Jilinde Project Manager, confirmed that the level of ignorance in the community could not allow her to sit back and watch a generation varnish.

“In 2019, we came up with the slogan jiamini, jitume, jielimishe in the quest to promote access to education and reproductive health and mitigate the effects of alcohol abuse in this marginalized area, which also happens to be our home,” stated Cherop.

‘Jiamini’ is a Swahili word meaning trust in yourself; ‘Jitume’ means be proactive; and ‘Jielimishe’ means educate yourself.

John Chemengu is a parent from Kopsiro whose son benefitted from the Jiamini project and attained a mean grade of A- in his 2023 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education at Kipsis Secondary School in Cheptais.

“I had four children in secondary school, and due to a lack of financial stability, I luckily got one of my sons sponsored by the Elgon Centre for Education under Jiamini, and his entire school fees paid. I was overwhelmed by the spectacular performance, and I encourage this initiative to continue with their noble calling,” said Chemengu.

Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting in Kopsiro, the area’s Assistant County Commissioner 1, Stephen Kihara, commended ECE for their selflessness in running the Jilinde Initiative and seeking to rewrite the history of the region through education.

“Parents are key stakeholders who should be encompassed in this project since most of the vices amongst the children can be traced back to their home setup, where parents and guardians are their custodians,” noted Kihara.

Kopsiro Sub County Police Commander, Justus Njeru, highlighted the essence of parents joining the bandwagon of supporting their children’s dreams both in academics and in their careers.

“It will be very crucial to start this project in primary schools given that it vastly targets girls aged between 10 and 14 who, at this stage, are mostly in primary, with some transitioning to secondary schools,” stressed Njeru.

Despite the limited finances, the Jilinde Initiative CEO couldn’t hide his contentment with surpassing their target thus far.

“We are glad to all the stakeholders who’ve walked with us through this rough but fulfilling journey, and I’m excited to report that we have so far surpassed our 1,000 student target and already reached 2,500 students due to the high demand for our services,” Taraja revealed gleefully.

Kenya Primary Schools Head Association Kopsiro chairperson Stephen Cheuno welcomed the Jilinde move and challenged the community to make it a collective effort in bringing up the children, especially during the puberty stage.

“We can attest that this initiative has bore fruit since its genesis, and we can proudly report that the level of self-awareness and confidence among beneficiaries is indisputable. We are determined to continue being part of this journey,” Cheuno affirmed.

Not only has Elgon Centre for Education transformed children’s lives in matters of education but also in digital literacy, where they are equipped with full knowledge of how to interact with computers for their own benefit academically and socially.

Gunnes Kipyego, the head of information technology at the Jilinde Initiative, highlighted the need to add value to a child’s life by preparing them for the digital world earlier in life, despite the fact that they are in remote parts of the country.

“We teach the students how to operate all types of computers, how they can learn online, cyber security, and how to create content that may earn them an income through the internet,” divulged Kipyego.

Even as the minority and marginalized communities in Kenya continue to fight for recognition and a fair share of resources, they stay hopeful through such transformational initiatives as Jilinde to provide a platform where their history is positively rewritten through the only life equalizer, which is education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *