The impact of COVID-19 on Mental health especially on school-going children.

There has been disturbing news of students physically attacking their teachers and fellow students; not forgetting last months’ gruesome incident of a young man who butchered his almost his entire family, blaming it consuming mystery and murder series ‘killing eve’. In retaliation, Prof. George Magoha, the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Education has proposed the return of corporal punishments. The question however should be, will that be a good-enough solution to get our students disciplined or are there other root causes of students going on rampage that we should investigate as a society such as the impact of Covid-19 and their mental wellbeing? Are we just ignorant?

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus its effect on different populations including school going children, according to journal of medical internet research , the pandemic has created new stressors and mental health challenges including fear and worry for oneself or loved ones, constraints on social activities and physical movement due to quarantine, sudden and radical lifestyle changes, where in Kenya, for instance, schools were promptly closed. The closure of schools and other education institutions caused increase in teenage pregnancies, rise of gender-based violence and increase of drug and substance abuse among many school going students which was experienced nationally, and it was established that school was a safe space for many students which was an underrated issue.

As the government, NGO’s and other stakeholders are putting efforts to come up with effective solutions and policies to better the situation, we have forgotten one important effect of Covid-19 to school going students and the entire population at large; mental ill-ness. There is stigma around families losing their loved ones due to Covid-19, anxieties and fear of losing our vulnerable family members to the pandemic, but we often forget the psychological and emotional toll on school-going students. According to Elizabeth Kubler, a renowned psychologist on loose and grief, there are five stages of bereavement which include: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance which due to lack of mental health awareness, school-going students are not accorded the chance to grieve. Hence, we get surprised when the suppressed feelings and emotions spill out and our children making them act out in bizarre manners since they have not been taught that it is okay not to be okay and that it is okay to grieve in whichever manner that they can since grief sits with everyone differently.

The ministry of education should work on holding capacity building forums for teachers in understanding mental health as a concept while bringing in its correlation with Covid-19 which will include understanding loss and grief and how to provide psychosocial support, this will be an important shift and change of dynamics since teachers would not forthright label their students as hardheaded but would consider understanding where they are coming from and offering the necessary support.

Secondly, the ministry of education should work together with the Ministry of Health to come up with policies that would make accessibility of mental health resources easy. Student based counselling centres should be made available while at the same time creating awareness around mental health, covid-19 and grief through student friendly avenues, like animations, magazines and games. This will help students have information on how they can be support systems for their friends at schools and improve awareness that will be important for family settings. Their psychological well-being will be improved, and they will always know where and at what point they need to get the necessary support to make their mental health better.

Written By: Amisa Rashid, Psychologist and My Sisters Keeper Fellow. She is also the founder of Nivishe Foundation

THE UNKNOWN POWER OF MINDSET

What you put in your mind will last for a lifetime but what you put on your body is temporary. Mindset is defined as a set of attitudes or fixed ideas that someone has and it’s often difficult to change. We all have different, somewhat diverse mindsets. We set our interests and focus on certain things for various reasons.

The extent to which mindsets affect our behaviors and attitudes, bears the greatest percentage. Your thoughts, what you believe in (beliefs), opinions, all your ideas and to some length, your assumptions all depend on your mindset. You will love what your mind will find to be pleasant to you. This might be the exact reason why we have different opinions, likes and dislikes.

As human beings we often take in most of what comes our way. Sometimes, we tend to overlook the fact that something is positive or negative. Is it really worth thinking about? Is it beneficial? Do I really need to be hearing/watching/listening to this? Why do love what does not deserve my interest?

Funny fact, our mindsets however different, may be greatly influenced by those around us. I tend to love or hate certain things or people depending mostly on whether the closest people around me do. Why do students hate certain subjects and love others? Simple, mindset! Changing one’s mindset will more than often change a lot about them. Their concept, opinion and general living will take a diverse turn once they change their thinking.

How does one’s concept influence attitude? We are often given the illustration of a glass half-filled with water. From this concept, do you see a glass half empty or a glass half-full? Half-filled brings the positivity of the illustration while half-empty means you are only seeing the negative angle in the illustration.

Will you set your mind to believe in everything that people make you believe? Won’t you want to reflect on whether it’s beneficial or not? Whether it’s worth taking in or not? The same way you decide on what you consume, it should similar when it comes to our mind-set.

Do not hate something or someone because of what you heard someone say. It is best when we base our assumptions on facts, not just opinions from anyone or everyone around us. Attitude makes a huge difference. Have a positive mindset. The results will not disappoint!

Written By: Perpentual Wangari.

THE SILENT SONG OF CORRUPTION

A song whose rhythm we’ve embraced

Being one whose origin can’t be traced

Its beats we dance to with haste

Its moves we copy and paste
……………………………………………………….

Its a song that we’ve known to always be

Overlooking its effects that sting like a bee

Anyone takin the seat will agree

To embrace it times not one, two nor three

…………………………………………………………..
This song speaks evil, injustice and hate

Like a wild fruit that we all forbiddenly ate

The kind that makes us not regard our mate

Causes us to take not our own and blame it on fate
………………………………………………………………….

That song will cause our people to cry

Gives no regard to one who will work and try

When its played the word ‘yours’ becomes ‘my’

And as one crashes the other begins to fly
…………………………………………………………………………….

I speak of a song that never seems to end

In our system it will always bring a bend

Do you know of this song dear friend?

It’s one you’ve heard, one we could mend.
…………………………………………………………………..

Written By: Perpentual Wangari.

An Ultimate Guide to Making the Right Choices in Romantic Relationships

Majority of our young men and women are perishing for lack of knowledge in the name of love. Whoever said love is blind was right. It makes one do stupid things to please their romantic partners. What we fail to understand is that some of these things that we do blindly can have lifetime effects on our lives and those close to us. Please note that a healthy relationship comprises of two people who want to be in one. So, as you get all lovey-dovey today remember that it may not always translate to the phrasal ‘happy ending’. Sometimes an unexpected plot twist may happen, ending your relationship in premium tears. As you follow your heart take your brain with you. 

Below are some pointers on what love is and what it is not.

  • Love is not Great Sex

Do you love them because they are good in bed? If yes, then you are sick and lost. Sex and love cannot be on the same table. Sex won’t make them stay but love will. Do not break your back for someone who is there to enjoy the moment. Remember they may get all acrobatic in bed and still not love you. Love is beyond physical gratification. It is connecting deeply with someone such that when you look into their eyes you see their soul.

  • Love should not Hurt

Love is a beautiful thing, and it does not hurt. It is the person you are in love with that hurts. Betrayal, abuse, loneliness, and rejection hurts but love erases that pain and makes one feel wonderful again. True love makes you happy in a way you have never experienced before so if it hurts it’s absolutely not true love. Do not get it twisted.

  • Love is not Obsessive 

There is a very thin line between love and obsession. To love is to want your partner to be happy and wish them the best even when you are not in their lives. On the other hand, obsession is an unhealthy longing to be with someone 24/7 or talk to them all the time. Obsessive love can lead to insecurities in a romantic relationship and cause unnecessary drama and pressure. Note the difference and make a wise choice. 

  • Love is not Uncertain 

Ambivalence in a relationship can be nerve-racking and lead to a rollercoaster of emotions. Your partner should be clear about where the relationship is headed to avoid unnecessary stress. It is either you are dating for marriage or a breakup. There is no dating for fun. Do not stomach the “let’s see where this is going” phrase. Stop asking them “what are we?” Raise the bar and vamoose from their lives for good because you deserve better. 

  • Love is not saying yes at the Expense of your Own Happiness 

Stop saying yes to everything to please people. You know what, your parents did not raise you to be miserable so that others can be happy. Learn to ask what is there for you, as well as saying no without feeling guilty. Take charge of your joy, your happiness, and your worth and protect it at all costs. If your partner can’t handle that kick them out. 

  • Love is Supportive 

If you look for nothing else in a partner, make sure you have a supportive one. It is important to have a partner who can be there during tough phases in life. Having a reliable support system gives a sense of security and pride. Support may be emotional and also financial when need be. It feels nice to have someone you can turn to during a crisis and receive immense support from them. 

  • Love is Work

Anything worth having demands effort and intentionality and true love is not an exemption. Love takes work to resolve disagreements. It takes intentionality to communicate and understand one another. Love requires nurturing and care for it to thrive. You deserve effort, you deserve consistency, and you deserve everything good that true love has in store. Anything short of that is not worth your energy.

When all is said and done, you are the only one who can decide if you are happy or not. Until you believe you deserve better you will always attract the same version of what you disposed. Take care of your heart and value yourself. At the end of the day, all that matters is how content you are with your story.

Happy Valentines 🙂

By: Shalom Musyoka, ELF Alumni, Cohort 8.

UNITY IS STRENGTH

Someone once said that we share the world for a short time. The question is do we spend that time looking at what pushes us apart or do we give ourselves to look at the future we want for our children?

As human beings, it is only natural that we disagree and have conflicts amongst ourselves. But of what benefit is all this? We spend a lot of time arguing and disagreeing. Time which could have been spent building us is wasted on bringing others down. What does one gain by bringing another down? Is it fame, popularity, pride or what feeling do you get while watching another break?

It’s sad, really sad to see people disagree and fight because of differences that do not even change who we are. Whatever one gains by bringing another down only lasts for a second. The effects, however, can last a lifetime. In the long run, we all need each other. Each of us contributes to another’s life in one way or another, whether it’s clear or not. What would you do if you woke up one day and you found yourself alone in this world? Or even worse, what would you do if you woke up one day to a world that does not hear you, one you are absolutely invisible to?

We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. Let us teach ourselves to focus on the positive side of each one of us. The negative side is of totally no benefit to any of us. Do not protect yourself by a fence but rather by your friends. True friends will stick by you and offer help that you may need along the way. But only if you let them. Don’t be that kind of person that just pushes people out of their lives.

Ever heard of the proverb that goes ‘Two heads are better than one’? Our strength lies in our differences and no one gets to where they desire to be absolutely on their own. If we were all the same then the world would probably be the most boring place ever. Imagine the rainbow, what makes it so unique and beautiful is the fact that it has multiple colours. If it had one colour, it would probably not be as significant.

We are all angels with one wing and we can only fly by hugging each other and flattering our wings in unison and order. Alexander Dumas once said ”All for one and one for all.” We were all created to serve a purpose in someone else’s life and be there for each other, the same way we need others to be there for us.

We need to stick together, appreciate each other, through good and bad time. Never forget, UNITY IS STRENGTH!


Written By: Perpentual Wangari.

“MY SISTERS’ KEEPER GAVE ME A NEW BEGINNING” Dr. Esther Njeri.

I remember a time when I used to exalt over-working and never setting time for personal life. There were moments when I picked several bad habits which I was afraid of letting go. I quarreled with a colleague at work amidst the covid-19 pandemic. This did not go well, in turn, it affected my overall performances.

I remember not grieving the loss of my mother and just working, hiding my pains at work. It crushed me; or so I discovered way too late. I forgot who I was, and I had to actively work on it. I sought help; this was all in vain. I had a lot of tears, fears, my soul was troubled. This was until I came across ELF’s My Sisters’ keeper call for application. The program that reminded me of my power and reinforced my journey. As I write this, I feel like words are not enough to explain the impact that was brought about by ELF.

This was journey of service, a journey of self-discovery, a journey with direction. I am grateful to God for giving me a chance to see life with a different perspective. My life’s journey has had multiple challenges, but my stint at ELF has given me a different view of life. You will fall, fail, trip, but you can always leap forward.

The lessons given were interesting. Personal branding fascinated me (who even thinks about that). The speakers were well chosen, people who are passionate about their fields, ready to teach and mentor others in life’s journey.

If each of the fellow were to be asked to talk about their experience, the stories would be different, so is mine. I have a story, and I plan to share it as time goes by, with no fear or shame.   

I was reminded of why I chose a career in medicine. I learnt how to maximize on my knowledge and skills and make change in my community. I learnt what it takes to be an accountable leader and how to keep my leaders accountable.

We have so much power which we ignore or forget. We all have a voice, in one way or the other, we have a contribution to make. We all have a voice.

Whatever happens, remember you are WORTHY and VALUED. You have power within you, to change and cause change.

My Sisters’ Keeper gave me a new home, a new beginning, and a new responsibility.

By: Esther Njeri, MSK 2020.

WHAT IF COVID NEVER HAPPENED?

This year, I had several goals that I wanted to accomplish, breaking them down, they were a total of thirty-six (36) Goals. A month into the year I had already accomplished two goals, and the rest were a work in progress. When Covid-19 struck Kenya in March, most people across my circle started blaming everything on Covid19 and due to this, they did not put much effort on the goals.

This pandemic brought a first-time experience for most of us. Most of us had to work from home, institutions had to switch to online learning, a move that most were not ready for. Nonetheless, I finished the syllabus and did my university exams.

Lately, I have found myself thinking ‘What if Covid19 never happened?’  Would our country’s economy be better? Would people be happier? Would there be minimal unemployment for the youth and more opportunities available? Would people save and invest more? Would I have fully achieved on my goals?

We have individuals who have the gift of making the most out of every situation in life and find a way to thrive, these are the positive thinkers. There is a group of people who find something and someone to blame for every wrong decision made, or bad happenings in their lives. I challenge you to practice positive thinking and surround yourself with positive vibes and see what happens. While at this, here are a few questions to ponder on.

  1. How have you used your year? Have you learnt something new?
  2. To what extent have you blamed your current situation on the pandemic?
  3. In future, how can you make the best out of tough situations and continue dancing to the music like no one is watching?

I must admit that I did well on some aspects this year, and not so well in others. I did a good job blaming Covid-19 until I took time to do personal reflections. My accountability partners, mentors and coaches could not hear any of my excuses about Covid-19. This in turn triggered redirection and restructuring of some of my 2020 goals

Think of your 2020 goals and strike out what you managed to achieve. Have a personal reflection on the goals you did not manage to achieve and the hinderances that stood on the way. Take note of the lessons and use them as you prepare for the new year. This will help you plan better for next year.

The pandemic stroke hard, leading to job losses, pay-cuts, frustrations, and loss of loved ones. Despite all this, I tried to stand strong and maintain focus, Thanks to the peoole who journeyed with me. To my mentors, my Coach and my accountability partners, Cheers! I could not have done this without you.

As we step into the new year, here are a few tips on how we all can maintain focus and withstand all forces:

  1. Have accountability partners – Once you have a list of goals you would like to achieve in 2021, select a few individuals and share your goals with them for the sole purpose of holding you accountable (These should be individuals who believe in the beauty of your dreams and are not afraid to call you out or tell you the bitter truth if need be)
  2. Have a mentor – A mentor is someone who sees potential in you, and is willing to share their experience, skills, and life lessons to points you to the right direction. They cheer you on and have your best interest at heart
  3. Take an audit of your friends – Evaluate your friendships and let go of those that do not add value to your life, and as you do that, think of the kind of friend you as well. Are you good enough for those who associate with you?

Once this is done, analyse your wheel of life to have a quick check on how you balanced your life is, and pick lessons and list action points that will enable you live a more balanced, healthy, and fulfilling life in the year ahead.

As you close the year, exercise gratitude for life, health, love and always celebrate your small wins and milestones. This was a tough year, but here we are, full of energy, belief, positive and optimistic of the year 2021.

Happy New Year 2021!

Written By: Cheboi Cheboi, Programmes Officer at Emerging Leaders Foundation

Impact,Inspiration and Intentional Virtual learning during the pandemic

Have you ever been sleep deprived? Wondering what’s stressing or eating you up? That was me in March, wondering what to do since schools were closed and the virus was quickly spreading throughout the country. I tossed on my bed as my hand quickly reached out to my phone under my pillow. As I was browsing through Facebook posts, I came across a call for application.

I quickly started the process, in between the application I realised I was giving out too much information and then a voice at the back of my mind said ‘you have applied for many of these with no reply so why should you continue’. Then my friend’s voice came in again to interrupt my voice by saying, ‘Gloria, you always don’t finish these applications, so you end up not being proactive.’ I immediately convinced myself to finish the application in the middle of the night.

Days passed and I forgot all about the application until one day, when someone called to introduce themselves as Jim India from Emerging Leaders Foundation Africa.  I had already read that name on my True Caller app and over-ruled it as a scam, (India is a place not a name, hahaaa). Since I could not remember the application and being preoccupied with other duties at our farm, I asked the speaker if it was okay for him to call the next day around 9am for the interview, he agreed and the interview was set.

I rushed home, prepared myself (goggling) what ABLI was, what I had applied for and what would be expected of me. As agreed, Jim India again called at 9am and from the corner of my bed I replied to each and every question that he asked of me. At the end of the interview, I had to go back through my emails to check the specific advert for the application.

I confirmed that Stella Cheboi had sent me an email; unfortunately, I thought it was another scam. I dismissed it as a result of fraudulent activities and scams that continue to flood the internet.

Surprise! Surprise! ABLI was not a joke or a scam, it was legit!

The African Biblical Leadership initiative is a youth program under the Bible Society of Kenya in partnership with Emerging Leaders Foundation that aspires to equip youth with biblical leadership skills that enables them to address contemporary issues and exhibit Christian values in their day- to- day activities.

The lessons I undertook have helped me to understand my personality type, tell my story in a structured way, and to write my own stories.  I have come to a better understanding of the use of hashtags, using my social media accounts wisely and refining my leadership skills in order to create a strong brand as a young pan-Africanist. Now I know how to spend my time while online wisely, sell value for my products or services and voice up as a Youth.

ABLI has not only honed and added valuable skills to my life; it has enabled me to meet friends, network with them and most importantly I gained a mentor to walk with me along this journey. I have also been able to participate in community service in the beautiful city of Nairobi, Mathare where we equipped class 8 pupils with writing materials to use as the prepare for their exams, facemasks to protect them from the virus ravaging the whole country and encouraging them to do their very best.

During one of the virtual meetings Caren Wakoli mentioned, “When the world sits down, STAND UP, when the world stands up, STAND OUT, when the world stands out, BE OUTSTANDING. When the world becomes outstanding, be THE STANDARD.”

I am truly blessed.

Asante Sana ABLI, Mungu Awabariki.

 

By: Gloria Hlontsatsa Musau, #ABLI2020 fellow.

NAVIGATING THE “GLASS CLIFF”

What do YOU stand for? There has to be something that you stand for in life. That’s exactly where leadership begins. Mhh…quite evidently, my leadership journey began way long before I ever thought of it as such.

Although I did not hold a leadership position for a long time in life, the qualities of leadership have been at work in my life since childhood. Now that I know so much more about leadership, my definition of it is more sophisticated and detailed and I no-longer see it as something on the other side of the barrier of natural talents. I strongly believe that ‘You do not have to hold a title to be a leader.’

My Sisters’ Keeper has taught me that leadership is not just about title but service.

The main reason I enrolled for the MSK 2020 training was because I had always wanted to learn how to be a leader for years. However this is just not any leader, but a leader with a difference, who stands for principles, purpose, people, and performance and speaks for the voiceless. I wanted change but I didn’t know how to go about it. I kept going round and round in circles not knowing how, what and when to do it. All this was in a bid to improve my ability as a young woman to analyze policies that inform the relationship between communities and workers in order to improve services rendered to the citizens of my country. Thanks for the admission to the program because it has enabled me to unravel the complexity of my myths’ and subsequently been able to get more than what I expected. Emerging Leaders Foundation, the blessing, gave me what I was looking for in the midst of a global pandemic.

But how?

I have learnt a lot of things in the program .The three major segments were on self-discovery, how to connect and eventually create impact which were facilitated by various speakers. After taking the classes on Ethics, Integrity and Values according to the Bill Of rights, Article 10 and Article 232 of the constitution I am now able to give leadership in my field of service with dignity, ensuring that there is justice for all and excellence in service without discrimination of anybody whatsoever. In addition to that, I have been equipped with the skills and knowledge on the face of challenges that young women face as they try to rise in leadership and know how to tackle issues that I face along the way.

The lessons on personal branding changed my general outlook of how I get to present myself to the society. This is because I got to learn that making a name for myself can be tough and sometimes frustrating .It requires a lot of patience and effort in some cases. Image may just prove to be everything. Lisa Gansky once said that ‘Your brand is your public identity, what you are trusted for and for your brand to endure it has to be tested, redefined, managed and expanded as markets evolve. Brands either learn or disappear.’

The training has been so important to me since it has taught me how to be my own brand  as I embrace leadership because if I don’t actively build my brand, other people will build on it by forming their own beliefs on what I stand for.

My Sisters’ Keeper has taught me that leadership is not just about title but service. By getting involved in the community service, I was able to get in touch with the community, understand their needs and able to look at life from their point of view.

This is what I want to propagate and demonstrate in the future ‘Servant leadership’

 

Written By: Martha Murunga- #MySistersKeeper Fellow, 2020

MY SISTERS KEEPER PROGRAM; A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

For the longest time, I thought that you must have a position for you to be considered a leader. I thought that leadership roles and responsibilities belonged only to the ‘leaders’. I used to try so hard to change my behavior so that I could fit in, never believing in myself while constantly letting other peoples’ opinions inform my decisions. All these beliefs and doubts prevented me from doing the things I loved. I was lucky enough to find light at the end of the tunnel.

In the past few weeks, I have been attending MY SISTERS KEEPER, a training program by Emerging Leaders Foundation. The goal of the overall project is to promote accountable leadership among young women in the health sector. Being chosen for the program was a complete honor.  I remember the mixed emotions I had at the time; excitement, hope, gratitude and even anxiety compounded by self-doubt on whether I was good enough for the program.

I especially enjoyed the first session on different human personalities. I realized that our personalities make us stand out. I finally understood that there was nothing wrong with me, I just had a different way of viewing life and it was okay, I never needed to fit in.

The second session on self-awareness made me realize that I did not know who I really was. I remember the speaker saying that we need to be our own cheerleaders. It was at this point that I remembered the many times that I had self-sabotaged by doubting my abilities. I learned that I should constantly live within my own parameters so that I would finally stop letting external factors define me.

As a health advocate, the program has also equipped me with knowledge on social accountability, public participation, advocacy and personal branding. Courtesy of the training, I have managed to change my views on leadership, and I am fully aware that a leader is anyone willing to take a stand. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

My Sisters’ Keeper was heaven-sent, a life changing opportunity.

 

 

By: Esther Aoko – #MySistersKeeper fellow, and  Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Advocate.