On a Sunday in 2008, Jacob Mutiga and Abraham Kinoti were sitting near a road and they observed a trend where passersby looked drunk.
After elementary research through observation, the two realised that majority of the subjects were youth. They agonised and vowed to take some measures to address the problem which they felt could jeopardise future development in the area.
They decided to moot out a programme to alleviate the challenge since if they could not then they would have failed to contribute to the society.
“After doing some mapping we came to a realisation that peer pressure was to blame for the increasing number of drunkenness among the youthful population,” said Mutiga.
The two influenced other community members to gang up together and draw a programme that would salvage the youth from alcoholism.
Mutiga and Kinoti had been inspired by a Mobilising, Equipping and Training (MET) programme whose mandate was dealing with youth empowerment which was sponsored by Samaritan Purse, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
Through their observations they came to realise that most of the youth who had fallen captive to alcoholism had started it soon after undergoing circumcision.
“We decided to launch a modern way of initiating boys once they complete sitting their Class Eight national examinations. We had that most of the boys lost track during the circumcision period where we feel there were no mentors to caution initiates against certain practices,” said Mutiga.
The two made up their mind to introduce a new way of initiating the boys into manhood and during that time they will get enough time to teach them about Christianity and culture and the importance of education in their life.
“We sought advice from various stakeholders among them the public health before rolling out the circumcision programme,” says the two pioneers of the now Wasafiri Community Services Group that has over seven members.
They say it took time for the community members to buy their idea of having the boys circumcised at a central place that is, a school.
In November 2008, they advertised about that programme before the candidates sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination but the response was very poor since they only managed to convince parents of 12 initiates.
“We stayed with them for two weeks. We invited traditionalists, teachers, religious leaders and officials from the National Aids Control Council,” recalls Mutiga.
During the graduation of the initiates, they invited parents among other guests and the boys went home with circumcision certificates besides singing a unique modern Ameru song which went as a surprise to the participants in the ceremony.
“The group has been doing that every year with church leaders, teachers, doctors and traditionalists being invited to talk to the boys during the seclusion period until the boys graduate.
“Since 2009 we have never circumcised a total of not less than 60 candidates after residents bought up the idea,” stated the two group leaders.
The group’s mandate doesn’t just end after the graduation since they always make a follow up to know how the boys are fairing on after undergoing the initiation. The group always keeps contacts of the initiates do date.
“Through the follow-up programme our pioneer group of initiates only one out of the 12 had dropped out school and it was due to the demise of his father,” notes Mutiga.
The group credits the programme stating that it has helped solve alcoholism among the youth in the area.
The programme, they add, has helped parents who are unable to nurture their children due to their tight schedule to delegate the responsibility when boys are under the initiation period.
“We have some community members who might not get enough time to attend to their boys once they get cut. Our group has been offering the required care until the boys fully recover,” states Mutiga.
He adds that some parents who stay on rental premises have found the programme quite handy since the boys get a chance to mingle with fellow initiates for the scheduled period.
The group lauds the Ministry of Education for introducing the long December holiday unlike before when the initiates would be rushed into the programme owing to the Christmas festivities.
“The two months holiday has been very helpful. Our initiates now have sufficient time to heal unlike before when time would limit their stay in seclusion,” state the group leaders.
Ms. Peninah Mukoiti, a beneficiary of the initiative, lauds the programme saying since her son underwent through the initiation, he became very obedient and he is now sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams this year.
She states that initially before the group came up with the programme boys would become very rude once undergoing the initiation and especially would never take instructions from women.
“Our main challenge is inadequate facilities because 40 percent of the collections go to leasing of the facility where the initiates reside during the seclusion period,” notes Mutiga.
The group is planning to have their own facility where they will be conducting some guidance and counseling to the society for free and at most three days per week to the community.
“We are planning to reduce the circumcision charges and also offer a sponsorship to the vulnerable groups so as to enhance a responsible leadership within our community,” says Mutiga
The group is appealing for the establishment of permanent guidance and counseling centres in every sub county to attend to matters of youth especially during holidays when many of them become vulnerable to social vices.
By Richard Muhambe/Mwiti Harrison