Nine Students have taken in their stride the task of transforming from beginners to accomplished hikers in 90 days, accepting the challenge to climb Mount Kenya for better health. With a focus on the well-being of University students and youth in general, their goal is to promote discussion and action around mental health, reproductive health and gender based violence.
All the students are participants, taking the personal physical and mental challenge to raise awareness amidst peers and society of the reality for students around reproductive health.
“Participating in this hike creates a good and healthy focus in life. My experience has been good; I have had an opportunity to interact with great minds and life changers who have advised me on various paths of life, within the hiking practice period,” said Oliver, 23 year old graduate of Commerce.
“I decided to engage in the hike as a break from a busy academic year, work on my resilience and showcase the importance of health and wellness,” shared Emmanuel, 22, Bachelor of veterinary medicine at Kenya University.
Student Life in Nairobi
The nine students, known as the #MtKenya9, were keen to share their perspective on the realities of being a young person in the city and student life.
Relationships are at the heart of the student experience in all their forms and are important to these students. Through sexuality education in Institutions of Higher Learning, students “learn how to have healthy relationships, make informed decisions about sex and love themselves for who they are,” said Ndihuri, a first year arts student.
“Having access to sexual and reproductive health and services can decrease teenage pregnancies and prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infection,” she added.
“Cases of early and unintended pregnancies are rampant, and it is important to enlighten young people on importance of personal development in aspects of psychology, mental and sexual maturity,” said Emmanuel.
Through the O3 Plus programme, “students get to interact with the subject and information after strict secondary school experiences, without information. Campus seems to be the place to get into dating and relationships, so it’s beneficial that students are educated and advised on how to minimize negative influences; it’s not uncommon to hear of examples of suicide and violence when relationships go bad,” continued Emmanuel.
“At this level, the youth are diverse and so are their sexual needs. Information and access to modern contraception, menstruation, HIV and STIs testing and treatment, gender-based violence and pregnancy, are mostly needed by the youth. The universities and colleges have recorded cases of gender based violence and sexuality that have been increasing day by day due to lack of forum to educate the youth and to address these issues,” shared Oliver
“Mental health has been an issue over the years affecting the youth originating from many factors including a submissive society, negative peer influence among the youth, frustrations in life, cases of gender-based violence, drug and substance abuse …” said Oliver.
This has been exacerbated by the global pandemic of Covid-19, where there has been a greater level of uncertainty, disruption and physical inactivity.
“Most young men are not aware of health-related problems and therefore need to be educated so that they are aware of the diseases and on how to prevent them,” continued Simon, 23, a second year geology student.
It’s also a personal story for Ndihuri, who has seen the impact of not being educated and informed with the knowledge to make personal decisions. This impacted someone she cared for, “the story involves students making ends meet by using ways which are not right affecting their lives and health.”
“it is important to note that we are the future leaders. How we shape and mold the youth is of great influence as far as leadership is concerned,” said Oliver.
Young Dreams for Kenya
“I have a dream… My hope for young people in Kenya, me being included among them, is that we get a transformative government that will put us at the forefront. I hope that various life skills curricula will be introduced into our higher learning institutions that equip us for the world outside school. That we get friendly avenues to address mental health,” shared David, 22 studying civil engineering.
All our students, braving Mount Kenya in solidarity and as a community are grounded in the belief that it takes commitment and one step at a time. “One step motivates another,” shared Oliver as his focus for motivation.
The big event launch
The Mount Kenya hike takes place 14-17 July, 2022. The group was flagged off on 13 July by Prof. Jaganyi, MKU Vice Chancellors, Prof. Kiama, UoN Vice Chancellor, Dr. Medhin Tsehaiu, Kenya UNAIDS Country Director, Festus Jera, Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage and Hugue Charnie, UNESCO.
In Kenya, Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3 Plus) is a UNESCO project piloted in partnership with the University of Kenya and the University of Mount Kenya. 11 campuses are participating in the project in Kenya.
The project, builds on the success of UNESCO and partners’ O3 programmes throughout the region, focussed on improving young people’s access and understanding of Sexual and Reproductive Health, gender and education for their future.
O3 Plus focuses on young people in higher and tertiary education institutions recognising that these institutions cater for a large number of sexually active young people who often lack adequate Sexual and Reproductive Health information and so are at a higher risk of EUP, HIV and other STIs, as well as other poor Sexual and Reproductive Health outcomes. The project is currently being implemented in 33 higher and tertiary education institutions in eight countries.