MENTOR-MENTEE (MnM) PROJECT

Project Background

The Africa Continent and Kenya as a country are in economic, social, political and to some extent cultural transition. This situation brings with it enormous uncertainty and anxiety among the populace. Underneath this fast changing situation are major socio-political and economic challenges that have led to constant violent conflicts. Young people are faced by most of these challenges. The question is “are the young people in Kenya and Africa adequately equipped to handle these challenges?” It was the urge to provide an answer to this question that inspired Peace Ambassadors Integration Organization initiate the Mentor-Mentee Project (MnM). Over the years, we had observed that Girls in some areas of Kenya have been on the receiving end of life’s cruelty such as limited access to basic education, early pregnancies, FGM and forced early marriages. As a result they ended up dropping out of school to get married or look after their young ones. The boys on the other hand are forced to drop out of school to fed for their families or are recruited to extremist groups, criminal and banditry groups. Those students who manage to push through, feel inferior and sometimes lack confidence and drive to push on with life. It was in such a background that we decided to come up with a project to hold the hands of these girls and boys and walk with them through life’s journey. To show them that they could make it in life. The Mentor – Mentee (MnM) is a peace advocacy and education empowerment project. The project pairs undergraduate or graduate students with Secondary School students for a negotiated period of time during their academic life at the school. Mentors and mentees are paired on the basis of their career path and social interests. Mentors and mentees are encouraged to meet formally during various mentorship events, community social gatherings, career-related symposia and athletic events. Mentors serve as role models, offer advice on academic and career goals and guide students as they begin to develop professional networks. Mentees explore their mentor’s academic and professional life and network through personal development functions. The project was incepted in May 2014 with and scheduled to run for 4 years. During this period it was estimated that 10,000 direct beneficiaries would be reached and over 500, 000 indirect targets. Currently the project has mobilized over 600 undergraduate and graduate mentors who are mentoring 560 secondary schools mentees. The project is being piloted in three secondary schools with an aim of having a model school in 10 target Counties. The schools are chosen based on a particular profile; they are day mixed Secondary Schools located in the most marginalized areas of Kenya. Areas prone to conflict which are recovering from decades of marginalization and unequal access to national resources. The (MnM) project has built a mentor-student nurturing type of relationship to help both Mentors and Mentees develop into well-rounded individuals. This project has created a national youth exchange platform for young people from over 30 Universities in Kenya to be recruited as volunteer Mentors. This has allowed them to overcome their ethnic, religious, social or gender differences and work together as advocates for peace, access to education, good governance. We have brought on board partners to support the project that have included the Kenya Administration Police Service and it’s interesting to see Police Officers join the Youth in mentoring activities. Other Partners include County Governments, Non-Government Organizations, Faith Based Organizations, Corporate and Learning Institutions not forgetting communities hosting the project. Peace and education go hand in hand, it is through education that one is able to pass the message of peace and education will occupy the minds of these upcoming leaders as we all know an idle mind is the devils workshop and this campaign would not have a better time in this Kenya than now.

  • Target GroupYoung people (Graduate and Undergraduate Students): Through assisting they gain exposure, gain life based and technical skills that can assist them address issues affecting them and society.
  • Young Girls and boys (Secondary Students): Through a deliberate focus approach that ensures they don’t fall through the cracks due to their vulnerable position in society.
  • The Community members: Will gain knowledge and information through young people on various education, peace and developmental issues affecting them and will be guided to collectively seek collective and sustainable solutions to these challenges.
  • Secondary Schools: Will gain more insight and expertise in dealing and engaging their students in academic work, life skills development and school capacity development.
  • Kenya government: The project will contribute in vision 2030 besides complimenting other government policies and actions of citizen participation, sustainable development goals and youth participation.

Project Objectives

The main objective was to create and advocate for a model community based holistic learning platform that could meet the needs of marginalized communities
The following were the specific objectives:

  1. To enhance the social development of boys and girls at target Secondary Schools by pairing each one of them with a graduate or undergraduate role model
  2. To foster Mentorship relationships that will help target Secondary School students raise their academic performance and career goals
  3. To impart the target students in secondary schools with life skills for Income Generating Activities
  4. To restore the dignity of the girls in target secondary schools by enhancing their knowledge in reproductive health and providing them with sanitary towels
  5. To offer training to both mentors and mentees on Non Violent Communication Skills and Alternative to Violence approaches
  6. To sensitize local communities to embrace shared security, champion education and engage in governance and peace processes
  7. To create an exchange platform for youth mentors from diverse backgrounds to interact, learn from each other and become engaged citizens in social transformation
  8. To create social advocacy for the challenges of target beneficiaries on issues such as of access to universal basic education, Gender Based Violence, Peace and Security

Activities and Methodologies

The Project mentees are drawn from average performing schools that were referred to the project by consultation with school personnel. Three day mixed secondary schools from marginalized conflict prone Counties were identified. These are Senetwo Secondary School in West Pokot County, Ngubereti Secondary School in Baringo County and Hindi Secondary School in Lamu County.
Mentors are recruited as volunteers from over 30 colleges and universities or from professional middle career graduates. Prospective mentors were be required to complete a thorough application and screening process to determine their suitability.

After mentors are screened for eligibility, a project orientation and training is provided. The interactive training include a discussion of the roles and responsibilities of the mentors, time commitment, consistency of participation, and the clarification of expectations and boundaries of the relationship with the mentee. They are also equipped with empathy skills by trainers sourced from the Centre for Non Violent Communication.

Mentors and mentees are then matched based on the submitted applications, interviews, and on the basis of shared interests regarding a hobby, pastime, or career path. Mentor and Mentees are strictly paired from same gender. After submitting an application, the students were interviewed. They are selected on the basis of several factors including a strong desire to participate in the program and parental consent.

Mentorship gaps were identified through a baseline survey in each school. The mentors/mentees met during a project Kick-off Visit that brought on board all stakeholders including Community members and leaders. There were 3 minimum mentorship visits to the school in a year, one every academic term, each lasting for 5 days. The Mentor and Mentees are encouraged to maintain contacts through telephone during holiday, social media, emails and constant postal mails. During each school visit, the mentors and the mentees have a one on one session, group discussion sessions, social skills training sessions, debates, team building sessions and life skills training sessions.

The implementation of the project is based on the following strategies:

The main objective is to establish a community based learning platform where stakeholders could build synergy for social transformation. To achieve this the project works with partners, networks and developed collaboration with key actors engaged in youth empowerment, peace building and education capacity building in the country. These include NGO’s, FBO’s, Corporates, Kenya Administration Police and National and County Governments.

The project creates advocacy around Kenya constitution rights for youth and other marginalized groups, the National Youth Policy and National Peace Policy. This is done during the community forums which are part of mentorship visit. Advocacy is also done during various national workshops, seminars and conference to place the agenda on the doorstep of various stakeholders including government, development organizations and the media among others. Social media advocacy campaign is also done through Organization website, Facebook page and WhatsApp groups. Individual Social Advocates were picked for the project and these included Halima Kosgey a mother of 4 children who went back to school as the National Ambassador for universal access to education; Ashura Michael a hearing impaired Mentor and UNESCO Ambassador for disabilities as the advocate for social inclusion and Christine Alfons a Mentor and Global Advocate for end of FGM.

The project seeks to build capacity of youth, both young men and women and enhance their ability to prevent, address and recover from conflict situations. This is achieved through participatory learning processes the focus of which was group dynamics, peace building, nonviolent communication and project management.

Both Mentors/Mentees and teachers are trained on Non Violent Communication and introduced with Alternative to Violence approaches The project uses community mobilization and awareness creation to reach out to more people at the community level effectively. The Mentors enjoy an enriching program and acquired new knowledge and experiences in community engagement. This is done at the community level through peace advocacy walks, public security forums, education sensitization activities and community charity events.

Resources for the project are mobilized through sustainable approaches. One of it is training the Mentees on life skills and providing them with materials to start Income Generating Activities. Three activities were identified namely baking, making detergents and making floor mats. The end products are sold to the local community and project stakeholders and the proceeds given to the mentors to meet basic need as well as being ploughed back to the project. Another approach is use of social media publicity where individual grants were raised in Kenya and abroad. The project also rely on the Mentors who contributed especially to meet their own costs during the project visit, also they continuously donate sanitary towels, books and other learning materials not forgetting their precious time.

Project Background

The Africa Continent and Kenya as a country are in economic, social, political and to some extent cultural transition. This situation brings with it enormous uncertainty and anxiety among the populace. Underneath this fast changing situation are major socio-political and economic challenges that have led to constant violent conflicts. Young people are faced by most of these challenges. The question is “are the young people in Kenya and Africa adequately equipped to handle these challenges?” It was the urge to provide an answer to this question that inspired Peace Ambassadors Integration Organization initiate the Mentor-Mentee Project (MnM). Over the years, we had observed that Girls in some areas of Kenya have been on the receiving end of life’s cruelty such as limited access to basic education, early pregnancies, FGM and forced early marriages. As a result they ended up dropping out of school to get married or look after their young ones. The boys on the other hand are forced to drop out of school to fed for their families or are recruited to extremist groups, criminal and banditry groups. Those students who manage to push through, feel inferior and sometimes lack confidence and drive to push on with life. It was in such a background that we decided to come up with a project to hold the hands of these girls and boys and walk with them through life’s journey. To show them that they could make it in life. The Mentor – Mentee (MnM) is a peace advocacy and education empowerment project. The project pairs undergraduate or graduate students with Secondary School students for a negotiated period of time during their academic life at the school. Mentors and mentees are paired on the basis of their career path and social interests. Mentors and mentees are encouraged to meet formally during various mentorship events, community social gatherings, career-related symposia and athletic events. Mentors serve as role models, offer advice on academic and career goals and guide students as they begin to develop professional networks. Mentees explore their mentor’s academic and professional life and network through personal development functions. The project was incepted in May 2014 with and scheduled to run for 4 years. During this period it was estimated that 10,000 direct beneficiaries would be reached and over 500, 000 indirect targets. Currently the project has mobilized over 600 undergraduate and graduate mentors who are mentoring 560 secondary schools mentees. The project is being piloted in three secondary schools with an aim of having a model school in 10 target Counties. The schools are chosen based on a particular profile; they are day mixed Secondary Schools located in the most marginalized areas of Kenya. Areas prone to conflict which are recovering from decades of marginalization and unequal access to national resources. The (MnM) project has built a mentor-student nurturing type of relationship to help both Mentors and Mentees develop into well-rounded individuals. This project has created a national youth exchange platform for young people from over 30 Universities in Kenya to be recruited as volunteer Mentors. This has allowed them to overcome their ethnic, religious, social or gender differences and work together as advocates for peace, access to education, good governance. We have brought on board partners to support the project that have included the Kenya Administration Police Service and it’s interesting to see Police Officers join the Youth in mentoring activities. Other Partners include County Governments, Non-Government Organizations, Faith Based Organizations, Corporate and Learning Institutions not forgetting communities hosting the project. Peace and education go hand in hand, it is through education that one is able to pass the message of peace and education will occupy the minds of these upcoming leaders as we all know an idle mind is the devils workshop and this campaign would not have a better time in this Kenya than now.

  • Target GroupYoung people (Graduate and Undergraduate Students): Through assisting they gain exposure, gain life based and technical skills that can assist them address issues affecting them and society.
  • Young Girls and boys (Secondary Students): Through a deliberate focus approach that ensures they don’t fall through the cracks due to their vulnerable position in society.
  • The Community members: Will gain knowledge and information through young people on various education, peace and developmental issues affecting them and will be guided to collectively seek collective and sustainable solutions to these challenges.
  • Secondary Schools: Will gain more insight and expertise in dealing and engaging their students in academic work, life skills development and school capacity development.
  • Kenya government: The project will contribute in vision 2030 besides complimenting other government policies and actions of citizen participation, sustainable development goals and youth participation.

Project Objectives

The main objective was to create and advocate for a model community based holistic learning platform that could meet the needs of marginalized communities
The following were the specific objectives:

  1. To enhance the social development of boys and girls at target Secondary Schools by pairing each one of them with a graduate or undergraduate role model
  2. To foster Mentorship relationships that will help target Secondary School students raise their academic performance and career goals
  3. To impart the target students in secondary schools with life skills for Income Generating Activities
  4. To restore the dignity of the girls in target secondary schools by enhancing their knowledge in reproductive health and providing them with sanitary towels
  5. To offer training to both mentors and mentees on Non Violent Communication Skills and Alternative to Violence approaches
  6. To sensitize local communities to embrace shared security, champion education and engage in governance and peace processes
  7. To create an exchange platform for youth mentors from diverse backgrounds to interact, learn from each other and become engaged citizens in social transformation
  8. To create social advocacy for the challenges of target beneficiaries on issues such as of access to universal basic education, Gender Based Violence, Peace and Security

Project Innovations

The following key innovations have been realized:

  1. It was the first mentorship project in the country where all students in a school are paired up with an undergraduate or graduate student based of their career paths for the entire period in their secondary school.
  2. The Baseline Survey done to identify the mentorship gaps brought new perspectives and recommendations for improving education system and exposed existing regional inequalities.
  3. The project generated a Mentorship Handbook that is “free-to-share and free-to-use” and can be used to model other mentorship projects in Kenya and Africa
  4. The projects showed innovation in introducing life skills for income generation activities with inspiring marketing approaches such as targeting community market and local government to purchase the products
  5. The use of social media and ICT based platforms to create publicity and advocacy on the project objectives and outcomes and in resource mobilization
  6. The use of Individual Ambassadors as advocates for key projects issues generated national and international interest
  7. Introduction of ICT training to the target students done by the mentors
  8. Introduction of an ICT based communication system between the Mentors and Mentees replacing the usual postal letters. (Mentees write letters which are scanned by a volunteer correspondent and emailed to the Mentors who in turn email back replies which are printed and given to the mentees).

Project Impact

The following key impacts have been realized:

  1. 600 Male and female graduate and undergraduate students mobilized, screened, trained and engaged as project mentors.
  2. 560 Male and female Secondary School Students been recruited as project Mentees.
  3. Over 50, 000 indirect project targets have been reached with the project advocacy issues.
  4. Over 20 mentorship visit organized for mentors to meet their mentees over the past 19 months
  5. All mentors and mentees have undergone trainings on basic conflict management skills.
  6. All Mentors and Mentees have gained exposure on diverse issues such as Reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, GBV, Career Choice, Human Rights, Entrepreneurship, Talent Development.
  7. The first bunch of 50 Mentees have sat for their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam this year 2015 and await the mentorship graduating ceremony in April 2016.
  8. 2 of the Mentee girls who sat for their national exam have been offered scholarship for technical training by an organization called Global Give Back Circle.
  9. 3 National and International Project Ambassadors identified to advocate for access to Universal Basic Education, Social Inclusion and end of FGM.
  10. The mentee girls have been provided with a free supply of sanitary towels every month.
  11. Books, learning materials and games equipment worth over $2,000 have been given out to the target schools.
  12. A sanitation block has been built at a cost of $800 donated by the mentors as well as completion of a learning block.
  13. A school environment management and tree planting project has been initiated in one of the schools.
  14. A school solar lighting project has initiated and completed for one of the schools allowing the students to increase their learning hours.
  15. 240 Mentees have been trained on social enterprise and equipped with life skills for Baking, Mat Making and Detergents making.
  16. 240 Mentees have been trained on basic ICT skills.
  17. A Mentorship relationship has resulted to raised academic performance and career goals as well as a decrease in school drop-out, school pregnancies and indiscipline cases.
  18. The Mentorship Project model has been shared and is set to be rolled out in Malawi in 2016 by Peace Ambassadors Malawi Organization.
  19. A vibrant learning and exchange platform has been created for the project Mentors allowing them to volunteer in the project, gain in school experience on project management and network with each other.
  20. Social media platforms have been used to create publicity and generate advocacy for the project issues.
  21. Reports have been generated and shared with stakeholders as well as pictorial and video documentation.

Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge has been a mismatch between limited capacity and resources too complex, multiple and large scale problems and the risk of not making a huge difference in a fragile environment of growing expectations. Resources are mostly needed to cater for the transport, catering and accommodation costs of the mentors. Also for procuring the necessary materials required for the Income Generating Activities and meeting the administrative costs for project coordination. So far 80% of all resources mobilized were from the individual Mentors and although that promoted the spirit of volunteerism it limited the level of impact. Already there are requests to implement the project in 5 more Counties and bring the number of direct beneficiaries to over 5,000. Even though the human resource is readily available the logistic are enormous without necessary finances. There is need for more efforts to establish partnership with diverse partners who can contribute to the resources needed to enable making bigger impact. Creating more publicity will profile the project and attract more interested partners who could channel in resources.

Lessons Learnt

If we acknowledge that the youth are the leaders of today, then mobilize and organize them into youth action groups, we can then provide them with a platform for personal development and self –reflection.

If we can expose the youth to global and local societal challenges connected to poverty, conflict and development issues, then we can help them realize their full potential as social change agents and raise their interest to become engaged citizens.

If we can assist the youth to discover their talents, harness their ideas and equip them with requisite attitudes, skills and knowledge, then we can empower them to become active participants in community development processes.

That mentoring works because role Models greatly influence how students behave, students grow and develop through identification with role models and positive models influence the social development of the students.

That mentorship builds maturity as participants become more self-reliant and confident in their own abilities. Participants also develop useful communication and networking skills for the future which can provide a competitive advantage when applying for college or in the workforce.

That projects that foster participation of participants from diverse backgrounds create exposure to new cultures and help overcome ethnocentric tendencies. Besides participants are able to overcome ethnic and cultural based stereotypes.

That the role of young women especially at the grassroots remain minimal while violence against women and more so young women in all its forms continues to prevent young women realizing their potential and by extension denying the community the contributions these young women can make.

That to challenge the culture of violence among the youth, it is important to expose them to new Alternatives to Violence. There is a dire need to equip the youths with conflict management and peace building skills that can enable them to actively participate in the peace building agenda.

That there is a nexus between peace and livelihoods; when young people are economically empowered they become active participants in seeking solutions on developmental issues affecting their communities. Thus important to build capacities of young people and assist them to explore innovative ways of earning a descent income thus helping address this challenge.

That in reaching out to a target group not used to an approach there is a risk of that approach seeming idealist and thus getting rejected by both the target beneficiaries and the other stakeholders. To avoid this scenario it is important to invest in first establishing good relations build on confidence and trust.

That every participant wants to feel part of their own destiny and development often fails this and results to pushing ideas and approaches down beneficiaries’ throats. Though most activities and approaches are not new, we will work on a platform of inclusive, participatory and interactive approach has designed all the activities to be inclusive and participatory, the set goals have also been identified with consultation from the beneficiaries.

That organization limited financial and human resource inputs as limitations for impact may be overcome by long haul and sustained commitment to work with youth by choosing strategies and opportunities to “do more with little”.

The risk of bringing on board a sensitive Government to back the program without diluting its aims can be overcome by positioning project activities to contribute to national policies and strategic plans.

As a strategy, project participants and implementing partners should integrate technical and logistical capacity building of local players (technical services and grassroots communities) into their approach, for an effective local-ownership of the dividends of project activities.

It is important to document all the project outputs and outcomes as part of the learning process and in order to allow sharing of best practices.

That social media is a powerful tool when used in positive transformative ways such as advocacy, publicity and resource mobilization for community projects

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Project Coordination Office spearheads the Participatory Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation process. Monitoring is done on a continuous basis throughout the project to focus on the implementation of the project work plan as well as resource utilization. Monitoring tools include budget control charts, milestone chart, control point identification charts and participants registers. Mid-term evaluations are conducted at the end of each calendar year and after the project term a comprehensive project outcome evaluation shall be carried out in a participatory manner and reports sent to all stakeholders.

Sustainability Plan

To ensure there is sustainability of the MnM Project, the following measures have been put into place. The establishment of the Project Coordination office at Peace Ambassadors Integration Organization National Office that coordinates projects communication, Negotiations with partners, Plan project activities, Solve problems and manage ideas, suggestions to improve the project. The office is under a Project Coordinator and 3 members Project Steering Team. There are also School Liaison Officers seconded by the target schools to the project to act as the school project contact people. Proper Training for all project participants is carried out and an information management system developed. Each School project has acted as a pilot project and the experience has informed our expansion to other target schools across the County on a rolling basis.