It is said, "once bitten, twice shy." 13-year-old Micky* knows this all too well. As a standard seven pupil, she never bothered to check her books after school. More often than not, she would meet with her peers, especially boys aged between 12 to 16 years, who almost led her astray. This resulted in a negative impact on her education. She dropped from being an average pupil to being a poor performer. Luckily, one evening, she met the school's Child Rights Club (CRC) patron, and her life changed for the better.
Micky and her family of four young siblings and mother live in Busia County, western part of Kenya. Her father, a casual labourer, lives in Nairobi and earns 120 euros every month. Her mother also supports the family through menial jobs in the village and earns 25 euros a month. The family also does farming on a three-hectare plot of land that produces 600 kilograms of maize every year. Micky, currently in standard eight, and her siblings study at a primary school nearby.
Micky has always been an outgoing child and could be seen moving up and down the school with her peers, majorly boys aged between 12 to 16 years. The boys were rumoured to be consuming drugs. As a result, she did not take time to study during her free time. In 2019, she dropped from being an average pupil to a poor performer. Her poor performance worried her mother and the teachers in equal measures. "She could be seen most of the time roaming in the village with boys during weekends. I was worried my child was headed in a bad direction," her mother lamented.
"I could not believe that a girl who was so good in my subject had dropped from scoring over 80% to attaining only an average of 30%," her Kiswahili teacher said.
In 2021, Micky's mother became more concerned and visited the school. She met the Child Rights Club (CRC) patron who summoned Micky and guided her on the aspect of young relationships, highlighting its implications at a tender age. After a couple of sessions, the patron decided to engage Micky in the CRC, and later made her the CRC chairperson. This move would be seen to compromise the perception of the CRCs but the patron took her chances with Micky. She thought this would be a great opportunity to mentor and monitor her. “I saw the potential in Micky and I felt it was high time the girl was helped,”said the CRC patron.
As the saying goes, “when an opportunity presents itself, don't be afraid to grab it”. Micky gladly took up the opportunity to lead the CRC . With guiding and counselling sessions from the patron, health talks from her peers within the club, and constant monitoring, her behaviour changed within the first few months. Day by day, her leadership abilities grew, she became self-aware and she was leading with integrity. Additionally, she also represents the members during children's events such as at the sub-children assembly whenever the club is invited.
Currently, the CRC chaired by Micky has a total of 50 members, (22 boys and 28 girls). The representation is from grade 4 to grade 8. The club carries out its activities including sensitisation on child rights and responsibilities, involvement in income generating activities, debating on current issues, life skills training, and arts.
A few months later, Micky was elected as the chairperson of Matayos sub-county children's assembly. “I think the CRCs are very important and from what I always see, all members of the club are performing well. I would like to encourage my fellow girls to join the forum. I want my position as the chairperson of the sub-county children assembly to be inherited by a girl from my school.” Micky said.
Her performance, according to the teachers, also improved. At the time when this story was being documented in July this year, Micky was holding three badges for the best pupil in English, Maths, and Kiswahili in the whole school and top of her class for the last three examinations.
She is currently the only girl who has been able to overcome the dominance of boys in terms of performance. “My performance was too low, especially in Mathematics and Social Studies. Whenever I was told to study hard, I just could not care or get bothered. After I joined the CRC, I started putting in more effort and it has paid off,”Micky added .
Micky not only feels good about being part of the CRC fraternity but also has big dreams for the future. " When I grow up, I would like to be a journalist." she said.
*Terre des Hommes Netherlands is implementing a Child Protection Project under the Joining Forces Alliance. The project has invested in training the headteachers and club patrons in the 24 public primary schools in Matayos and Teso North sub-counties to establish the Child Rights Club (CRC) and provide continuous mentorship to the club members.