Teachers trained in child counselling through our partner, Anglican Church of Kenya, Mount Kenya West Diocese (ACK), are unique guardians of child rights in rural Kenya.
In communities where we work in Nyeri County, poverty leads to many family problems like separation, neglect and abandonment, putting young lives at risk. However, teachers are now being trained to notice signs of these problems, and work with the community to support and protect children.
In many ways the teachers in Kenya are more than just teachers; they are treated in society like second parents. Despite this, for a long time, they haven’t been equipped with the skills to be able to spot the signs that a child is struggling or empowered to be able to intervene if neccessary.
However, ACK has been working with the Teacher’s Service Commission to address this community need, developing ‘Systemic Child Counselling Training’. This has not only helped teachers identify children living in harmful environments, but has also taught them how to talk to the children about their problems, and where they can turn for help.
Charles and Mary are the Guidance Counsellors (teachers who volunteer to also take on the guidance counselling role) at a primary school with 800 students in a migrant town called Chaka, where alcoholism, abandonment and child abuse are rife. They have been trained through ACK in Systemic Child Counselling and, although it adds to their already heavy workload, they can’t stop talking about how it is changing both their lives and the lives of their students.
“ACK support us in a very big way. Particularly for those kids that live in difficult circumstances and come from families which are challenged, we have several, several cases. We have been able to help many since being trained,” Charles said.
Through the guidance counselling training, the teachers are taught to observe the students and notice when there may be issues. Things like truancy, a change in grades, loss of confidence or anger issues, tiredness, lack of food, and dirty or no uniforms can be indicators of problems at home.
Teachers, who would have previously punished them for not doing their work, or turning up to school late, or not being in uniform, are now approaching these situations with a lot more caution and understanding. Now they try to reach the heart of the problem and work with the family and community to find solutions.
“These children, when you give them a chance to open up and share, they do. You just have to show them that you care and want to listen to them. They trust us. After we started counselling the students, we realised that many problems come from home,” said Mary.
She speaks about a student who was often absent from school and didn’t complete work, but as they discovered, was also struggling at home.
“I found him loitering around town instead of being in school……and he told me all about his home life. He said that his mother has been very ill and he doesn’t have anyone to take him to school, so he wasn’t going.”
“Since he is a boy, I involved Charles to go to his house; they were surprised that they didn’t know the boy was having issues. He was sleeping on the floor and fending for himself. At school he was being punished for not doing his homework, but when we heard his story we changed our mind and attitude. We had to start anew. From there we started to help him getting to school and involved the community leaders.”
The Imarisha Maisha project is funded in part by the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). We are proud to partner with the Australian Government in delivering this program upholding child rights.
To support this program select ’09. Kenya – Imarisha – building safer communities’ from the drop-down menu on our donate page.