“A revolution is coming – a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough, compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough – but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability” – Robert F. Kennedy
This past weekend I had the privilege of spending it with a bunch of visionary young leaders that I am so damn proud to call my friends- about 16 of them. We hit the road at the crack of dawn setting out for ‘a date’ with some mighty little ones in the heart of Kamba land (Kitui South to be precise). To say the very least, the experience was life-changing! You, dear ones, rock..never let anyone tell you otherwise! Asanteni.
I was quite excited when my friend Davis (founder of Friends of Progress) reached out to me regarding this gig and of course I had to seize the moment and bring Youth Mentoring & Career Programme (YMCP) Org on board. Clearly I subscribe to the Umoja ni nguvu (Unity is strength) school of thought. What a friend I have in you Davis! Thank you for reaching out. That’s what friends do!
Now, this post is to let you in on the joys and pains of mentorship. Mentoring the younger generation, in my view, is providing a seat for the little ones at the table of the older ones. It is pretending to give them some of your power, courage and hope when in reality you’re only pleading with them to use the power already vested in them by God (- a force beyond us, a supreme being whatever you may perceive him to be) wisely and for the betterment of our society come tomorrow… And yes, tomorrow does come!
As I sat through the talks given by my colleagues to the pupils (in all five primary schools visited), I couldn’t help but wonder if these kids knew just how important they are. I wondered if they know how envious most adults are of them, I mean these kids have entire lifetimes ahead of them – case of the figurative clean slates! I looked into their curious eyes and felt the child in me drawn to the child in each of them. I wanted to tell them they are powerful beyond measure, I wanted to let them know that the future of our nation is in their hands, I wanted to tell them they are the people we will be judged against in just a decade or two. I wanted to tell them that it is not so much in going to school and getting the best grades, going to the Alliances, the Precious Blood Secondary Schools, the Starehe schools and the like that matters… I wanted to tell them that it is what we have over and above the accolades we accumulate over the years of formal education, that which is deeply engraved in our hearts and characters that matters the most. I wanted to let them know that a grade A in the exams scored by an individual with a grade E personality is the reason Kenya and most of Africa is swimming in poverty, crime and disease today. And as I stood to speak to these little ones, I think I heard the the voice of Aristotle echo somewhere at the back of my mind saying, “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.
So, like my colleagues, I stood time after time, dramatically sweeping my eyes across the rooms, slowly letting my eyes take in the greatness in the kings and queens giving me their attention, yet fast enough not to let such greatness intimidate me. I would hear myself tell them how happy I am to be a lawyer and asked them if any of them would want to be a lawyer when they grow up, or an engineer like one of my colleagues…a doctor, financial analysts, IT specialists, business men and women…my God! What do you want to become when YOU grow up? Hahha.. Then I would proceed to tell them the time is now, time to befriend their teachers and the top students, time for group work and sacrifice, a time to sow. I smiled and told them to be disciplined and prayerful..and to never sleep on their talents..and so did my colleagues. I guess that’s our way of telling them to be a little extra. Something a little more than just book smart. Heck, there is more to life than just being good with the books! But still, we rewarded the top three students in each upper primary class for being book-smart because sometimes indoctrination is a much safer evil than to be daring enough to go the Bill Gates way..that we gotta live with.
Much was said, but none of us dared tell these kids anything close to what one Doris Lessing coined out in her book,’The Golden Notebook’ and which I borrow here:
Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry , but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself – your own judgments. Those that must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’
Of course I wanted to warn them of the beautiful mess that our education system is. I should have warned them about the dangers of working so hard only to join the rat-race, but they might have been too young for such truths. Maybe the next time my colleagues and I mingle with them, we will try change the “work hard at school, go to the best universities and get a job then climb the corporate ladder”-narrative to something like, “go to school, be keen at discovering your strengths, focus on the things that make you come alive – be it science, humanities or pure talent, single out a path that best suits you, keep at it and never settle. You’re born for greatness!”
The next time I see them, I will not be afraid of teaching them freedom! I will tell them it is okay to zig when the world finds comfort in zagging… I will tell these little ones that there is no beauty in rounding ones edges…I will tell them to break free from the fear of the unknown and I will pray they understand what I mean. I will ask them to be bold enough to dance even when only they can hear the song! I will let them know they are the leaders and that the offices we are holding today, we are only holding for them in trust and that they must make us proud.
With that, our mission was accomplished and of course we had time to play and boy, don’t we love to play! So now, on behalf of Friends of Progress ( http://www.friendsofprogress.co/ )and YMCP ( www.YMCP.org ), we call upon all persons of good will to join in the mentoring of the youth if only in their own little ways. Let us drink from late Nelson Mandela’s wells of wisdom and remember that, “What counts in life is not mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” and without forgetting the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.”
To my team, the dream team, keep inspiring multitudes everywhere you go. Greatness is what we’re on the brink of! Blessings galore to each one of you.
A prosperous 2016 to all my readers. Bless!