Student mentorship: Let’s retrace our steps for the sake of the future generations

More than four decades ago, I left Alliance Girls High School with a very positive gait and a dream to conquer the world.

Like many of the girls back in those days, we were stepping out of Alliance Girls extremely proud of our academic achievements, poised and confident. The sky was the limit, we knew that, and we were ready!

We had successfully managed to go through what was the best Secondary School in Kenya and perhaps sub-Saharan Africa. Mine was a confident spring, out of an education facility that helped nurture a well-rounded young lady, bright eyed, well grounded, well groomed and ready. This Saturday, I am reconnecting with my Alliance roots during the first Alliance Schools Alumni gala dinner where I have been invited as one of the guest speakers.

My return will undoubtedly be filled with a heavy dose of nostalgic moments. Nostalgic moments that have shaped my adult and professional life in a deeply profound way. From the lush and conducive Kikuyu area environment, many of my classmates at Alliance Girls and counterparts at Alliance High School (boys) have gone on to make a mark both in the local and international economic, political and social fields.

Thanks to an impeccable almost unparalleled academic and social discipline delivery model, the Alliance Schools, have consistently produced captains of industries, eminent lawyers and religious leaders, distinguished journalists, honest bankers and even great, honest politicians (yes, I mean it when I say honest)!

Looking back, I can’t help but draw parallels to the changes that have characterized education delivery over the last four decades. As a parent and grandparent, I have witnessed phenomenal transformations in the education system some with positive impact, but some with considerable negative future ramifications. The changes experienced in the education system like many other sectors have presented challenges that need to be reviewed before we end up throwing away the baby with the bath water.

On the front, I have in mind the seemingly breaking down or non-existent mentoring systems that had existed in our days and through to the late 90s, allowing many of us to grow up conscious of societal norms and values. The school environment, including the conscription to the National Youth Service in the 80s, provided a good ground for shaping those impressionable young minds. Some of the systems including the prefect-based approach to leadership in schools remained a key component for nurturing us to respect and appreciate the role of institutional leadership.

In essence, the prefect system provided a critical law and order management model that complemented the role played by the teachers back then. Vices such as bullying at Alliance Schools were frowned upon and dealt with decisively; no room was left for confusion. Please remember that we had been formed in a deeply religious system with very high regard for human life, personal discipline and values.

Most importantly, guidance and counselling worked parallel with formal schooling. Mentoring sessions provided by various professionals and passionate role models played a very key role in nurturing our values. They talked the talk, and walked the walk… in the light!

In our days, mentoring was taken as an important personal duty particularly by the Alliance Schools alumni communities. Many of the old boys and girls who had passed through the schools would regularly and diligently spare considerable resources and time to guide us through various aspects of life, including but not limited, to subjects and career choices. They took this role extremely seriously, and we felt their commitment, both as authentic personal role models and impressionable ethical professionals. They walked in the light personally and professionally.

We were exposed to a variety of trailblazers in their respective careers from Prof Wangari Maathai, Prof. Micere Mugo, to the late Prof Grace Ogot among many others. They not only allowed us to broaden our academic and career choice viewpoints but also made us realise that we could also aspire to be trailblazers in our own rights. We dreamt big and in technicolour, today it would be 3D or maybe 4D? But we knew from the example of our mentors that we could stick to our core values and still be amazingly successful.

Evidently, the breakdown of such guidance and mentoring systems has now given rise to the vices we are reading and watching with horror on media channels. It is as if an airborne virus that should have been managed through already existing elaborate mentoring programmes, has mutated out of control with all of us watching, and is now spreading like bushfire.

The alumni communities in my view must step up to the challenge and seek to play more active roles in shaping the destiny of our daughters and sons at Alliance Schools and beyond.

The community must seriously and diligently take up the role of nurturing upright men and women who stand for the old school core values of respect, hard work, persistence and perseverance. We can no longer afford to abdicate this role to the teachers and prefects in our schools. We must revive and re-energise the alumni associations as a matter of urgency. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in trouble, and the time to act is now!

Through mentoring, we shall also manage to showcase the variety of career choices available including entrepreneurial opportunities. In the contemporary world, the choice of opportunities post-secondary school, is as wide as the globe, but one constant factor still remains, the role of a sound value system that is passed down by those who were privileged enough to have experienced it, you and I.

I am stepping up to the challenge of reaching out to our young ones in our schools, and I am hoping that more professionals like you will join me!

(Ms Mbaka, an Alliance Girls Class of 1975 alumni, is the Group Managing Director at the Dalbit Group)

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