In Summary
  • For those that have no idea where to start, there are numerous tailor-made programmes that teach parents how to bring up their children better.
  • They include initiatives such as Mothers of Sons, by Transform Nations, Lea, an initiative of Mavuno Church and Raising Future Parents, driven by Navigators Kenya.

You will agree that raising children is not as straight forward as it was, say, a decade ago — not with the advent of the internet and its rapid connectivity.

Now, most families in urban and suburban areas have access to the internet, access that has made the world a small village and opened up a multitude of communication channels, changing how we consume news.

Thanks to this exposure, children are more enlightened and therefore questioning more, which is a good thing. However, the internet is a double-edged sword with its own dark side where obscenity, pornography, addiction to gadgets and other vices lurk.

With this in mind, today’s parent has to be doubly vigilant and put more effort into parenting lest their child is drawn into this cesspool.

For those that have no idea where to start, there are numerous tailor-made programmes that teach parents how to bring up their children better. They include initiatives such as Mothers of Sons, by Transform Nations, Lea, an initiative of Mavuno Church and Raising Future Parents, driven by Navigators Kenya.

Another is New Dawn, steered by Irene Tongoi, a mother of three grown-up children aged 33, 31 and 28. There is a fascinating story behind how this initiative came to be.

New Dawn mentorship founder Irene Tongoi during the interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi on September 6, 2019. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITO

New Dawn mentorship founder Irene Tongoi during the interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi on September 6, 2019. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITO

Then a stay-at-home mother of two teens and a pre-teen, she woke up to the challenges that come with raising children in this age group when one day, her son, then 14, announced that he would be bringing home his girlfriend.

TRANSPARENCY

“My husband and I encouraged our kids to be transparent with us, therefore when he made this announcement, we told him that we looked forward to meeting her,” explains the 61-year-old grandmother of four.

“I still remember the culture shock I experienced when the young girl turned up dressed in a crop top that revealed her navel and a micro mini-skirt,” she says.

Irene’s greatest concern was the fact that the girl had too much flesh on show, and the realisation that her son was now a young man who needed guidance on his sexuality. At the same time, she was not sure this was the girl she wanted for him.

“But mum, you can look into her beautiful eyes for 24 hours!” her infatuated teen protested when she voiced her concerns. Before this incident, her daughter had told her about two schoolmates, a boy and a girl, who had been “grinding” on each other in the school bus.

That, she says, and the visitor that her son brought home were her cue to start teaching them about responsible sexuality. It is also then that Irene embarked on researching about sexuality.

With no solid plan in place, once she was satisfied that she had enough material, she got together her daughter’s four closest friends, with their mothers’ consent, and hosted them in her home one Saturday afternoon.

FIRST LESSON

“I had also asked the girls to bring a friend along, bringing the number to eight. We not only talked, but also ate and danced to their choice of music. I used the opportunity to give them my first lesson on ‘decency’,” Irene says.

The girls enjoyed the session so much that they requested another the following Saturday, explaining that they had many questions to ask about sexuality and other topics they had discussed. Eventually, Irene and the girls’ mothers agreed on monthly meetings since weekly ones were not viable.

“I coached this first group of girls for three years. By the end of the third year, I had incorporated two other groups of girls. It was evident that the girls were different; they knew their boundaries and understood about responsible sexuality. Their parents could see it, and spread the word to other parents,” she says.

Eventually, parents with boys began to enquire whether there was a group for boys, prompting her to bring on board young male trainers who could address issues related to boys.

Eventually, New Dawn was born. The three-year programme has a curriculum that teaches children life skills centred on their sexuality, relationships and community service. The programme conducted by professional facilitators, aims to train children how to become responsible adults.

So far, over 2,000 children have gone through it since its inception in 2001. Initially, it was designed for children aged nine to 12 years, but due to a growing need, the facilitators have designed a programme for five-to-eight-year-olds.

“Though I now had a big group to work with, I was keen on replicating the pillars I used to found the original group. The concept involves getting parents with children of around the same age to form a group guided by their value systems. They do not necessarily have to be Christians. Once the groups are in place, we come in. The three-year programme costs Sh20,000 a year per child.

FATHER AND DAUGHTER

Mumo Mutiso has three children aged 13, 11, and six years old. The eldest has completed the programme, while his second, Lydia, is winding up the three-year programme.

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