Keeping young minds engaged
Following a community service visit to Wanzua Primary School, Kitui, in 2017, Maria and Clare were not only motivated to teach class 4 pupils as a way of giving back to the society, but also brainstormed ways in which they could have a long-lasting impact on young girls. The solution came in 2018 when Maria and Clare took part in the UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited Challenge, an opportunity to identify solutions that can have a positive impact on education, skills, training, employment opportunities and empowerment of young people. As a result, they founded Jalia Club and settled on bringing together young girls from diverse backgrounds so as to bridge the gap between students from less privileged and elite schools through activities that would offer them a chance to learn from each other.
Maria Gitau and Clare Kanja have been friends since they were in primary school and they both joined Strathmore University as Diploma in Information Technology (DBIT) students. Maria is currently pursuing Bachelor of Science in Informatics and Computer Science (B.Sc. ICS) – exempt while Clare is a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Electrical and Electronic Engineering student at the University of Nairobi.
Dealing with uncertainties
Their initiative has now come in handy during these unprecedented times when a large number of young people are faced with uncertainties about their future. The duo’s passion for community service and the realization of the need to keep their peers between the age of 14 to 22 years engaged during this pandemic, prompted them to organise virtual talks that would divert their attention from the distressing news regarding the downside that comes with the COVID-19.
“We had 35 girls in our first virtual session. Majority of them were from Kenya, though we had a participant from Cameroon. Our initial target had been to gather twenty girls. However, we received submissions from over 70 people!” Maria says. The girls were enrolled in a two-week programme that ran from 4th to 18th April this year. They split the girls into small groups, and assigned mentors to them.
The participants in the programme were taken through Design Thinking, a human-centered approach to problem solving, that Maria and Clare were introduced to at the UNICEF’s 2018 Challenge. With it, they were challenged to dig into an industry while applying the stages of design thinking as they focus their eyes on problem solving. “We have conducted informative sessions on Intellectual Property with the help of Wairimu Manyara, a Bachelor of Laws student at Strathmore and Kennedy Mumo, a Strathmore BSc. ICS alumnus. We’ve also handled mental health as COVID-19 poses a threat to the mental status of the young people,” Maria says.
Future of Jalia
Jalia Club looks forward to engaging more university and high school students and more collaborations in physical workshops once normal life resumes. Aimed at fostering healthy conversations among young girls, “we also hope to open our wings to more young girls across Africa. These workshops will focus on soft skills, career development and design thinking sessions as well as involving more mentors and career professionals,” Maria concludes.
The article was written by Odhiambo Obonyo.
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