On a warm Tuesday morning in January, Grade 10 student Francis Naimodu stands next to the administration block of Ngulot Boys High School in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. It’s admissions day, and he, along with several other classmates, are waiting on the new class of Grade 9 students reporting for their first day of high school.
He straightens his tie, tucks in his shirt and brushes imaginary dust off his school sweater. He is about to meet his “son” and first impressions are everything.
Francis and his fellow learners are part of the school’s new father-son mentorship program. Older Grade 10 learners (“fathers”) are tasked with mentoring the new class (“sons”). In their inaugural role as “fathers” they are supposed to help the new students cope with the first day of school.
Francis’s “son” is Zadock Kibet. He was among the first learners to arrive, accompanied by his actual father. Zadock says the first thing he noticed was how much taller the other learners were compared to him. In preparing for his first day, Zadock worried he would be teased due to his size. He heard stories about bullies in high schools.
Zadock gave his name and was introduced to his school “father,” who unsurprisingly towered over him.
Francis, familiar with first day nerves, explained the mentorship program to Zadock and his dad. He assured the freshman he had nothing to worry about; he would look out for him.
Francis knows the importance of having a mentor and role model.
His older brother is the reason he is in high school today. Francis was born third out of five children at home. His father and mother passed away when he was young. It was his eldest brother who stepped up to raise him and his siblings.
When Francis graduated from Grade 8, his brother couldn’t afford to send him to high school. No one in the family had ever gone. Then a new high school for boys opened in the Maasai Mara. Founded by WE, it offered full scholarships, just as WE’s Kisaruni Group of Schools already did for female high school students. These all-girl campuses were the first of their kind in the region. Now, the first all-boys campus would afford the same opportunity to their male counterparts.
Francis’s eldest brother vigorously encouraged Francis to apply, knowing the role education plays in redefining male milestones in Maasai culture. The proud younger brother asserts, “He has always made sure that my siblings and I had what we needed to become the best people we could be.”
Francis became part of the inaugural class (watch him learn of his acceptance). When he joined Ngulot, Francis wanted to emulate his brother’s leadership skills. Into his second year now, he’s well on the way to becoming the man his brother is. “I have become more confident. I can now talk to other young men like me at home and encourage them to not only stay in school, but to work hard as well,” he shares. He says the “father-son” program will be an opportunity to pass on the type of mentorship he received from his brother.
The mentorship program isn’t the only new thing at Ngulot. As the school celebrates one year since it officially opened in January 2017, the campus has expanded. There’s a new classroom, a new dormitory and new teaching facilitators, who are busy leading extracurriculars, on top of regular classes.
Ngulot’s one-year anniversary marks these changes, but the most significant milestone is the opportunity for 33 more boys from communities across the Mara to get a high school education.
As Principal Godfrey Chepsiror explains, the “father-son” program will ease the transition of the new learners into an unfamiliar environment. He adds the program is also an opportunity for all students to learn from one another as they grow into confident and thoughtful young men.
For Francis, forming the school environmental club—and becoming club leader—was one of his favourite initiatives from his Grade 9 year. It taught him so much about patience and respect for the environment, while club members keep the school grounds clean and beautiful by planting trees and flowers.
It’s no wonder when his new “son” commented on how green the environment at Ngulot was, Francis felt a twinge of pride. He hopes Zadock will be a new recruit to the club.