Initiation for teenagers, church style
Various churches have taken it upon themselves to facilitate transition from childhood to teenage by starting programmes that target boys and girls who have just completed primary school.
Dubbed Rites Of Passage Experiences (ROPES), the programmes teach the 13 and 14-year-olds basic life skills and tackle prickly topics such as sexuality and HIV/Aids that parents shy away from.
Churches like the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) and Christ Is The Answer Ministries (CITAM) also facilitate the circumcision for boys.
We find about 38 boys at the PCEA Dayspring Academy in Kariobangi, just in time for their breakfast. They are here on a 10-day crash programme initiated by the Church.
The programme was started four years ago as an initiative of the church’s men’s fellowship and it was aimed at filling glaring gaps they identified.
“After the boys finished their standard eight and they lacked proper guidance and preparation for what awaited them in secondary school and in adulthood, they were brought here,” said Parish Minister Rev John Gicheru.
The boys’ parents pay Sh10,000 for the ten-day exercise. They are more than happy to surrender their children to be taught issues such as sexuality.
A separate girls’ programme that mirrors the boys’ with exception of the surgical procedure will begin in two weeks.
The girls’ parents will pay Sh7,000 to have mentors, teachers and trainers who will prepare them for the world outside.
Citam holds a similar programme, also dubbed Ropes that educates the youngsters on character development among other life skills.
According Citam Deputy Bishop Ken Kimiywe, the programme kicks-off with both male and female participants and after a week, the boys are left behind so that they can undergo the cut.
“The second week begins with the cut and thereafter, a series of teachings on their transition from boyhood to manhood. We included circumcision because it is a cultural thing and many youngsters tend to do at around this time. We deliberately incorporated it into our programme in order to accommodate as many people as possible,” said Bishop Kimiywe.
According to the bishop, many parents, particularly single mothers, think the programme shields the boys from other cultural practices and negative influences.
“We also do it for group dynamics. A boy tends to feel happier when he graduates in a group. It gives more meaning to him,” said the bishop.
Citam’s programme usually costs Sh13,000 for the package that includes the boys’ initiation and Sh4,000 for the girl’s programme.