Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Ogande Girls

One. Look for the mosquitos. Two. Catch the mosquitos. Three. Confuse the mosquitos. Four. KILL THE MOSQUITOS!

A hundred claps echoed throughout the auditorium. Young women dressed identically in white blouses, brown skirts, brown vests emblazoned with dignified school crests, and brown shoes laughed at the new clap they had just learned from an enthusiastic Egerton University student.
These bursts of laughter belong to the Ogande Schoolgirls, whose future is as sunny as their faces.

Last Saturday, we had the pleasure of traveling out to Nyanza with the Coffee Hour students to spend the day speaking to the students at the Ogande School for Girls. After spending the Coffee Hour Student forum discussing campus issues like career development, relationships, peer counseling, HIV/AIDS, security and gender relations, the students at Egerton were extremely excited to talk to the secondary school girls (high school age) about life and challenges faced after graduating from school. Some of the intense topics covered by the university students included strong study habits, time management, campus life, career development, avoiding pressure to have sex prematurely, HIV/AIDS, and hygiene. The girls in particular enjoyed the skits performed by the Egerton Coffee Hour crew. One of the skits featured two university boys who were trying to seduce a na├»ve female “fresher” (first year student). When their outrageously cheesy pickup lines (“You are as sweet as my grandmother’s porridge” and “Your beautiful anatomy teases my biology”) fail to entice the pious girl, they pretend to be God and tell her that God’s will is for her to marry the first man she sees at church the next day. Of course, one of the university boys is waiting for her at the church the next day. A second skit described a girl who got caught up in partying and risky behavior before entering the university (due to the limited spacing at Kenyan universities, there is a two year waiting period before one can enter university). The girl, who scores extremely well on her entrance exams, gets pregnant and faces disappointment from her parents as well as a compromised future. Moral of both skits is for the girls to remain “good girls” and to resist the flirtations from cunning upperclassmen.
Another presentation the girls enjoyed discussed proper usage of the sanitary napkins the university students donated to Ogande. Because some of the students at Ogande could not afford to buy sanitary pads, the girls often had to miss school for a few days each month because of the stigma and embarrassment associated with the menstrual cycle. Addie, Caitlin, and Prashant talked to the girls about the biology behind the menstrual cycle, proper usage of sanitary pads, and ending stigma about having a period. The girls were taught how to not reuse the disposable pads and given a demonstration by Prashant and Jesse. Their male gender made the demonstration highly amusing for the schoolgirls as the boys struggled with the sticky pads.

At the end of the day, we were all exhausted but extremely glad that the schoolgirls had fun and learned a little about life after secondary school.

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