Young Isiolo teacher empowering students amid covid-19
By Lilian Kaivilu
Mulki Mohamud Abdikadir is a 23-year-old teacher at Algani Girls Secondary School in Isiolo County. Despite the effects of covid-19 on education, she spares her time to remotely teach and empower girls.
At the age of 21, Mulki Mohamoud Abdikadir was attending her teaching practice at Kinna Secondary School, a mixed highs school in Kinna location, Isiolo County. One afternoon, she was in class teaching English Literature when students walked out of class without explanation. “I was so heartbroken. I went to the staffroom and cried until I nosebled. I went to the principal and expressed my disappointment and lack of respect from the students,” she remembers.
But a young Mulki never gave up on the students. She knew she was fighting an attitude and deep-rooted cultural habits where young girls were seen as lesser humans. This inspired her to revive the Guidance and Counseling department in her school, hoping to change the mindset of her learners. It bore fruit. “By the time I completed my teaching practice, the change in the students’ attitude towards education was noticeable,” says an elated Mulki.
Brought up as the only girl in her family in Kinna location, Isiolo County, Mulki attributes her success to her mother who pushed her to find her place in the community. “She urged me to soldier on. Growing up, I saw my mother as a warrior. She overcame so much to get us through education.” Mulki lost her father when she was only nine years. Her mother, she explains, took over the full responsibility of bringing them up.
Although she had initially wanted to pursue a career in Journalism, Mulki reveals that her mother’s resilience in her teaching career inspired her to pursue a course in Education. “Looking at her successes in the midst of her challenges, I felt inspired to be somewhere better than my mum. Despite the fact that I had interest in the journalism career, my mother inspired me to become a teacher. I saw the impact she was causing with her work as a teacher in a local school and I wanted to be of such impact in my community,” she says.
Today, Mulki is a teacher at Algani Girls Secondary school where she teaches English. She is also the teacher in charge of Guidance and Counseling. Before schools closed as a result of covid-19, she held Guidance and Counselling sessions with her students where she openly talked to girls about matters affecting their livelihoods. “I often use my own story to encourage the girls to aim high in spite of their family background.
A Bachelor of Education (Arts) graduate from Mount Kenya University, Mulki says she is determined to see more girls from her community make it to university. In order to keep the students abreast with their studies, the teacher of English often lends her students books while helping them with the different questions they may have regarding the subject. “With schools closed, we have to do what we can as teachers. With no internet for online learning, our chances are limited. It is for this reason that I lend story books and other textbooks to my students at this time,” she says. In addition, Mulki gives writing assignments to her students to help sharpen their language skills.
Halima Alinoor Hussein, is a Form Two student at Algani Girls Secondary School in Isiolo County. To the 17-year-old, juggling between academics and household chores for such a prolonged time is not easy. “With younger siblings and housework to do, I cannot dedicate all my day to studies like I used to,” she says. Although some schools have opted for online classes, Halima says this not an option for her as she neither has a mobile phone nor access to internet. “My only option is self discipline and a structured way of my studies,” he says. This is the case for many students who cannot access internet.
Efforts by her teacher to assign and mark her writing assignments, she says, has helped her with her English skills.
Mulki is the founder of Nomad Integrated, a community-based organization giving free sanitary towels to girls in her community. She uses this platform to be the voice of girls who are at the risk of female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Kinna North Location chief Halake Jillo says although some parents can afford mobile phones to enable online learning for their children, the devices are highly likely to be misused by the learners. “A very big problem is the pupils using phones to engage in illegal activities. It is better they stay home without phones because for our young people here, the phone is more dangerous,” said Jillo.
The administrator also urged parents to take full responsibility for their children to ensure that they remain busy at this time. Last week, the chief convened a meeting to train over 100 girls on the need to avoid unnecessary time waters during this time when schools are closed.
“Most of our parents here are pastoralists. That means early morning they are out with their livestock. Some young people then take advantage of such times to engage in sexual activities. The result is unwanted pregnancies,” says Jillo.
Diram Duba, a youth advocate and gender equality champion with Amref Health Africa says during this pandemic women and girls face a heightened threat of violence during this pandemic, and most may also be disconnected from their usual support networks which would provide help and rescues when required.
“As a champion I have been at the forefront in holding social media campaigns to sensitive young people on harmful culture and distribution of sanitary towels to girls since most of them come from needy families therefore they can barely afford a sanitary pad. I have held mentorship programs to sensitize young girls on early marriages as well,” says Duba