Mount Kenya University (MKU) has launched a health and wellbeing project for students in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The programme, a collaboration that involves the University of Nairobi (UoN) is set to spread to other colleges in Kenya and in the region.
Dubbed the O3 PLUS Project, (Our rights, Our lives, Our future project) the project was launched recently under the theme: “Promoting Health and Wellbeing among students in Institutions of Higher Learning in Kenya.”
The overall goal of the project is to ensure that young people in higher and tertiary education institutions in the Eastern and Southern Africa realise positive health, education and gender equality outcomes through sustained reductions in new HIV infections, unintended pregnancy and gender based violence.
Launching the project at MKU, Pro-Chancellor Dr Vincent Gaitho, said academicians, mentors, parents and partners in institutions of higher learning, are charged with the onerous responsibility of ensuring that students and the youth enjoy their lives to the fullest without any health hazards and dangers.
“Young persons you need constant guidance so that you can safely transit to responsible adulthood. As an institution we shall remain grateful to UNESCO for this noble initiative to protect the lives of young people,” he said.
He warned that there are strong forces that have emerged which are working negatively and against our efforts to train and empower the youth to be formidable, future workforce for our society.
“These emerging challenges include rising incidences of HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, gender based violence, alcohol, drug and substance abuse and mental health issues among others. Unfortunately we have witnessed the lives of some of young, brilliant and promising minds ruined, destroyed or even lost and education curtailed as a result of the these challenges,” he cautioned.
Dr Gaitho urged the students to take advantage of the project, “learn as much as you can from it so as to live a clean life free of drugs and substances, responsible sexual behaviour and keep of incidences of violence,” he said.
Prof Kennedy Mutundu, the project’s communication manager at MKU, said higher and tertiary institutions are home to a large number of sexually active young adults who are vulnerable to sexual and reproductive health-related concerns and risks. “They get into new relationships, have new responsibilities and experiences on their own and in unfamiliar settings,” he said.
“MKU is conducting a survey to assess the level of knowledge and awareness of its students in sexual and reproductive health. This will be followed by an information campaign that will include a 5km walk in Thika town to raise awareness,” Prof Mutundu said.
MKU Co-founder Dr Jane Nyutu, urged the students to embrace the project saying it is already having a positive impact on some of their lives.
“This is something to add value to your lives; I hope will help you to stand out and make an impact on your family life and careers,” she said, urging the students to retain the connections they will make during the programme.
Vice Chancellor Prof Deogratius Jaganyi said current students are facing challenging times and temptations. He said he was impressed by the way MKU students have embraced 03 plus project by starting awareness campaigns through poems, drama and fashion shows. “I appreciate the talents that our students have to tackle the reality of the issues on the ground,” said the VC.
Prof Jaganyi urged students not to engage in violent college relationship saying, “If for bad luck you fall into such relationship you are supposed to speak up and get assistance or walk out of them completely because nothing is permanent and there is always an opportunity to change one’s life.”
UNESCO representative, Jane Kamau, promised that, upon successful implementation of this project at the Thika Main campus, it will soon be scaled up to other campuses and universities in Kenya and even in other universities in the entire Eastern Africa region.
She said MKU and University of Nairobi were selected as the pilot projects adding that the program is currently being undertaken in 32 countries around the globe.