Roselyne Mairori a resident in Mt. Elgon and also a director of a program dubbed Mentoring Discipline and Family (MEDIFA) a program that deals with rescuing and mentoring girls who are at risk of facing Female Genital Mutilation, teenage pregnancies and early marriages in Mt. Elgon.
Mairori started a camp last December that brought together girls who were supposed to be circumcised.
Valerie Chepkorir Ngeywo, 14 was one of the girls who attended the alternative rites of passage program that was started by Ms Mairori.
Chepkorir said she did her KCPE in 2016, and got 383 marks at Chepkurkur Primary School and was called to Moi Girls Marsabit but her family could not raise the required funds for her to continue with her studies, that forced her to repeat class eight due to poverty.
Chepkorir said, she quailed and went back to school when schools opened for the first term in 2017 and went back to her former class. She said that after her first attempt, she tried looking for help but could not find any help and no one in the community was willing to assist her.
“I could not find any help and was really looking forward to go to high school. When no assistance came I decided to go back to school as I could not just sit back at home,” she said.
Chepkorir recounted how throughout the year, she was desperate wondering whether she would be able to join high school even after she sacrificed to go back to school to repeat.
She said when her teachers realized she was among the other students who had finished, were surprised as to why she had not joined form one and she explained her predicament and allowed her to stay in school.
She said in September last year, a church organization, International Christian Ministries (ICM) put out a request for girls to join their bible camp in December and escape possible genital mutilation and early marriages.
“We were placed in groups and people were asked to share their experiences. I was overcome by emotions and could not share my experience and the director called me aside that is when I shared my experience,” she said.
Chepkorir said it was hard for her as her second attempt she garnered 386 marks and was called to Alliance Girls High School but was still doubtful if she would go to school.
Chepkorir says she hopes to study medicine and become a neurosurgeon.
Chepkorir schooled at Chepkurkur Primary School, which was in the headlines in 2013 after 18 girls were found to be pregnant forcing them to cut short their education same as the neighboring Chelebei School where 20 girls got pregnant while at school.
Ms Mairori said every girl was giving their testimony in groups of 10 but when it was Chepkorir’s turn she broke down in tears. She said she took her aside and calmed her down and asked why she was not ready to share her experience.
Luckily for her, MEDIFA had understood her plight alongside 55 other girls who were in the program with her and now received sponsorship for their secondary school education.
“I took her aside and when she told me her story and I was touched and decided to follow up her story and realized they were many such cases and we decided to sponsor them,” she said.
Mairori said her organization will pay all expenses for Chepkorir at Alliance Girls High School and her 55 friends until they complete their secondary education.
She said she started the program to ensure that they retain a lot of girls in schools after realizing a lot of them were dropping out of school.
Mairori said that the area had been in the news for the wrong reasons due to female genital mutilation (FGM), teenage pregnancies and early marriages as a report showed in 2013 that over 140 school girls were pregnant in Mount Elgon Constituency.
She said the program was started to ensure that the girls got life skills and taught how to cope with pressure, as a girl and the importance of staying in school.
“This program gives girls the necessary skills to survive in this community and avoid early marriages and keep their bodies well and complete their education. Our community has been in the news for very wrong reasons and we are seeking to change the narrative,” she said.
Mairori said the girls had undergone the alternative rites of passage and graduated on December 9th last year.
Valerie’s mother, Jovia Chemusto, said she was glad that her daughter would now be able to attend school. She said that she had high hopes for her daughter as she was bright and was lacking finances to afford her the education that she needed.
“Our family state was what made us realize it was hard for her to continue her studies as she is a bright girl. I am happy that she is finally going to high school and she will be able to fulfill her dreams,” she said.
During their graduation ceremony, Bungoma County Commissioner, Joshua Chepchieng’ said it was a conspiracy that the community could not help Chepkorir to join form one.
Chepchieng’ said it was unfortunate that all the opinion and other leaders in the area failed to take care and raise funds for her secondary education.
“This is a conspiracy because, how can people in that community starting from the teacher, village elder, chief and his assistant, pastor and even the MCA fail to seek help for that girl to join Form One. Is it because they do not value the girls in their community? That is a conspiracy,” he said.
Mairori said they will continue with the mentorship program and will seek to have more girls join the program.