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Education stakeholders work on curriculum to teach learners how to cope with mental health issues

Education stakeholders in Kenya are working on a Resilience Module curriculum that will be incorporated into the Kenyan syllabus to teach learners how to cope with mental health issues.

The program dubbed Youth First Kenya was started five years ago as a pilot project in select schools across the country and is nearing completion before it is included in the syllabus for general implementation.

Already the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has approved the curriculum and is waiting to roll it out to schools it is touted to be a game changer where learners and teachers will have an opportunity to learn and understand mental health issues and how to tackle them as they grow.

The awareness program module will incorporate teachers and students at all levels of education and will also help create more sensitization among key players; it is targeting 6 million children.

Speaking during a stakeholders meeting held at Silverpalm Hotel in Kilifi town, the Executive Director of BasicNeeds Kenya Rosemary Gathara said that the program that is on trial in some schools is meant to equip learners with skills to make them resilient as they face challenges in life.

“The books that will be used have been checked and approved by KICD and we are happy that the Youth First Kenya program is successful and we hope as the rolling out goes by, the program will reach all schools and that is our main goal,” she said.

She added that the program was currently running in select schools in Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta counties adding that mental health issues were rampant in the country.

Gathara said that statistics had shown how the mental cases are perceived adding that the program seeks to ignite inner strength to help in mental stability.

“In Kenya, we know, at least one in ten people develop a mental health condition. For those visiting our patients’ facilities it has been studied that one in four Kenyans exhibit a mental health condition and the Youth First Kenya program takes us back before these conditions develop,” she said.

In the curriculum, she added learners will be able to understand their roles in coping with day-to-day stresses in their lives and how to prevent the development of mental health conditions.

“We appreciate the collaboration that we have, especially the Memorandum of Understanding that Youth First Kenya signed with the Ministry of Education to have the program to be introduced in schools,” she said adding that KICD has vetted the materials to be used, the teacher’s manual and a pupil handbook.

According to Gathara, the curriculum will also involve parents since there will be homework for learners that parents are required to help them solve.

“We are happy that the Youth First Kenya program also promotes the component of parents’ engagement that is promoted in the CBC curriculum. We appreciate the role that parents play in nurturing the values at school that are also taught at home. The youth first Kenya materials are available to the pupil and they can take them home, some sessions do not end at school,” she added.

Stephen Leventhal who is the Chief Executive Officer for CORSTONE, an international organization that deals with the inner well-being and mental health of adolescent youth, said that the youth first Kenya program has been in operation for nearly 15 years and exists to help youth from humble backgrounds cope with mental health issues.

“Youth First is a program that we designed nearly 15 years ago and it has been very well tested to improve the well-being of adolescent youth, particularly in challenging conditions and lower-middle-income countries. It helps to empower the youth to change their life trajectory,” he said.

He added that many challenges contribute to mental health cases among youth and that the program under Youth First Kenya comes into play to help them cope with the challenges.

“Mental health for the youth here in Kenya and all over the world is becoming pretty challenging for many adolescents. There are several factors for this that include the rising social and financial economic inequities, challenges around climate change, increased substance abuse and a lot of it brought by social media,” he said.

“With this program what we are really trying to do is to provide for children, empower them with skills, attitude and a mindset of agency that helps them to push back against obstacles that they face and to move forward in their lives and feel empowered to change the path of their lives,” he added.

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