The ‘fathers only’ academic day at Kapropita Girls High School in Baringo county went down on Saturday, with male parents and guardians turning up in numbers to honour the invitation from the school management, which had earlier sparked mixed reactions.
From 9am, the parents and guardians started streaming to the school as per the invite which required them to show up without fail.
A teacher who could not be quoted revealed that there was 90 percent attendance, with male parents and guardians of 320 out of the 328 students turning up.
A few female parents who came for the meeting were also allowed in.
The day’s activities involved consultations between the subject teachers, fathers and their daughters.
On arrival at the school, the parents were welcomed and handed white Rose flowers, which each would in turn give to any of the Form Three girls who were lined up at the meeting square, not necessarily to their daughters.
As the girls were handed the flowers, they burst into song, dancing in two queues as they led their parents to the venue of the meeting.
For some of the parents, it was their first time to visit the school since their daughters were admitted.
A parent who asked not to be named travelled the previous day from his work station hundreds of kilometers away to attend the event. It was his first visit since he admitted his daughter more than two years ago.
“It was a very unique event that I have never seen before. Every man who attended the academic day was given a flower and we were required to hand them over to any of the girls as we headed into the meeting. Every student, including those whose parents or guardians were not present got represented,” said the parent.
“I had to travel all the way from Narok so that I don’t miss the meeting because it had been indicated that only male parents were needed. Due to the long distance, I have not managed to attend any of the meetings at the institution since I admitted my daughter two years ago, but this one was an exception and I had to,” he said.
Some of those who accompanied the fathers stood for those girls whose parents did not manage to attend and every student felt accommodated.
“To the hundreds of the girls, the flowers they were given might be the first they have ever received from their dads since they were born and this was a very good gesture suggested by the institution. The reaction from the students was magical,” said another parent.
“From the academic day, I have learnt that we should also play a role in raising our girls. Those flowers we gave them meant a lot and we leant that if we give such treatment and stay close to them every other time, then they are not fall prey to wayward men or seek solace in boyfriends. Cases of teenage pregnancies would be mitigated as well,” he added.
To crown the day, a motivational speaker was invited to speak to the students and their parents.
Joshua, another parent said they were made to understand the school’s concern that previous meetings were mainly dominated by mothers. The school wanted the students to know that fathers can also participate in making major decisions affecting them.
“The only remedy was to invite the fathers,” he said.
“What came to the fore during the forum was that many fathers shy from having a one on one conversation with their girls, especially during their teenage years. That is why you find the girls being pampered and given flowers by the ‘wrong people’ and we end up blaming them for being indisciplined, yet we have failed in parenting ourselves,” he added.
The meeting was not strictly for fathers, but also male guardians including uncles, cousins and brothers. Those whose parents or guardians did not attend were represented by the other males present.
The school principal, Jeniffer Kiprono, lauded the exemplary turn out, saying it would definitely impact on the self-esteem of the students who will feel cherished and loved by their male parents. They expect this to translate into commitment to studies and good behaviour.
“Today, your fathers attended your academic day in numbers as you can see, and to spice up the day, they gave you Rose flowers as a significance of tranquility, peace and love to you,” said Ms Kiprono.
Despite, the earlier uproar from locals and some Kenyans who accused the school of being insensitive to students who don’t have fathers for one reason or another, the principal said the objective and should not be taken out of context.
She said the school wants to bring on board father figures in the students’ lives as part of its psychosocial support approach to learning.
The girls were randomly given white Rose flowers by the male parents as a significance of love, a gesture that many of the attending fathers hailed as one of its own kind.
Hundreds of Kenyans have come to the defense of the school administration saying most fathers have abdicated their roles and left them to the mothers.
Dr Geofrey Wango, a counseling psychologist and senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi said it is important for both parents to be involved in the social-psychological development of a child at every stage.
He said many people have abdicated their parenting responsibilities, spending more time at work, in clubs or social media instead of spending more time with their children.
“Many parents, especially the fathers are not keen on their children’s academic progress. Most of them arrive home late when they are already asleep,” he said.
“In this case, the children end up being lonely and withdrawn. Maybe some are even being bullied at school or social media but they don’t have someone to talk to,” said Dr Wango.
“All the myriad responsibilities are left to the mothers who end up being overwhelmed. What the school principal did was very noble to enable a face to face talk between the girls and their fathers. The involvement of the male parents is very important. Let all the men be invited for such meetings for them to know why parenting is important,” he stated.
He said many teenage girls who engage in sexual relationships or fall pregnant at a tender age did not have a good relationship with their fathers.
“When a girl has a good relationship with her father, they feel cared for and the would-be ‘vultures’ will not come in and fill in the gap of the male parent. Girls who are close to their dads are very comfortable in life, more contented, self-reliant and with high self-esteem,” said Dr Wango.
“When the opposite happens, we see many cases of school drop outs orchestrated by early marriages and teen pregnancies,” he said.
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