I have spent the last eight weeks in Kitale, Kenya, coaching rugby and teaching reproductive health education to high school girls. The aim of the program is to provide young women with adequate information needed to make informed decisions, and to have agency in matters concerning their reproductive health. This is done through a combination of is educational talks, discussion sessions and by giving them the knowledge and opportunity to participate in sporting activities.
Girls in Kenya are rarely encouraged to play rugby as it is considered a masculine sport, best suited for boys - so the program also gives them a chance to play a sport they would otherwise not have the opportunity to play.
Initially, I thought that the biggest challenge would be getting students to be enthusiastic about the talks and discussion sessions. However, the school dynamic has proved to be the biggest hurdle. Nyabomo Secondary School is small, with around 200 students, and provides boarding facilities for about 30 girls. So 30 girls live on campus and 60 commute to school every day. The school schedule is very rigid and allocates only 30 minutes, 3 days a week, to sports. Realistically, this is only about enough time for warm-up and stretching. Having about an hour and a half a week to introduce a new sport to students who have never watched let alone play the sport has proved to be quite a task.
One option was to extend the training time to after school hours but this proved impossible because majority of the girls who commute are responsible for the evening household duties and have to rush home, while those who stay in school have to be ready for dinner by 5.30pm. Couple this with the fact that in July and August it rains almost every other afternoon and there are no indoor sporting facilities, and you realize that we actually really have very little time for sports, which has been incredibly frustrating.
In order to have some more time for rugby, on some weekends I have training sessions with the students that live on campus. We also have to fit the time that we have with the weather patterns, so each day I prepare to either have a discussion session or go our for training, and the weather dictates what we do. When it’s not raining we take advantage of the opportunity and go out and save the discussions for the bad weather days.
I have never truly appreciated the necessity of having indoor facilities up until this point, and how the sporting culture in an area affects the time and resources allocated to sports. It has made me realize that the insufficient time given for sports highlighted the lack of emphasis on the necessity of sports for holistic development by administrators. Consequently, I also came to appreciate the necessity of helping administrators fully understand the role sport can play in the development of students if sporting opportunities were to be made more meaningful to students.