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Moi University awarded Ksh 22m for research and extension to youth.

Moi University’s Department of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies has been awarded US$217, 621 (Ksh22m) grant by Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF), to carry out an assessment of ACIP, a community development programme that the department runs for young people as part of its research and extension work.

In a letter dated November 20, 2015 by Betty Roberts, TWCF president to Eunice Karanja Kamaara, Professor of Religion at Moi University and project leader, he notes that the grant proposal titled “An Assessment of ACIP, An African Christian Character Virtues Programme” was approved. 
“I refer to the Grant Proposal referenced and titled “An Assessment of ACIP, An African Christian Character Programme”, submitted through Professor Andrew Brigs at the University of Oxford to the Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc. (TWCT) for their consideration.
“The grant proposal was reviewed at a recent meeting of the TWCT Grants and Programmes Committee and we are pleased to advise that the grant proposal has been approved,” reads in part Roberts’ letter to Prof. Kamaara.
The grant comes at a time when World Bank Group has just awarded Moi University Ksh600m to develop a continental centre of excellence for Phytochemicals Textiles and Renewable Energy.
One of the requirements by TWCF in the agreement signed between them and Moi University, is that the executive summary of the project is published on the institution’s website. 
Below is the Executive Summary.

GRANT TITLE: An Assessment of ACIP, an African Christian Character Virtues Programme
GRANTEE: Moi University
PROJECT LEADER: Eunice Kamaara
GRANT AMOUNT: $217,621.00
DURATION: Dec 28, 2015 – June 30, 2017.


In indigenous African societies, elaborate rites of passage existed and religion was integrated into the entire process of social formation and identity.

The significance of the initiation rite to adulthood in all African communities involved knowledge of the self in all dimensions – especially the inner self.

Each person got to know his/her physical, mental, and spiritual identity. It was knowledge of oneself that facilitated character formation towards responsible and relational adulthood.

Thus, many rites of passage involved the test of character, focusing primarily on courage and fortitude.

The Maasai of Kenya, for example, tested courage by requiring an adolescent male to hunt and kill a lion. Success in this indicated adequate virtue and suggested that one could, thereafter, be trusted to make independent decisions – to become an adult.

Today identity and belonging are visibly riddled with tensions between the ethnic and the national, attributed to the disruption of traditional ethnic beliefs, rituals and practices occasioned first by colonization and then through the influence of western civilization and its perception that local ways are backward.

The challenges of urbanization, the explosion of information technology and the attendant dramatic cultural and economic changes further complicate the scenario.

Within this constant state of flux, there are times when notions of modernity amount to a near-total rooting out of ethnic forms of knowledge.

In other instances, these traditional systems of knowledge stamp their authority over communities, claiming their consciousness and defying modern or Western concepts - as they are variously seen.

In some cases, adolescents are identifying and creating their own initiation processes. In the absence of effective guidance and

1 This project is made possible through the support of a grant from Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc.

2 On the relevance of the initiation process among African societies, Mbiti observes that it is only after initiation into adulthood that individuals are allowed to share in the full privileges and duties of their people; that individuals enter into a state of responsibility where they have rights and obligations. He emphasizes:
‘The initiation rites prepare young people in matters of sexual life, marriage, procreation and family responsibilities. Initiation rites have a great educational purpose. The occasion often marks the beginning of acquiring knowledge, which is otherwise not accessible to those who have not been initiated. It is a period of awakening to many things, a period of dawn for the young. They learn to endure hardships, they learn to live with one another, they learn to obey, and they learn the secrets and mysteries of the man/woman relationships…’ (Mbiti, 1969: 121-122).
Judith Bahemuka, a well-known authority on social anthropology concurs with Mbiti on this. She indicates that in most traditional African societies, it is not birth, but socialization and initiation that make a person a member of his or her community (Mbula: 1982: 71).
mentorship, adolescents who are seeking to be adults by trial and error often guide these processes.

This consequently leads to lack of confidence and low self-esteem among young people for lack of understanding of who they are.

In addition to the social dimension, initiation in traditional African societies had a psychological dimension. Collective initiation and education through various activities related to resolving unresolved oedipal conflicts, and to combating identity crisis.

For example, the period of seclusion in initiation and the rite of male circumcision serves to break the dependence of males on mothers and to enable them attain the status of adult masculinity (Worthman & Whiting, 1987).

There are variations in the fine details of the initiation process from one ethnic group to another and there may be variations even among sub-ethnic groups.

Nevertheless, the meaning and significance of various practices within the process in as far as individual and group identity is concerned is the same.

The resultant effect of this confusion between traditional customs and western models of adolescents is youth vulnerability to high-risk behaviour, which can lead to life-threatening challenges such as HIV infection, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and drug abuse without the necessary tools to face adulthood.

The result is that the young people aged between 15- 24 form 41% of new HIV infections globally. Most of these infections occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A qualitative study that synthesized 27 peer-reviewed articles and collected the views of 2300 young people from 10 sub- Saharan Africa countries highlighted that initiation in African communities historically formed a major tool of socialization.

Today, what forms the agency for socialization is their families, educators and peers (Knopf et al, 2015).

These three seem to offer conflicting messages and the youth are left in between without the protection and the comprehensive knowledge that come through the initiation process. This present study assessing

3 Research findings suggest that this practice of circumcision continues because the socialization function that it plays is still valued and therefore to eradicate it would require introduction of a different ritual that would meet this function (Okemwa, Maithya and Ayuku, 2014). In contrast to female circumcision, and the negative effects of clitoridectomy, which has been on the decline thanks to governmental and non-governmental organizations, male circumcision is on the rise, because of the realization that male circumcision is positively related to HIV prevention. Various scientific trials carried out over the last eight years suggest that circumcised men are 50-60 percent less likely to be infected with HIV than uncircumcised men (Auvert et al. 2005. Bailey et al, 2007, Gray et al. 2007, Glynn et al 2001, NASCOP, 2010, Sawires, et al. 2007, UNAIDS & WHO. 2007, Williams et al, 2006). The Kenya Aids Indicator Survey (KAIS) 2012, reports that HIV prevalence in Kenya was five times higher in uncircumcised men than in circumcised men. Kenya is at the forefront of implementing efforts to reduce HIV infection through VMC (NASCOP, 2012).

4 Other studies outside Africa show that rites of passage are important in the transition of young people to adulthood. In the US the national organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual insurance conducted an annual survey of teenagers in America to identify ways to help teens make better decisions. The Report showed the impact of “rites of passage in the decision making. The report showed that “high school teens whose parents pay the least attention to significant transition periods (45% ) such as puberty , school change and key birthdays are more likely than teens whose parents pay the most attention (81%) to engage in risk behaviors, including drinking, drug use, early sexual intercourse and dangerous driving (Anderson et al, 2009). In another study which evaluated the impact of rites of passage from on at risk-African American youth and parents. “At-risk African American boys between ages 11.5 and 14.5 years with no history of substance abuse were referred from the criminal justice system, diversion programs, and local schools.” The results of the evaluation showed a significant improvement in self-esteem and accurate knowledge of drugs. (Harvey AR and Hill RB, 2004). The parents also demonstrated improvements in parental skills, racial identity and communal awareness. 

the African Christian Program is built on the knowledge that initiation played a major role in African communities.

It incorporates the old knowledge with the modern context and it shows that the transmission cannot be left to one institution but that parents, teachers and young people have to work together.

ACIP Background

It was against the background of observing the problems that young adults had at Moi University that the African Christian Initiation Programme was established in 2004 as an African Christian Character Virtues Programme with the aim of filling the void between old and new rites of passage.

The programme borrows character virtues from the indigenous African way of life and from Christianity to provide adolescents with information and life skills that assists with building their character for the effective transition from childhood to responsible adulthood.

At the same time, in recognition of outdated cultural and social norms, the programme advocates for the elimination of the unhealthy indigenous practices such as female circumcision to offer alternative symbolic rites of passage.

The founders of ACIP, in line with the belief by Sir John Templeton that human beings are capable of mastering their character for effective service to self and to humankind, seek to affirm Sir John’s position: “Each of us has a purpose for living beyond our own survival and pleasure. Every individual is like a thread in a beautiful tapestry with a vital contribution to make not only to the sustenance of life as we know it, but in the creation and development of more beneficial expressions of life”.

ACIP at Moi University

For a long time, universities in Africa have operated as ivory towers with little or no relevance to local African communities.

The business of universities has focused solely on theoretical research and publications, but this situation is gradually changing.

Over the last two decades, it has not been ‘business as usual’ for many universities in Africa. The need to translate research findings into practical development has been realized.

Thus, universities are increasing moving away from the policy of ‘publish or perish’ to that of ‘innovate or perish’, a paradigm shift that favours research for development.

In 1992, in response to these global Higher Education trends, a group of female researchers from the then School of Social Cultural and Development Studies at Moi University came together to establish the Eldoret-Based Gender and Development Network (Eldo-GADNET) as an umbrella organization through which they could translate their research findings into practical development (research uptake).

Right from initiation, the researchers were clear of the need for local communities to be in charge of their own programme and therefore the imperative for community supported and community participatory initiatives was highlighted.

They registered Eldo-GADNET as a social welfare organization with the Ministry of Social Services in Kenya. Along the way, Moi University established the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research and Extension.

Since then, the university underscores the significant role of not just research but also extension, that is, community engagement for development.

The researchers saw the convergence of the mission of the office of DVC Research and Extension with that of Eldo-GADNET and in due course they affiliated with the office.

Among the pioneer research projects whose findings these researchers sought to implement was a project on sexual behaviour of Moi University students.

The findings of this study indicated that over 80% of university students were sexually active, over 56% of them having had multiple sex (Abuya & Nyairo, 1993).

The result of this behaviour was clearly manifest: high incidences of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, and stress.

For example, the study established that STDs were among the top five diseases treated at the university clinic. Further the study suggested that ignorance on matters sexuality due to a culture of silence was responsible for this situation.

Under the auspices of EldoGANET, the researchers sought to intervene to transform this life- threatening situation into a desirable situation by organizing ‘Ladies to Ladies’ talks at Moi University main campus.

These talks revealed that university students were largely ignorant of their identity as biological sexual beings (with natural sexual instincts and impulses), and at the same time ignorant of their identity as rational and spiritual beings capable of effectively and successfully managing these sexual instincts and impulses.

The findings indicated also that for a significant number of the sexually active girls, sexual initiation had occurred well before they got to campus – while they were still in high school.

The researchers, therefore, sought to come up with interventions at earlier stages in the school system, interventions that would, gradually, also include boys because the male students at the university had indicated that they too needed help understanding themselves and the protocols for healthy interactions with their female counterparts.

Thus the Eldo-GADNET researchers started School Visitation programmes. These involved visiting schools around the university to provide forums for motivational and mentorship talks to address the identity and sexual crises associated with adolescence.

Fortunately, these visitation programmes were replicated and supported by the Association of African Women in Research and Development, a continental organization to which the researchers belong.

Meanwhile, a doctoral study by one of the researchers on gender, HIV, and youth sexuality, was completed in 2003 (Kamaara, 2005).

The findings indicated that unequal gender relations, engraved over traditional ethnic initiation from childhood to adulthood practised in rural areas, significantly contribute to unequal gender relations, sexual activity and the consequent prevalence of HIV among young people. For urban youth, the absence of any form of initiation rite left adolescence without any guidance through their sexual and identity crises.

A most telling finding was that while over 90% of all young people interviewed indicated that their preferred source of information on sex were their parents, only about 20% got this information from the preferred source (Kamaara, 2005:74).

Similarly, about 60% of them said they preferred to get information from religious leaders but actually only about 10% got information from this preferred source.

On the other hand, while less than 40% said they would prefer to receive sex information from their peers and the mass media, over 80% said that they actually got sex information from peers and mass media (ibid).

The conclusions of the study indicated that there was need for an intervention in form of an initiation rite towards supporting young people to successfully transition from childhood to adulthood by providing not just information about sex but also information on their holistic being.

It is in response to this study and to earlier efforts that the African Christian Initiation Programme (ACIP) was founded as the pioneer programme of the Eldo-GADNET. In recognition of the imperative of local communities to be in charge of their own development ACIP was designed to be a local community-based participatory initiative.

The 10th anniversary of ACIP, celebrated in December 2014, provides an appropriate opportunity to systematically assess the programme.

The proposed assessment of ACIP will demonstrate that character and character building can be subjected to careful and rigorous scientific study by systematically measuring the “invisible realities” of confidence, self-esteem, self-control, care, love, and honesty, amongst others.

For the future improvement of the programme the assessment will establish what character virtues ACIP has developed among adolescents, what has worked or has not worked and why. In order to establish this, we propose to carry out various activities: an ACIP Alumni tracer study; a literature review that will guide a mixed method comparative multiple-cases study; and finally a profiling of existing initiation rites in Kenya.

These activities will culminate in a national workshop on initiation programmes in Kenya where the findings of the ACIP assessment, including lessons learnt, will be discussed.

The assessment report will inform the 2017-2027 Strategic Plan to upscale and roll-out the ACIP programme.

One of the major achievements of ACIP that would support replicating or/and upscaling of the character value programme is the development of a training manual titled My Life Starting Now.

This manual, published and distributed by Strategies for Hope in Oxford, UK (SFH) is already being used by many youth organizations across Africa.

The latest communication from SFH is that there are numerous requests for the ACIP My Life Starting Now manual to be translated into local languages across Africa and that in Malawi, a plan is under way for the Youth Activists Initiative Organisation to produce, distribute and promote the effective use of a Chewa edition of My Life Starting Now.

This ACIP assessment project is timely because it addresses the socio-cultural gap that is weighing down Kenya’s national development plans.

Since independence, national flagship projects and development plans such as Vision 2030 have failed to confront the socio-cultural implications of development.

The assessment will show what character virtues ACIP has developed in adolescents as well as what has worked in this programme and what has not worked and why.

This information will be useful for replication and/or in upscaling of the ACIP programme to county and national levels for adolescent character development and therefore socio-cultural and spiritual development.

ACIP incorporates African and Christian religious virtues into the programme because religion plays a key role in the building of moral virtues in African societies. On May 5, 2015, St. Martin’s Press released The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving by Lisa Miller, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education, and Director of the Clinical Psychology Program at Columbia University, Teachers College.

In this book Dr. Miller shows the importance of raising children with spiritual virtues. She explains the clear, scientific link between spirituality and health and shows that children who have a positive, active relationship to spirituality:
* are 40% less likely to use and abuse substances
* are 60% less likely to be depressed as teenagers
* are 80% less likely to have dangerous or unprotected sex
* have significantly more positive markers for thriving including an increased sense of meaning and purpose, and high levels of academic success (Miller, 2015).



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