by Teresa Craft
Kenyan people are very friendly. We inevitably get stopped to have side conversations multiple times as we walk. People want to know our names, where we are from, if we like Kenya, and what we are doing here. Sometimes we are misheard and people think we are here teaching 'administration'. As soon as we clarify (often using hand gestures to emphasize) that we teach 'menstruation' to girls, we are thanked and then asked why we don't teach the boys too. Principals, someone we met on the footpath walking home from school one day, and an adamant AirBnB host encouraged us to also teach menstruation to the boys. “Do not forget the boy child!” we were admonished.
We agree that males should be aware of the anatomy and parts of the cycle so we set about planning a lesson. We asked some grown Kenyan men around Lornah's High Altitude Training Centre about what they knew about the subject to try to gauge our starting point. Many didn't seem comfortable talking about it. We asked some 20-somethings. They also didn't really want to talk about it. Golda and Miriam, our project partners from The Golden Girls Foundation, were in town and have been dealing with the topic of menstruation for years so we consulted them. After they stopped laughing, they wished us good luck.
As the day for teaching 7th and 8th grade boys at Kamariny Primary School approached, we felt confident with the material we were going to teach, just unsure of how silly or shy the boys might act in class. But we had a plan... involving sweets (candy)! Sure enough, there was silence during the initial anatomical section.
But once the sugar came out... it turns out the boys were well versed in anatomy from their biology class. The parts of the cycle seemed to be new information though. A few kids even seemed surprised that girls bleed every month. There were some giggles but overall the boys were very respectful and engaged.
At the end of class, we often allow the students to submit anonymous questions about things they are too shy to ask aloud. We passed around the sparkly pink water bottle and received the following questions which we answered on the spot:
My favorite question was about how to get a girlfriend. Oh boy child, if only there were a bullet-point list we could give you! But start with listening to her, telling her you like her, and being nice to her.
Overall, we hope these young men came out of the lesson with factual knowledge as well as some sympathy for the monthly tribulations of their female schoolmates.