Each year on 20th November the United Nations invite communities all around the world to mark Universal Children's Day.
In Kenya, Choose Life is helping young people as they prepare for their national exams. Jane Kihiu reports.
A country abundant in natural resources, wildlife and tropical climate, Kenya also faces its challenges. Recurring drought and unpredictable flooding often mean that poverty, sickness and starvation are rife.
Choose Life runs in several schools and prisons in Nairobi, guiding young people to make effective choices in the face of any situation. Upon visiting some of the schools in Nairobi that have implemented the programme into their curriculum, it was humbling to witness just how much the students had applied biblical principles to their daily lives.
Students shuffle their feet as I enter a classroom and eyes dart at me nervously, perhaps expecting rules and regulations to follow my footsteps. Their final national exam - the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) - is fast approaching and these results will determine their ability to transition into high school. After a few seconds, smiles slowly break through as some begin to recognise me from Choose Life.
Cheating on exam days has been a huge issue in Kenya - so much so that the government has attempted to put in a number of regulations to curb this. During some of the conversations I have with some of the pupils, many of them open up admitting that they copy others in exams. They then go on to explain how Choose Life helps in decision-making and walking in truth. "I believe in myself now," says one of the young boys. "I believe that God has given me the ability to remember what I learned so I don't feel under pressure to cheat."
We discuss the actions we can take and the reasons behind them. Among these are sexual activity, substance abuse, stealing and fighting. The students agree that feeling wrapped in hopelessness was once a very familiar feeling, leading to their engagement in these actions. "Drinking alcohol is something I would do sneakily," said a boy who didn't want to be named, "because I grew up watching my father do this and wanted to do the same thing too. From Choose Life, I now know that is why I stopped caring about school and had to cheat on exams. Understanding all of this made me stop. I don't want my life to go the wrong way, I want to make a difference."
Family conflicts, economic pressures and suicidal thoughts aren't uncommon among our youth in Kenya. Quite a few of the students nervously tell me they've experienced this and hadn't truly known peace and positivity before Choose Life. By understanding people around them, they begin to understand themselves and their place in God's story. They realise how simple it can be to get along with peers and to communicate with each other. Since practicing these principles, the pupils talk about taking enough time to think about what they should do in all situations, why they should do it, and who it could impact. These skills have helped them to develop their social lives and family relationships.
Kenya has the fourth largest HIV positive population in the world, and having this infection is part of many children's lives. Some of the students I meet with are so excited to tell me about their prayer lives and growing self-esteem they have developed. Not only has this love created a hope for their future, it has created a desire for them to share the same hope with other children - living in God's Word.
I notice how at ease the children become by the end of each visit. Most of the pupils will be joining various boarding schools while others will return to their homes each day. Putting aside any differences, they confidently chat about their plans for high school and beyond, wanting to be great citizens to inspire others across the nation.
(Deut 30: 19-20, NIV).