Why its important to teach teenagers about their constitution

Teens Guide to the Constitution of Kenya
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I am best known as a speech writer and thought leader in Kenya, but over the last few years I have dedicated my life to teaching teenagers about their constitution. This has included writing the Teens Guide to the Constitution, a simplified version of the 2010 constitution that is intended to nurture the next generation of citizens. It informs and equips our teenagers and young adults, with the knowledge and skills they need to impact their communities today, and in the future.  

Why have I devoted so much time and energy to this task?

There are three main reasons.

First, is the realization that as a young Kenyan, I wasn’t adequately informed about my country’s history. The long-term causes of some of the key challenges we face, such as negative ethnicity, socio-economic inequalities, and the quest for civic and political freedoms, were either glossed over or taught to us from a very particular – and not always balanced – perspective. You can therefore imagine my despair, when I experienced the 2007/2008 post election violence and got to learn of its causes. You can also imagine my surprise, when I learnt of the transgressions that characterized our quests for multi-party democracy, women’s rights and even land and environmental justice.

Second, in my years as a lawyer and public Intellectual and having worked in the political, civil society and public service spaces, I have realized that most of the information that is available on leadership and governance is tailored to adults and legal experts. This continues to disenfranchise young people and to exclude them from discussions on the issues that affect them. Yet in only four years, a 14 year old today, will be expected to vote or even stand for office and make decisions for his or her community.

Thirdly, I realized that this exclusion is not always intentional on the part of decision makers. As parents and caregivers, we shield our children from that which we think is harmful to them. Oftentimes, we assume that they are too young to understand or to be included in serious national conversations. This is not always true however, because across the world, young people like Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan), Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and Vanessa Nakate (Uganda) have demonstrated, that with timely and adequate support, teenagers have the capacity to influence how we see the world.

The Teens Guide to the Constitution of Kenya meets these needs. It provides our young people with accurate and comprehensive information about their country. It guides them on how they can be active and productive members of society. It also provides a platform for intergenerational conversations, and helps us to engage with our teenagers as partners in nation building.

To raises awareness about these issues and the book, I appeared on the #ODPPCafé show at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Kenya, where the host Anita Onuko and I discussed the the role that Teens Guide to the Constitution of Kenya can play in nurturing the next generation of citizens and teenagers in order to strengthen the nation-building process.

To buy a copy of the Teens Guide to the Constitution those in Kenya can head to Nuria Store or you can WhatsApp 0742862080 for delivery – and this second edition is up to date.

Sandra Ochola is a Consultant, Author and Thought Leader, interested in issues of leadership, governance and strategic communication, who has written a column for Kenya’s People Daily newspaper.

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