Do we take mentorship seriously these days? What is it anyway? We hear the word thrown about but do we really live it? Mentorship is often associated with politicians or businessmen. For business it would fall more in line with apprenticeship, where a craftsman, for instance, finds or targets a young individual that they can walk with, teach and develop. It takes time and energy, resources that can never be accumulated again.
When it comes to leadership, however, we often have this image of a well-seasoned politician, who will take under their wing a young firebrand with potential, that they think will be the next face of leadership.
Former President Daniel Moi support Uhuru Kenyatta to succeed him in 2002. Before he endorsed Kenyatta, many thought that it would be Musalia Mudavadi.
Mentorship was part of community living. Elders would walk with youth. Hence the saying “a child is raised by the village”. Because, whenever a child was seen to be doing anything wrong, it was the responsibility of the adult present to chastise them.
It was not unheard of to see strangers doing so, because in our cultures, there was no such thing as a stranger. We all belonged to a community. But long gone are those days.
Whenever it comes to scaling the corporate or family, any success cannot happen without attribution to those who opened the doors.
We may be willing to say all sorts of mantras, such as “hard work pays off” or “opportunity and preparation is equal to success” but for sure, opportunities only occur because an individual somewhere decided, or risked to take a bet on you. And often they are older than you.
However, today mentorship is dwindling but we see more women take up the baton when it comes to supporting young girls. Whether it’s by paying for their school fees, or using the extra resources that they have to buy sanitary pads for girls who may not be able to afford them. There are many circumstances that have called on women to come together and support others who are underprivileged.
The growth of chamaas (micro-savings groups also known as merry-go-round) among women plays such an integral role when it comes to access to basic needs in households in this country.
That merry go around goes a long way when it comes to paying school fees, utility and hospital bills. But where are men? That is why in recent months, they have been major debates about the boy child. Much has gone toward empowering young women, that young men feel have been left to fend for themselves.
Thanks to technology we can get information instantly; travel to areas that would take days in a matter of hours. There has been so much improvement when it comes to healthcare access but there is still much more to do.
One would think, with all the advancement that has been made to make things move faster, we seem not have enough time.
Children would wish they spend more time with their parents but are distracted by devices, if not mobile phones then it is the TV. Many are held up at the office for long hours, because the economy does not allow for a person to survive on one source of income.
It is difficult enough when youth have to navigate through life and the challenges of unemployment or not being able to achieve things that their parents did when they were in their 20s.
Owning a home is beginning to look like a luxury, and having a piece of land is not viewed as something important. Because frankly, land is expensive and we can hardly afford rent, with salaries that have not increased in the last decade compared to the rising cost of living.
In that space of challenges, it is not common practice to find people mentoring others. Taking the time to instil characteristics that youth can gain. Intentionally pushing doors open and showing them the ropes.
Whatever culture is being brewed among the youth is making them selfish. But not because they are born selfish, young people are just trying to fend for themselves.
It has become a habit.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW