Lydia Mumbi Muchira, Nairobi Kenya
A remarkable participant of the Ruhpolding Workshops is Lydia Mumbi Muchira. Mumbi studied to be a teacher for secondary schools, and taught there for quite some time. Later, she was a school inspector employed in the Kenian Ministry for Education.
Today she is retired and works as Executive director in the »Canopen Education Services Foundation« which was founded by Mumbi in 1993.
What is the task of Canopen and how did it develop?
During her time in the Ministry for Education, Mumbi listened to the different reports of teachers. They said that many students complained about headache and sickness without any obvious physical reason. From Mumbi’s point of view, the reason is the strongly hierarchical structure of the educational system. Teachers use their sticks for corporal punishment when students do not obey or make a “mistake”. The children are simply afraid to come to school, and at the same time they are under considerable strain because of the pressure to conform.
This stress results in physical pain and decrease of power, and in the worst case, children drop out of school.
Mumbi wanted to contrast this movement.
In 1993 she began to educate students on Saturdays voluntarily in their creative abilities. Mumbi herself is a certified creative writer, therefore she set in with this technique. Further on she included other creative ways of expression like painting, drawing and three dimensional design.
In these courses the children have a chance to express their thoughts and feelings by writing or painting.
Problems surfaced, not only between the children and their teachers but also between children and their parents. Especially obvious, this was in two different ethnic groups living in a slum area close to Nairobi, Kenya.
When people move from the countryside into the big cities, to find a job and better living, they often lose contact to their culture and traditional tribal family. But fathers and mothers who had given up a lot of their identity due to their relocation want to hold on to their traditional rules and values. These might include that fathers do not touch their children prior to a certain age (e.g. six months or three years) or that they talk to the children only in special marked areas of the house.
Fathers often work as night watchmen or follow jobs that interfere or even avoid a moderate communication with their children.
For many fathers it is very difficult to find their way through the change of circumstances. That is why they transfer the frustration on their children and wives in form of verbal or nonverbal mistreatment. A personal contact and interconnection between fathers and children is almost nonexistent. It is this kind of experience with their fathers that destroys the self-esteem of these children. A vicious circle that keeps on turning and turning…
Consequently, Mumbi startet giving trainings for children and parents in conflict resolution through role plays or drama.
Mumbi learnt about non-violent communication in 2010 in one of the »Ruhpolding workshops«. Since 2011, she has been giving trainings in NVC, mostly for children. Mumbi says that children relax physically and emotionally in the role plays and by writing creatively. They easily reach their feelings and needs. The creative work as well as the growing self-esteem transform the children to more self-confident humans. They learn to express their needs and desires clearly and with courage, and at the same time with patience. The communication becomes more satisfying and connecting for all, children, teachers and parents.
The children learn about their limits and to say »no«. This is especially important in the context of domestic violence (fathers are often drunk.) The children learn to deal with conflicts and take care of themselves in a protective way.
Canopen Education Service Foundation is cooperating with different schools and education centres: Kangemi Youth Centre, a primary school with a kindergarten in a township of Nairobi; Mugima Adult Education Centre, a school for adults in which they can finish their basic school exams.
On top Mumbi is planning the foundation of an orphans‘ home.
Mumbi says: »I would like people of Kenya to know that violent language triggers a lot of violence in homes, in schools and in our communities. If we invest in learning non-violent language and using it, the violence we see often can be minimised.«