By Treezer Michelle Atieno
Freedom on campus is meant to cultivate critical thinking and innovativeness at large for students. However, issues related to sexual reproductive health rights, drug abuse, and mental health problems, among others, can affect students academically and early intervention is critical.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, has been using Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to help youths cope with the challenges they face in tertiary institutions.
They have done this through the O3 program, a health and well-being project for young people in Kenyan universities and tertiary institutions. Dubbed, Our Lives, Our Rights, Our Future (03 Plus), the program was piloted by the University of Nairobi and Mount Kenya University shortly after its launch in September 2021.
More than 100,000 youth have benefitted from the program since its commissioning. They have gained knowledge and services, enabling them to make informed choices.
While the main focus was mental health, the program wanted to focus also on positive health, education and gender equality outcomes through sustained reductions in new HIV infections, unintended pregnancy, and gender-based violence.
The effects of depression among university students, according to Professor Walter Jaoko- the director of the KAVI Institute of Clinical Research at The University of Nairobi- range from drug abuse, risky sexual behaviors, and insomnia, with the worst cases leading to suicide. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among youths.
The rising suicide cases among the youth at the time influenced the launch of this program in Kenya- a year after launching in Nigeria. The program focuses on university students’ lives, how they survive, and some of the challenges they face, especially matters mental health.
Globally, 1 in 5 youths suffer from depression. In Kenya, the youth between 10-29 years are most affected. Depression in Kenya is considered a rampant condition with inadequate help.
More interventions similar to or better than the O3 Plus program need to be implemented to prevent depression among the youth. Youth need education on making informed decisions and redirecting their focus to more important things. This is considering the fact that the World Health Organization has ranked Kenya among the most depressed nations in Africa in recent years