Rosslyn Academy’s Spiritual Emphasis Week (by David R.)

| New Internationalist | by David Rausch |

Every year, Rosslyn Academy dedicates a week to furthering its students spiritual lives, and while the majority of the student body have cited Spiritual Emphasis Week to be a positive force, there are some who believe that changes are in order.

A typical day in Spiritual Emphasis week entails four classes in the morning, followed by activities, a chapel service and a small group discussion between members of the same grade. The speaker in charge of the week-long daily chapel services this year was Jacob Jester, with whom I sat down with to understand the purpose of Spiritual Emphasis week.

What he told me was simple; Spiritual Emphasis Week existed to foster students’ spiritual lives from the perspective of Christianity (as Rosslyn Academy is a Christian school) and aimed to encourage pupils to have intensely spiritual experiences even after Spiritual Emphasis Week had ended. However, when I asked Jacob about…

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Four Finger Rule (by Lule K.)

noirpanther

There are noticeable asymmetries when it comes to dress code implemented among males and females. To many of the male students attending Rosslyn Academy, dress code isn’t even something that crosses their mind. As for the girls that do get called out, are there certain aspects to personality, relationships, or even appearance that may determine whether or not they were forced to cover their clothing with Kangas?

“I started noticing that my white friends weren’t complaining about dress code as much as my black friends were. I’m not sure if the two are related, but I did notice it,” said Angel Thairo, a 16 year old girl that attends Rosslyn Academy. For many women, dress code is, and will continue to be a factor of everyday life. Especially if you spend the majority of your time in a professional setting. The dress code at Rosslyn is seemingly simple. Most of the…

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A Trip of Expectations (by Angel T.)

A Culture of Us

Every year at Rosslyn Academy, the senior class goes on a trip to the beach for a week in March. The trip is meant to be a time of relaxation and debriefing from a busy year. However, it is often the case that feelings of excitement for the trip are overshadowed by great anxiety in having to meet social expectations and pressures that are present throughout the trip.

“I hear students talk about getting ready for senior trip all the time, saying things like, “I’m going on a diet because I want to look good for Senior Trip”and other comments like that,” remarks English teacher John Leonard, who has accompanied students on previous trips.

In talking with students, it is obvious that the expectations are clear to many. “There’s definitely expectations of how your body should look and what you’re going to wear,” says Njeri Thuo, a current senior. Junior students Jackie Lee and Kafura Thairo state that they are aware of…

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Still Inside the Gates (by Angel T.)

A Culture of Us

As the clock strikes 3:30 p.m., the final bell sounds. A throng of students flood the hallways, eager to escape from the authority that school has over them. Excitedly, they discuss where to meet up over the weekend, all the while unaware that they haven’t fully escaped the grasp of school.

“Wait, what? The school can really do that?” asks senior Gabby Opagi in surprise after being informed of Rosslyn Academy’s  policy on student life outside of school. The policy states that the school can intervene in students’ out-of-school activities if they pose a threat to an individual’s learning process. When students join Rosslyn, their parents sign a basic tenant form declaring that while attending the school, students must uphold Rosslyn’s values and abide by certain standards both in and out of school. If this is not followed, the school can address the situation.

The most common cases in which…

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Why the Gender Wage Gap is Even Worse for African American Women (by Lule K.)

noirpanther

The debate on the wage gap is not a secret. Everyone’s heard the whole “a woman makes 77 cents to every dollar the man makes” issue.  However, when the pay system is further analysed and dissected, one will find that this isn’t true for every woman, or every man. It is no surprise that white women have significantly more privilege than black woman, and black men less than white. For both men and women of color, the “77 cents” deal is unfortunately not the case. According to AAUW, for every dollar a man makes, the black woman makes 63 cents. That’s 37 percent less than a non-hispanic white man. Think about it this way: a black woman has to work for an extra eight months to be paid what said white man was paid at the end of December. So what exactly is the cause of this?

Well, statistically…

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Freshman Fifteen

High school graduation is approaching for many people around the world. Students are ecstatic about their soon to arrive “freedom”. Thoughts of relief, joy, and sadness reside inside of them, and they cannot wait for the next thing life will throw at them. Summer break quickly comes to an end as they settle into their new lives as university students. Some of them are away from home, and all on their own. The semester begins and as the year progresses, and so do their stress levels. Suddenly, the famous “freshman fifteen” – gaining 15 or more pounds in the first year of college – is no longer a myth, but instead an unwanted reality. It is obvious that university is taking a toll on you and all you want to do is eat your stress away. You look around and realize that there are many people like you, as well as people who manage to deal with the effects of stress in an entirely different way.

When asked about why he got into bodybuilding, Michael Mukolwe said that, “There are many ways to stay fit; running, yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, CrossFit, etc. I chose lifting weights. The act of lifting weights is rather simple; pick it up and put it down. The difficult part is the consistency. It’s not just mindlessly going into the gym and doing the same thing at the same weight. That’s stagnating. The constant challenge to lift heavier and to get stronger and inevitably get bigger is thrilling”. This is what Mukolwe used to deal with the stress of the changes and challenges of college.

Relating his choice to the dreaded Freshman 15, he said that “Balancing that with proper nutrition is the catch. One can lift heavy weights as much as possible and stay the same weight because of the lack of proper nutrition. One can work out their core hard and hope for the abs of their dreams, but not eat properly to carve them out. Abs are made in the kitchen.  Many people understand the concept; it’s the execution that evades them. Although cliché, Rome truly was not built in a day.”

However, weights are not for everybody. As Mukolwe mentions, staying fit can be accomplished in many ways. Therefore, there should not be excuses when it comes to fitness. If going to the gym is daunting, then sign up for a yoga class instead. In university, you cannot afford to eat your stress away, because that’s an unhealthy habit to develop. Overeating can increase one’s chances of getting high blood pressure and a cholesterol imbalance. Exercise is always a good idea to handle stress, but without eating healthy meals one will find themselves trying to form good exercising habits while getting accustomed to bad eating ones.

As a senior about to graduate, I am interested to see if my classmates will continue to take care of their health when their parents are no longer making them eat a balanced diet. The university cafeteria is a student’s sweetest dream and worst nightmare. With proper self-control, you can reap the benefits of a range of food types and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Right now, your main concern is finishing off the year and moving away from your parents, but perhaps you should also focus your energy on how you are going to stay healthy throughout university.

Will you say, YOLO and eat without a care? Or will you make deliberate choices that will benefit you in the future? Everything in moderation – keep that in mind as you get into the next part of your life.

A Time to Work, A Time to Rest

Stress is a way of life. As a high school student, whether you are taking an AP, higher level classes, “A” levels, or normal classes, you will be stressed. The World Health Organization suggests that we split up our day so that we have eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, and eight hours of play. However, for most high school students, this balanced schedule is impossible. We go to school for eight hours in a day, and work for about 7 of them because of lunch and breaks. That fits within a healthy day; but when we get home, we have hours of homework, and then we have to sacrifice both our sleep and leisure time. Homework is important, as it allows for extra practice and maximum understanding. However, sleep and leisure time are just as important. What to do?

Sleep is very important for a student’s education. Human beings need sleep in order to function well. By giving students hours of homework without a time set apart within the school day to finish a good amount of it, our education systems are making us vulnerable to the risks of sleep deprivation, which is detrimental to our education. The risks of sleep deprivation include symptoms such as decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and for students who drive, a higher risk of accidents.

Leisure time is also part of healthy living. It is often thought that leisure time is useless, and not beneficial; it can be viewed as a waste of time. However, our brains need to rest, and not just when sleeping. Leisure time is also important for developing social skills, gained when you go out with your friends. Leisure time also provides us with an opportunity to bond with our families. It allows time for stress relief and boredom relief, and gives a feeling of control of our lives. During free time, we can meet new people and broaden our perspectives; it gives us time for group activities which increase communication skills and self-esteem; it gives us time for exercise. Generally, time “off” is beneficial to our mental and physical health.

Study halls, a not-so-common opportunity in most high schools, can contribute to a healthier student life. Candice Etemesi, a busy high school student, referring to study halls says “most people use the time to do work because it is the only time where you can guarantee that people will be quiet. So it is easier to work. It also cancels the stress of having all-nighters or having to wake up early.” Mandatory study halls will not completely fix a student’s health and stress problems. However, by providing students with a time to either finish work, relax, or sleep within the school day would help to bring us a little closer to healthy lifestyle. A school in California recently included a mandatory study hall into their schedule, and as a result, there were 228 less failing grades reported than the year before when study halls where not mandatory. Mandatory study halls are not only beneficial to students overall health, but are also beneficial to their education and the schools themselves.

Is it time for students to demand a time to work, a time to study, and a time to rest? When will what is good for adults also be good for us?

Shaming Nature

This article is about period shaming, and why we shouldn’t be ashamed of something so natural. The irony is that while writing this article, I felt cautious and tentative, as if I shouldn’t be writing about this because the chances are high that someone (of the male persuasion) will read this. Menstruation is a natural and necessary biological function. It is not something we can change, and despite all the symptoms and physical discomfort, it is not something we would want to change. Menstruation is healthy; a woman’s cycle can indicate health problems such as hormone imbalance, bones thyroid and metabolic wellness, fertility, and emotional wellness. It is part of living a healthy natural life.

Despite the health benefits of menstruation and its necessary existence in order to cleanse our bodies of waste, girls are often taught to not talk about their periods. We are taught that it is something to hide, something shameful. We are taught to carry our tampons and pads in small bags so they will not be seen. We learn to never talk about something so natural with any man or boy. We learn to try our best to not let the symptoms show (like we can control the pain). And the worst thing we can possibly do is have that stain of blood on our clothes because we forgot, or the cycle is irregular. When we sit in class, and Aunty Flo comes for a surprise visit, we ask our male teacher if we can go to the bathroom; he says no. So, we have a choice: we can wait and stain our clothes and feel uncomfortable until class ends, or we can tell our male teacher what’s going on, and how we actually can’t wait. More often than not, we pick the first option, because it’s more embarrassing to tell the truth, and because it’s awkward to see that super uncomfortable look on his face. What’s wrong with this picture?

In some cultures, the women of the community are banished to a cowshed (or another animal dwelling) during their periods, simply because for three to five days they are considered impure, dirty, and unlucky. Why? Because they were born female, and consequently go through menstruation.

All of this shaming occurs because men are uncomfortable with menstruation. Somehow the world assumes that because men don’t have periods, it is unnecessary to educate them on how periods work, and why women have them. But men need to know because the world is not only made up of men. And we need men to understand periods so that we do not have to walk around on eggshells trying not to show, or talk about something so natural.

Women cannot prevent, or stop menstruation from happening – if it happens, it happens. And, it’s not going to stop happening until menopause. Children- both male and female – need to be taught about menstruation, because regardless of your sex, menstruation will affect either yourself, someone you care about, or someone you are around on a regular basis. Menstruation is a natural bodily function for women. Why are we shaming nature? 

Stressed Test

The incessant tapping of that yellow number two pencil against the desk never seemed to end, just like the constant reminder of the score I received on my Scholastic Aptitude Test (the infamous SAT).

I remember every detail about that day, the pencil tapping especially. The poor fellow behind me must have been struggling on the critical reading section, because he just about tapped himself out of that stuffy room. To add insult to injury, he spewed his breakfast all over his test booklet and left a little bit of residue in my kinky hair.

This is the story I would actually prefer to tell my peers when I have to explain my SAT score. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and like many students in the United States, standardized tests are just another challenge to add to our already problematic lives.
John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight, uncovers the truth behind standardized tests in America in this video that went public in 2015. Before proceeding with this article, take some time to watch this short video in which Oliver explains what these tests are, and the horrors that occur because of them. As a graduating senior, I feel that it is important to address the pains that high school officials decide to place upon us. A commentary on Oliver’s intriguing video is long overdue.

He begins by explaining how standardized tests are made to look enticing, but after experiencing one, students’ opinions change dramatically. In fact, some students skip their tests, proving that either they are rebellious teenagers who do not want to do anything remotely educational, or that the tests are simply awful. These students may also be emotionally scarred by previous test experiences. Similar to my “SAT testing experience”, students sometimes become ill and have mental breakdowns during these (clearly traumatizing) tests. Funnily enough, such occurrences are not uncommon and clear instructions are provided by the proctor of the exam prior to the occurrence of an incident such as vomiting.

John Oliver proceeds by tracing the immense pressure America decides to give her students back to the 1990s. Back then, American students ranked low compared to other countries when it came to testing. Therefore, operations like “No Child Left Behind” and more recently “Race to the Top” were set in place to help with this national issue. This “needed” intervention, meant to help Americans increase test scores, managed to also triple the number of tests admitted in the country.

Apart from the sick students who cannot seem to catch a break, Oliver hit on another important aspect of standardized testing that some people may neglect to mention. Pearson Education has power over many American schools; students – this is the company to blame for most of your stomach ulcers and migraines. They control many standardized tests, in addition to other aspects of American education. Shockingly, to find graders for the tests, they post job openings on Craigslist. This is an issue that is not exclusive to Pearson Education. Some graders have spoken up and said that grades are not always based on merit, and sometimes they are even based on the last year’s scores. Therefore, if the company is looking to imitate the scores that students received the year previous, graders are instructed to give a certain number of two’s, three’s, four’s and so on. Essentially, graders are asked to see exam papers as a particular number, whether or not the paper is worth the score.

The US has gone through all of this trouble in order to improve the test-taking abilities of its students, and yet the test scores have not even improved dramatically since the changes took place. The injustices that go on after a student has suffered through these grueling exams is heartbreaking, and a better system for standardized tests needs to be established. Is the pencil-tapping induced stress that America is placing on students really worth it?

Melting Pot or Not

Interracial marriages and multiracial families are something that are no longer considered rare or unheard of in many countries. They are becoming common in countries such as America, which prides its self on being a melting pot of many different cultures, races, and people. In other places, multiracial children are viewed as exotically beautiful, having picked up the best traits from each race. However when multiracial families or interracial marriages are displayed on advertisements, they are often met with a slew of racist and derogatory remarks, which are detrimental to the progress that advertisement companies are making concerning miscegenation.

On April 29, Old Navy, a well-known American clothing store, released an advertisement on social media which depicted a multiracial family. Almost immediately, the advertisement was met with racist social media comments such as “Absolutely disgusting. What’s next? Gender neutral bathrooms? Pedophilia acceptance propaganda?! Never shopping here again.” This was not the first time an advertisement depicting multiracial families has been attacked. Companies such as Cheerios have been attacked for daring to depict a multiracial family in their advertisements.

The problem is that America has long identified itself as a country of immigrants, a country of many cultures, a diverse melting pot. However, can a country be a melting pot if multiracial families are not accepted in marketing, and business? Many African Americans carry the traits and genes of more than one race; no one seems to have a problem with this as long as both parents are black. The problem seems to stem from having parents that are of different races – miscegenation. The verbally abusive anti-miscegenation attacks that some American marketing businesses are experiencing are yet another sign that the fight against racism is not over. What is worse is that America prides itself on being culturally diverse, and yet cannot except miscegenation. Carolina Johnson, a junior at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi said, “I think it’s pretty insane at this point in time, in 2016, that people make those kinds of comments. I think that they show a face of society that we really have to try to diminish. To look at a family that is based on love, and say very demeaning things about them, that’s insane.” America has come pretty far in the fight against racism, but there is still a long way to go.

People often think that because slavery no longer exists in the shameless form it used too, slavery is over; it is not. And because segregation laws no longer exist, people can conclude that racism is over; it is not. Things such as racism cannot be solved simply by changing laws. Racism is a system of thinking in which a particular race is placed at the top of the chain, and this system of thinking drastically affects reality. Anti-miscegenation is only one example of the many problems that racism still brings.

It is dangerous to place value and identity in the colour of skin. Our races are simply boxes that society tries to put us in. Race is not an identity. Character is.