The excitement at the entrance of a yellow-painted structure in Kibra Bombolulu is almost palpable as children seat on the staircase waiting their turn to get into a room upstairs where they practice dance.
The dance lessons at the Cheza Cheza Dance organisation in Kibra has been the highlight of their day since schools closed down in March to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Inside the structure the structure chairs are clustered in one corner and as the children enter the room, they quickly put their things down and get into formation ready to shake a leg.
The dance organization started in 2018 by three people– Cherrelle Druppers, an education and development specialist, Francis Odhiambo the co-founder and an impassioned dancer and Collins Oluoch a Child Protection Officer and still a co-founder. The organisation has been offering children in Kibra the chance to get off some steam by dancing, providing a vital support system during the Covid-19 period.
“We used to practice our dance moves in the open together with my dance partner, Odhiambo and noticed that a lot of the spectators were children who had desire to learn dance,”Oluoch says.
”So my partner suggested we involve them in our dance practice and we began with 24 children, but we taught only dance since we had nothing else to offer, “he adds. But then they met their now CEO Charelle Drupers who shared their vision and three months after their first encounter, Cheza Cheza Dance Organisation was formed.
They have three branches in Kibera serving 300 children. In Ayany they have 150 children, Mashimoni (70 children) and Makina (80 children).
But due to the large numbers they had divide classes during the coronavirus pandemic to avoid overcrowding.
“The pandemic would have had drastic effects on our children if we left them idle, so we came up with a system of continuing our lessons with precaution,” says Oluoch.
“We have our junior class for aged four to 10 years who have their classes on Thursdays only and our seniors aged 11 to 18 who hold classes the other days of the week because they are the majority. We hold the classes in shifts so that we can have few children in class,” he adds.
But the organisation does more than teach the children how to dance–they offer them life skills and leadership lessons.
“We have designed our own curriculum and lesson plan manual that we use in our program. The first thing the children do on arrival is breathing exercise, followed by circle of trust, which is meant to promote trust between the educators and learners for we believe learning should be fun,” Oluoch says.
The children are then allowed to express their emotions through dance moves of their choice.
“Each child plus the educator has to perform a dance move to express how they are feelings. They then stretch a little and sit around in a circle and start the life skill and social emotional lessons,” Oluoch says.
The lesson would touch on self-esteem, stress management, body awareness and coping with emotions.
Dance choreography, which follows next, requires the children to come up with dance moves on their own. “It’s not a matter of keeping the children healthy with dance but more so to equip them with skills to make responsible life choices like collaboration with other children, problem solving, creative and critical thinking and effective decision making, thus they come up with their own dance ideas during choreography,” he says.
Every lesson taught in the organization is useful in keeping children busy and at the same time equips them with a life lesson or two.
George Wesonga a 14 year old, Class Seven pupil at Ayany primary School says the dance lessons have helped him a lot.
“The lessons that are taught in social emotional learning has helped me manage my anger and in turn
helped me relate well with others,” he says. Furthermore, the time I’m spending now in dance training has kept me off negative behavior, “he adds.
“My favorite lesson is life skills, because am taught about controlling my emotions,” says Brazel Goya a 14-year-old Class Six pupil at Jamhuri Primary School.
The lessons ends with a debrief as each child is required to share the lesson learnt for the day before they are given lunch and released to go home.
“It’s time for the youths to stand their ground and take up the opportunities handed to them. They should believe in themselves and work hard because nothing comes for free,” Oluoch concludes.