Nine students from two Nairobi universities will be scaling the heights of Mt Kenya to raise awareness on the health and wellbeing of the youth.
The initiative is part of the 'Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future' (O3 Plus) programme launched at the University of Nairobi and Mount Kenya University by the Unesco Regional Office for Eastern Africa.
The aim of the hike is to create awareness on health and wellbeing among young people in Kenya's tertiary learning institutions.
It is expected to help impart to students the skills, knowledge, attitudes and competencies required for preventing HIV, reducing early and unintended pregnancies and eliminating gender-based violence.
"The mission to the mountain is symbolic of how young people can use physical wellbeing to conquer the challenges of mental health and other challenges that are so prevalent in tertiary and higher learning institutions," said Prof Stephen Kiama, the University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor.
Prof Kiama further noted the rising mental illness cases among the youth in Kenya, which he attributed to a decline in physical and social activities.
"The rise in mental health problems among the youth in institutions of higher learning correlates with a decline in physical and social activities. Although the society is increasingly learning about the importance of physical activity for social, physical, cognitive, and emotional skills, the young people in institutions of higher learning have largely been left out. Physical activity is critical for young people and even more. Physical activity is good for the mind and body because it makes the body to work efficiently," Prof Kiama said.
A staggering one out of four persons who seek healthcare in Kenya have mental conditions. Depression has become common and there is evidence of a rising number of substance and alcohol use disorders among college students.
"Physical activity and mental health are closely interconnected. Physical exercise enhances mental health; it recharges the body and makes one to feel good. What is good for the body is good for the mind and is also good for the soul," Prof Kiama added.
For a triumphant trek to Mt Kenya’s Lenana Point at 4985 metres above sea level, the nine students enrolled in a rigorous programme comprising six preparatory hikes to ensure they are well-acclimatised to the high altitudes.
Between April 30 and July 9, the students climbed Mt Kilimambogo, Kijabe Hills, Mt Longonot, Elephant hill, Satima-Dragon's Teeth, Mackinder's Quest and Satima Dragon's Teeth.
The team, which was flagged off on Wednesday morning, is expected to scale Mt Kenya from July 14 to July 17.
Mt Kenya is a significant landmark in the country, owing to its long association with freedom. After independence in 1963, the Kenyan flag was symbolically hoisted at Point Lenana. A copy of the Kenya Constitution 2010 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are deposited at the same point, Lenana further demonstrating the significance of this mountain.