Maltese nature researcher and pest control expert Arnold Sciberras spends most of his time dealing with animals in Malta. However, when visiting Kenya on an educational trip, he ended up working with low-income children and seeing the hardships they went through.
I recently visited Kenya in order to learn more about the pest control industry from a global perspective, and to further pursue my studies in biodiversity.
I met a group of Maltese volunteers from the NGO ‘Lift Us Up’ (VO1267) led by Oliena Leontyeva and William Tretyak who were helping assess the needs of underprivileged children in slum areas, and decided to use my scientific background to help them.
In the slums, I spoke to local volunteers and school staff to get a clearer picture of how children from low-income families lived. I wanted to observe the locals’ interaction with wildlife and their ways of coping with pests in such a harsh environment, and see if we could come up with solutions for them.
I thought I would be teaching them better methodologies, but it turned out that I was the student, learning how things really went in Kenya.
The only service that is free for low-income residents is the HIV screening in Government hospitals.
Children from low-income families often remain unregistered for several years because you have to pay for birth certificates; it’s USD$2, and mothers usually prefer buying food instead if they have the money.
Birth certificates are required at Primary School, so children are often registered at the age of six or so.
Rooms with bare open soil for floor-work are rented for $30 per month in the slum areas. One family usually stays in a room. Educational fees are especially hard on some families. A year at primary level costs $60, while enrolling at secondary level cost $600 per year.
That’s a price tag that is usually too much for a family to afford, especially when compared to the yearly income of these people. More-so, the law forbids employing children under 18 years of age; this would be considered child labour, so families don’t many streams of income.
Adult work varies from selling bananas to driving in traffic to going around in landfills in search of what can be reused or sold. Some make less than a euro a day.
A form of education
Parents are not so keen on sending children to school but there are two reasons to do so: food and safety.
Children are given a plate of porridge at school and they are kept away from the streets between 08:00 and 16:00 while their parents are at work. The local volunteers and teachers often come from poor families themselves.
Beatrice Agessa, the leader of Nairobi Slum Volunteers and a single mother of one biological and two adopted children, spent years carrying 20 litre water cans on her head for delivery. It paid for her school fees.
Now she lives in Nairobi and spends most of her time in slums with children and their mothers, assisting the most vulnerable. Malnutrition and tuition fees are two problems of slum children that we Europeans can somehow help change.
The tiny school we visited had 300 children, with 30 in each classroom. The school is closed in April, August, December. During these months volunteers are asked to do maintenance work: to paint walls, or fix broken desks. During all the other months volunteers can teach.
The best time to go on this mission would be July, August, September, you can both teach there as well as help out in maintenance work.
What you can do
If you want to help out families in the slums of Kenya, there are some things you can do:
- You can order food from the online supermarket Jumia. Jumia delivers food and other items to Beatrice Agessa, and she will take it to the slums and cook for the children there. Rice costs $5 for 5kg and corn flour maize costs $5 for 11kg.
- Many slum families struggle to pay tuition fee $60 per year for every child in Primary School, which includes two meals per day. You could also buy teaching materials.
- The address of delivery for Nairobi Slum Kids: BEATRICE AGESSA THIKA ROAD MALL DRIVE, SUPERVIEW HOUSE, B3.2 NAIROBI KENYA Tel/Whatsapp: +254721302788
- Email/PayPal: [email protected] [email protected]
- Delivery address for Mombasa Slum kids: Joseph Muli Moki, Director Primary School Milele Centre, KONGOWEA Shauri-Yako area, Mombasa KENYA.