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Former Street Boys' Mission To Rid Thika Of All Chokoras

The problem of glue sniffing street kids has now become a common phenomenon in urban centres all over the world. Many consider these children a menace and would rather not interact with them. Very few people ever think about them as a people desperately in need for help rather only talk about how they should be gotten rid of.

But have you ever sought for their side of the story? Thika Town Today bumped onto a group of former street kids who came together on a ‘Mission Impossible’- to rid them of the streets but in a more humane and result oriented approach.

In the year 2006, Newton Njoroge, Founder and Director of Life Skills Oasis, a Community Based Organisation (CBO) in Kiandutu Slum, came up with an idea to rehabilitate street children and revert them into productive members of the society. Having been a street kid since his infancy, a reformed Newton was always disturbed to see these kids die every day through road accidents, the effects of drugs that they abused on a daily basis or mob justice, kids get back home with broken limbs or get locked in police cells and so on. None of these ever discouraged them from going back to the streets again.

After some soul searching he realised that very few amongst those people who took up the mission were addressing the ‘Chokora’ problem in the perspective of the kids themselves. Everyone who tried to handle the Chokora menace never saw the problem in the kids’ lenses thus all the solutions arrived at always ran short of expectation. Having been there himself was key to deriving the solutions to the problem as he could relate first-hand to whatever each one of them was going through.

First, he realised that those who were handling street kids in the various homes did so with very little background information about individual kids in question. Majority of these kids lie about their family background thus always getting the wrong remedy to their problems. Other caregivers offer partial solutions such as providing food and then letting them back on the streets without even seeking permanent solutions to their problem. There is also another lot that are only out to take advantage of the kids’ plight to make money out of the donations that come with their care.

For him, he knows majority of these kids by name and can even trace them to their biological parents since most of the kids in town hail from Kiandutu Slum. 

He therefore decided to take it upon himself by approaching each kid and working out individual solutions to each of these cases. He would talk to them and discourage them from going to town as he initiated dialogue with their parents in a bid to come up with a collective solution to the problem.

At first, his approach was not embraced positively since in some instances the parents would be the ones sending the kids to town to beg in order to supplement their earnings. In others, the parents were the problem due to alcoholism and child abuse. Thus, the kids would always go back to the streets even after talking to them. 

This did not discourage him though but rather motivated him to push on. Eventually, he successfully managed to convince six others and Life Skills Oasis was born. Among his first converts were Stanley Njuguna and Raphael Muturi.

After deliberations, they came up with a roadmap of how they would approach the whole challenge. First, they identified and listed down some of the reasons that drove the kids into the streets. They worked out all the possible solutions to these causes, laying emphasis on preventive measures as well as the curative in the case for those who were already in the streets. They then identified several remedial actions that demanded no or very little amount money to implement since they had financial constrains beforehand.

They drew a programme for each case and were now good to go. In 2007 they registered their organisation as a CBO. In order to retain the kids in school and of the streets, they started by a programme to empower the community on the various ways that they could get different kinds of assistance from both the government and organisations. This included assistance such as school bursaries and where to get help whenever they were faced by certain challenges.

They also realised that majority of these kids especially the young girls were being lured into irresponsible behaviour that led to early pregnancies due to ignorance and poor time management. They therefore came up with programmes to manage their free time especially in the evenings, weekends and during school holidays. They also went round the slum identifying girls who were at risk of being abused due to the nature of trade their parents engaged in and talked their parents into allowing them spend time with the group whenever they were free. These included girls born of parents who sold illicit brews.

For this category of kids, they started football teams which kept the kids busy especially during those high risk times especially between 2:00pm and 5:00pm during week days and weekend afternoons. Here, the kids are engaged in football training, practice and competition throughout the year. During breaks, they are put through life skill training where they are taken through topics such as drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, boy-girl relationships etc.

In this programme, they have managed to form a team of at least 20-24 girls’ football team and two teams of 17 boys each. In this way, they have been able to see 14 girls who would not have been able to finish school due to the risks they were previously in, successfully transit to secondary school. Their girls’ team last year managed to qualify for the Provincial girls’ football Championships but were unable to proceed due to financial constraints. The whole budget had ran to over Sh. 80,000 which was way above their ability considering that the group has no regular sponsor. 

Brian Maina, the boy Thika Town Today highlighted in this forum seeking help to join secondary school early last month, is a product of this programme. Brian scored 416 marks in last year’s KCPE.

On the street kids challenge, the group has come up with a whole day ‘arrest’ programme meant to hold them back from going to town to beg. In this programme, they came up with activities that would tie up these kids virtually the whole day, leaving them with very little time to go to town. 

In the morning at around 9:00am, the kids, who now number to about 17, engage in football practice and training for about an hour or so. They are later taken through some life skills on self-awareness, self-esteem, and drug and substance abuse. They later do some acrobatics to break the monotony which is later followed by another session of life skills. This second session include topics on how to spend their free time.

They sum up their day with some snacks bought from money raised by the group members and at times watch a movie. The organisers also use this time to visit their families in a bid to come up with ways to refrain these kids from going into the streets.

They say that through their efforts, 9 former street boys have gone back to school and one is currently in the process of enrolling for a mechanic class pending the availability of the required fees of Sh. 17,000. Several others have agreed to return home and according to Newton, this is a great achievement. He says that in their own survey that they did late last year, it revealed Thika Town had about 200 street children, majority of whom hailed from Kiandutu. He added that theirs was a journey of a thousand miles that had started with these nine kids. He believes that slowly but surely, they will rid of the rest from the streets, including those not from Kiandutu.

Recently, they managed to help two kids go back to their homes in Githumu, Kandara Sub-County and Kenol, Makuyu Sub-County respectively and are following up on them to update themselves on their progress. They have also managed to secure a room in the slum where those who for any reason cannot go back home, can stay.

They are happy for the support they have received from the community and well-wishers who have been coming into their aid time and time again. Otherwise, they appeal for anyone willing to come on board to assist them especially financially since they face so many constrains that hold them back in their quest. They are also seeking the services of role models and professional counselors to assist in the psychological and motivational aspects of the programme.

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