In 2012, Children Lead the Way (CLTW) conducted several interventions with an aim of addressing working children issues in Thika and the neighboring districts. Among the interventions were a series of teacher training, community sensitization forums, as well as the establishment of District Child Labour Committee. http://actionchildren.or.ke/a-new-beginning-for-working-children-in-thika/ The interventions facilitated new beginnings for children and youth engaged in hazardous working environments through support to access formal education, vocational skills training and empowerment to improve their wellbeing.
Just a week ago, following a referral made by a teacher in Ruiru who was a beneficiary of school teacher training in Ruiru, Martin Kuria Kamau got his chance to meet with CLTW team. Since 2007, Kuria has worked as a night guard but in 2011, he was able to join a secondary school at Kagema secondary school in Kibichoi within Ruiru whilst working as a night guard. It is at this point that he met the teacher referred to above, by virtue of the fact that he guarded the residence within which the teacher resided. The teacher was concerned that Kuria was forced to work in such conditions and attend school at the same time.
Kuria left his home in Gatanga in 2007 having sat for his KCPE examination (end of Kenyan Primary School) the same year. The reason for his leaving the home was that he fell out with his step-father who had married Kuria’s mother after Kuria’s biological father had died. He reported that he had relational issues with his step-father who had problems accepting him and hence forced him to run away from home.
During the encounter with CLTW team, Kuria expressed his desire to continue attending school. The team explored possibilities of withdrawing him from the job and enabling him to access education in a boarding school. These sentiments were shared with the Thika East Quality Assurance Education Officer who recommended St Augustine Secondary School in Gatanga, Kuria’s rural home.
The CLTW Project Manager visited the school together with Kuria, and they were given a warm reception by the Head teacher. He was very keen to listen to Kuria’s case and raised several questions in line with the expected behavior in school bearing in mind the young man had been earning and had his freedom. During the discussion, the Head teacher was convinced that Kuria was committed to pursue education to the best of his ability. It was also agreed that his parents were to be traced, and if possible the same day, so that holistic support could be given to Kuria.
Immediately after the school visit, Kuria and the CLTW staff proceeded to his home and fortunately found both parents. As the mother was busy preparing a cup of tea, the manager had a chance of talking to the father who shared information on their income as peasant farmers. The family has an acre of land where they have 200 coffee plants. Coffee in the area had been neglected since 1970s after significant falls in prices, and the family also owned a cow calf as well as some maize, though the latter was not growing well.
During a discussion on way forward with both parents, the parents agreed to support Kuria but declared that they may not be in a position to provide financial support. The parents agreed to go to school for the meeting with the head teacher as requested. By this time it was past office hours but the Head teacher was still waiting. The meeting was brief as the head teacher realized he knew Kuria’s step father, and it was agreed that the parents will provide support by attending parent meetings, and contributing to development and welfare funds that may be required that is below 2000 Kenya shillings. The manager was requested to ensure Kuria reports within the next two days.
Most of the boys and girls we work with are much younger than Kuria, but through the CLTW scheme and its community focused work, Kuria finally got his new own fresh start in life, and reported to his new school in form three. In our conversations with Kuria, he noted his step father’s drinking, and described how he often came home late at night and would step on the food in the cooking pot, demanding that more be cooked, as well as him beating his mother in the presence of the children. The problems in his family are like many others that we work with, and they prevent children and young people like Kuria from claiming their rights and opportunities in life that many of us take for granted. Sometimes, it takes intervention from outside to facilitate these opportunities, and we will be working with Kuria and his family as he progresses through school.