Street Boys – who are they? Where do they come from?
Patrick is 15 years old and for the first 10 years of his life, he lived a normal Kenyan life, but when his father contracted HIV in 2004, and subsequently died, his life changed very quickly. After his father’s death, Patrick’s mother, who was a housewife, was understandably heart-broken and her HIV prevalence level jumped very high to an extent that she was in and out of the hospital on a daily basis.
During this period immediately following his death and his Mother’s illness, Patrick and his siblings had to spend days without a meal because the only source of income was ill and in the hospital. Patrick dropped out of school to fend for himself, as well as trying to provide for is younger brother and sister, and upon boarding a matatu to Thika, he started collecting waste material like plastics and scrap metals, in an attempt to earn money for food. He would frequently return home to check on his younger siblings, and sometimes to supply the day’s meal and then head back to Thika to continue working. Like many boys who have to go through such pressures and situations, he started getting involved in drugs, and very quickly became addicted, using glue and other drugs to escape the harsh realities of life, if only briefly.
He is an extremely intelligent boy, but like many street children across the globe, he is being denied basic rights to education by families, communities, institutions and governments, who are not doing enough to support them.
Samuel is 17, has 3 siblings, and at a very young age, his mother and father separated, with his father moving across the country to Mombasa on the country’s east coast. Upon remarrying, her mother and now step-father had 3 more children, already putting the family into a financially difficult situation, where supporting 7 children becomes extremely hard. Samuel attended a local school until standard 4, but found school very hard, admitting to deliberately losing his text and exercise books so he would have to be sent away to another school. At a school further away from home, Samuel was supposed to live with other relatives, but felt they didn’t like him, so he went to where he had friends: the streets.
For two years, Samuel has lived on the streets, occasionally staying with cousins. Like all street boys, Samuel built up a hard shell, and has felt rejected by many members of his family, not ever knowing the safety and security that many children across the world enjoy. We met Samuel in an outreach clinic in Ruiru, one of the local towns, and have worked with Samuel to understand his background and family situation, and have begun to work with his family for potential integration. However, some children like Samuel, who have lived on the streets, often prefer this life to living with a family in which they feel unwanted, so whilst for most of us, street life seems like the last possible resort, for Samuel and many other children, the freedom and lack of responsibility which they ‘enjoy’ sometimes feels more appealing than their other options.
Francis is 16, and is the third born in a family of five. His parents separated when the family was staying in Nairobi, when he was very young, and his mother decided to move to Thika. She was able to get a job in a local quarry, but this meant she was away for much of the day and evening, so her married sister was made responsible for the care of Francis and his siblings. Through this situation, Francis got into the wrong company, and was introduced to street life.
Francis’ family were originally not aware of this, as he returned home in the evening, but his school teachers reported him absent. His Mother, angry at being lied to, began to physically abuse Francis, encouraging him further to withdraw from family life, and making the draw of life on the street seem sweeter. Upon trying to return to school for a second time, Francis lost some of his books, and upon claiming his mother couldn’t afford new books, he went straight back to the streets. During this time, and upon AfCiC finding Francis and beginning to work with his family, Francis’ mother began to drink very heavily, claiming to be very fearful of the unknown, of hurt, of her anger, and this contributed to extended the cycle of alcoholism. To further exacerbate the problem, since leaving Nairobi, neither Francis of his Mother have had contact with the Father.