10 Letters from Kibera

Letter 10

A letter from a Kibera – Covid-19

“Crime and petty thieving have lately become very attractive to the youth, who find this as an easier way to come by some money. ”

Today am going to talk to you about how life has been for the youth living in Kibera during this pandemic. By youth I mean the teenagers aged between 12- 18 years of both gender.

Since the government called for a lockdown in March this year, a lot has changed both economically and socially for our community. The opportunity to work and earn a living have been rare; some families are almost facing starvation. Families have relied on good Samaritans for their meals.

The changes that have occurred because of the Corona pandemic seem to have hit the younger generation hardest. These youth are at a stage where they enjoy to socialize, do sports and visit one another. These activities have now been forbidden! Despite the poverty and all the hardships, we who live in the slums face; we like to come together in times of trouble and in times of happiness. It is therefore quite traumatic to be forbidden from meeting or visiting one another. The fidgeting teens were only able to put up with the Corona (Ministry of Health) restrictions for a few months.

A disturbing situation has arisen, we have seen some of our role models return to the slum; there are trained teachers and other professionals (who are on unpaid leave from their jobs) who are now undertaking informal work. Can you imagine college trained professionals are now hawking stuff (bananas, groundnuts and fruits) in the slums and along the roads. These people who we held in very high esteem are now competing with people who have never been to school! This situation has demoralized many youths who have been argued and encouraged over the years to work hard in school so that they could get good jobs and a good life!

Crime and petty thieving have lately become very attractive to the youth, who find this as an easier way to come by some money. The youth are sadly competing with each other – trying to outdo each other in their new found evil way of earning a living.

Some of the parents also encourage their children in engaging in illegal activities due to hunger and poverty, a parent would be heard telling her children to go out and search for food like his /her peers, having knowledge that their peers were involved in crime.

Sadly my brother who is 18 years old, and a fresh secondary school graduate has himself been involved in crime, not because he lacked food but for very silly reasons. My brother has a great need to belong and he has unfortunately joined a local gang, he and his friends steal and sell their ill-gotten wares for a quick buck. Recently my brother and his friends stole some pipes from a local school and tried to sell them. This led to their arrest and my parents being summoned to the chief’s office. My brother shockingly confessed to the crime giving the excuse that he needed cash to take his girlfriend for an outing and that our Mother had declined to give him the cash!

Many young men like my brother would start by engaging in simple crimes then they graduate into hardcore criminals who use guns and break into shops and banks. Sadly these young men do not grow into adulthood as they are gunned down and killed by the Police.

My parents like most of the parents in their shoes have decided to send our brother to our rural home in Northern Kenya to live with our relatives and learn some useful trade. The city is a very dangerous place these days for a youth who has nothing useful to do with the time he has on his hands!