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Life As a Teenager in Kibera: The Pressures on Kibera Children

With their parents earning less than a dollar a day, one-quarter of boys and 14% of girls do paid labor, though girls are engaged in far more unpaid domestic work than boys. 22-year-old Dennis, a resident of Kibera’s Raila Village, described the pressure on teenagers to become his family’s breadwinner as depression-inducing. He also shared his fear of traveling the wrong path, succumbing to drugs, and becoming a “thug.” His concern is if he does go misstep, as many young adults in and out of poverty do, he won’t be able to create a better life for himself and his family. He says that schooling is accessible, except the high cost of living and large family sizes and consequential pressure to drop out means that only 22.6% of boys and 23.5% of girls received nine years or more of education. According to Dennis, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Muanzo Mpya relieve some of this pressure by coordinating projects to “enhance… [the] community.” When asked about hopes Dennis had for improving the situation of Kiberan adolescents, Dennis said that, through “awareness and sensitization,” real change can be enacted within the slum. He identified two vehicles for this change: education and “social amenities.”


Below is a conversation with a current teen in Kibera. We hope that this will provide an inside view into the struggles and mindset of children living in the Kenyan slum.


1. In a few words, how would you describe life as a teenager in Kibera?


“Life as a teenager I can describe it as a stage of struggles, depression, filled with alot of pressure coming from both parental, financial, peer issues, etc..in kibera this is the stage were many young men and women lose track and waste their life,being consumed by drugs and turning into thugs if not given the right way to go.I hope I have tackled it right”


2. Thank you for sharing that. What is schooling like? Is it accessible? What resources are there to keep kids on track?


“It's accessible but with many challenges that comes with it,first school fees issues,a very big challenge at our end,secondly,parental issues/family issues (bigger families have many kids) cost of living....high number of school dropouts mostly girlchild gender trying to be also a breadwinner to the family and many more issues


Government policymakers plus their institutions and some NGos including muanzo mpya with her projects to enhance change to this community”


3. What do you think is the biggest problem facing Kibera's youth (if you had to choose)?


“Wow a good questions,I think the biggest problem is inadequate job opportunities living them under a lot of pressure, depression resulting to them starting to engage themselves in non productive activities such as drugs consumption and robbery trying to be also a breadwinner”


4. What hopes do you have for the community?


“My hope is a lot can be achieved,change can be improvised in different models and mechanisms such as the ones that muanzo mpya and its partners are trying to initiate by creating awareness and sensitization to the whole community at large on importance of positive aspects to better our ways, culture etc through projects and mentorship sessions hoping that at least we will raise thousands of youths in kibera and demolish kibera as the biggest slum in the world, source of poverty with other challenges in it. We can achieve this through education and bettering our other social amenities.thank you”



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