Nairobians walked past Tuskys Chap Chap Supermarket on Muindi Mbingu Street. Taxi drivers leaned against their cars as they waited for their next customer. It was difficult to ignore the young boys, some begged for food from shopper coming from the purchases in the supermarket. Another simply slept on the cold, dirty pavement. We approached the younger ones and convinced them to talk to us. It was time to get the camera rolling.
The food being offered to his peers coupled with the longing of fame made him approach us. Bruno D left his station, a street corner next to a dustbin. This tall fourteen-year-old, dark complexion, short unkempt hair, shuffled towards us. Passers-by gave my colleague and I strange looks. Ignoring the odd looks, he steps in front of the camera.
An empty bottle of glue in hand, donning a blue stained shirt and a sagging jacket, he prepared himself for his fifteen minutes of fame. “Mimi ni… Bruno D… aka Kaleeeewa,” he stuttered. Closing his eyes for a minute he tried to recall what he was about to say. My colleague asked him a question to jog his memory. Clearly, the effect of the glue he had been sniffing was still clouding his mind.
Asked to show what he is best at, his face lit up. “Ilikuwa asubuhi kwa bench tumetuliza…,” he rapped. His silvery voice coaxed my colleague’s head to move in tune to the beat of his song. Many might think all the street children made a choice to be there. However, this does not apply in this case. Being the eldest in a family of five, he is obligated to fend for his three sisters. A mother left on her own to fend for her children tried her best, but found it too big a burden. The little she got from doing odd jobs was not enough. Bruno was forced to take up the responsibility. The street was his solution.
Not able to go to school, he slowly adapted to the street life. Borrowing cash during the day, never letting go of his beloved glue. At night he slept or on better nights he would ask for money from the revelers. His clothes which had not been washed for several months were a clear testimony of the hard life.
On a good day, he might get two hundred shillings which he takes to Kibera where his sisters are eagerly waiting. To most of us two hundred is little. To this family it is a hope that for at least two or more days, they will not sleep hungry. Despite the financial challenge he does not blame anyone for not treating him well and offering to give him money. He is contented with what he has. That is what I deduced from his slow smile and slight stagger. I might have been wrong, maybe the glue was still working its magic in his mind.
He hopes that a day will come when he will be able to go back to school, become a lecturer. And maybe, just maybe he will free himself from the tangles of poverty. Maybe one day his sisters will also go to school and make something of their lives.
“Vijana mkuwe hard work ju…life’s so hard,” he said as he swung his bottle trying to put his point across. Even with his little education he still encourages those in school. With this parting shot he gave way to the next interviewee. His ten minutes of fame over, he reverted to sniffing his glue. Slowly he stretched his hand for his price. The soda and scones made him smile as he walked back to his corner. However, it was not enough to satisfy the hunger that had built up for several days. He walked back, “siste naeza pata maziwa, soda imeisha.”
Staggering, he retreated to his corner with his glue on one hand and milk in the other.
This article was written by Capital Campus Contributor Debra Khanyeleli