Life in Kibera is a school on its own


Kibera is the home to thousands of souls , some view it as a place for the not-haves and impoverished people but it’s more than it meets the eye. I came to Nairobi for studies and also to get to discover my life purpose. Probably a sense of direction would lay in the city of the sun so I thought. Due to the high cost of living, I chose Kibera. Residential houses in Nairobi would cost nothing less than 100 dollars especially in the environs I school at (Riara University).

I remember that day vividly , the twentieth of May. We were with my father alongside my cousin trying to get in touch with a relative who had already looked for a room I was to stay in. It was actually my first time to be in Kibera, I had heard stories about it definitely. The home of strong men who can pluck a railway line with a small dossier of temper, home to ‘baba’ as well as the rapping sensation Octopizzo.

My cousin who was also new to Kibera. He looked at the places where food was being sold and next to it lay a sewage line and a heap of garbage. He vowed that he would not buy food in such a filthy place but in my mind, I noted that was life, you adapt to the circumstances you find yourself in. We got in touch with my relative at a ‘mfereji’ and he led us to the place where the room which was going to be my home was. It was then that I saw the infamous railway line. I wondered in my mind, men can be such strong to loosen this firm metal anchored in the ground? We passed in between patched mud houses as my body was taking notice of my new environment. We eventually did arrive at  the house that was located next to the roadside and was a storeyed mabati.

A new page of my life had started. I was however shocked by the hospitality of my new neighbors. In their lack, they offered me a mattress because I only had a blanket. To start my life, I had to buy hotel cooked food but later I bought a sufuria, plates, and a basin.

One Sunday morning, I was on my way to buy mandazi for breakfast. When I came back to my house, I overheard a man say that someone was killed and dumped in the sewage. I immediately became numb because fear had filled me.The poor guy was on his way to work early in the morning before he was attacked at knife point. The deceased was a father and as I looked at his head submerged in the pool of sewage water I kept thinking of the level of anguish the family must be feeling. As the people negotiated to pull the body I left the scene as I did not want to fill another trail of the scene in my mind.

Far away from that, there was a time in the middle of the night a loud voice woke me up from my deep slumber. gari inachomeka na mnalala? jameni! tumsaidie na maji…’ came the stereotypic voice for help.  I sprang out of bed, took my coat and on my hand a 20-litre jerrican. I walked through the dark corridor till I was at the scene of the event. It was true, a car was up in flames. A white fielder was behind and the guy was narrating how the car ‘ mysteriously’ caught fire . When I arrived at my room I continued pondering  about the event. It was not until the next day in the morning when I heard the rumors that the car was hijacked and the burning was a way of diverting the attention of the police from searching for them.

In Kibera, spirituality is part and parcel of people’s lives. After some spiritual loneliness, I decided to visit a nearby church. The nature of the testimonies was a bit interesting. A woman testified how a girl whose pimples were a menace came to her and she did provide  her with powder to alleviate the condition. Immediately people broke out in laughter.  To be honest I did not find it funny as testimonies do vary and one’s environment can influence the kind of your testimony. But I liked the fact that both Christianity and Islam thrive comfortably.

Kibera has a glowing nature especially through its hard work and the glowing faces, especially of its children. As we all know hard work is the pillar of life and the epitome of success . Life places us in different circles and in each comes to a sense of satisfaction and better hope for tomorrow. Outside my storeyed mabati I look over at the horizon . The scenic view is great. This is Kibera, this is life.


By Duke Mokaya who is a second-year student of journalism at Riara University. His writing is influenced by daily life events.



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