For some reason…

…I find this amusing
Toss!

This morning while I was running three small girls in blue jumpers and skirts, carrying their obligatory books and, for some reason, bits of stick, waited for me by the side of the road. Imagine them: three tiny tots who know they ought to be walking west towards Nguluni but there is this big Mzungu lumbering up the road behind them, so they’re all looking round over their right shoulders. The one at the back is turned most towards me, the middle is looking round, the one in front still facing mostly forward — they resemble mischievous monkeys — their faces suggest mixed emotions. They are excited but also frightened. I smile and, as I pass, say,
“Good morning!”.
The back one turns and immediately starts runing too, but the middle one is still there in front of her. They collide and the two of them stagger into the front one. All three of them bob about like dominos that have had too much to drink. Finally I hear some of them have started running but they soon give up.

I smiled all the way to Nguluni Bible College, where I turn round and start the return leg. On the way I pass them again.
“Good morning ladies, how are you?”.
Again they stare, open mouthed. As I pass one shouts in reply:
“I fine!”.

And here is something that does not amuse me.

Last night on the world service for Africa they had an interview with a representative from Nairobi University talking about the problem of paying fees. The girl spoke confidently and without aparent bitterness, but her message was all the more powerful for that — or so it was to me — for she was saying that things I think don’t get talked about much in Kenya, least of all on public broadcast media. Because this was the BBC it will be heard all over the continent.

She frist told something of the problems faced by students: “we’re on a pay to eat system”, she said, “If you dont have money you can’t eat”. She also spoke of the problems of peer pressure to dress in certain ways and to socialise and drink “the same things” as oither students. Some of these students, I infer, are wealthy, and some are not.

Then she went on to describe some of the ways that girls in particular have been managing. She mentioned three strategies:

Cohabitation: a girl lives with a boy student and does cooking and housework (sexual favors implied, I think) for him. In return he helps to support her. The problems she identified with doing this were that it is illegal for girls to be in boys hostels after 10pm and that the similarity of the relationship to marriage meant that the girls were sometimes being beaten. So much seemed to be going unsaid here, or maybe it was just being said in my imagination.

Sugar daddies: A girl develops a friendship (sexual favors implied) with an older man, usually married, who supports her. Since the man is married there is less commitment and its not like prostitution, she said, “because you are working the same man all the time”.

Prostitution: Girls sometimes go in groups to bars where they know they can pick up business, she said, but also there are pimps, she called them agents, who come to the student bars and try to attract girls to work for them. Many are tempted.

14 Comments

  1. Cyka Says:

    no, this is not just being said in your imagination. this is why i don’t go out much here, 90% of the girls in the muzungu bars are working girls. if i’m out for drinks with one of my white male friends and i go to the toilet alone, there will be at least 3 or 4 girls who will inform me that my companion will not be leaving with me.

    i think i told you when you were here, kenya is just like russia except with better weather. i guess that’s why it’s not so difficult for me to hear about how these girls support themselves…it’s the exact same at home.

    i meant to comment on your double standard entry about using the net access and not paying for it, but i think i’ll save it for an email. basically, don’t feel bad…if you really want to witness double standard-ism and mis-use of organisation resources, i’ll take you up to the UN and UNICEF headquarters, where can watch the mercedes with drivers line up in front of the very expensive private school waiting to collect UN kids to take them home to their 3000$ a month rented homes and play video games in the rec centre…all funded by the same people who encouraged western aid companies to stop giving money to africa because it was going into corrupt pockets.

    and on a more amusing in a corrupt way note, remember the bandits that tried to block the road with stones? well i picked the smallest stone and just floored it, obviously damaging the undercarriage, but at least i made it home. so when we took it back to the rental agency to explain what happened, he said carjacking is not covered in the mandatory insurance i had to buy (although our personal insurance covers rentals), but if we wanted to give him 35k bob,he’d ‘take care of it with his own mechanic’.

    ahhhhh, at least it’s never dull in kenya, eh? 😉

  2. lydia Says:

    Words fail me a bit reading about the girls’ strategies. Do the boys have the same difficulties supporting themselves? How do the men view these girls? Do they see them as women with goals and ambitions or not as "real" people. Yesterday in my 6th form class we were looking at HIV transmission and I told them about HIV in Rwanda after so many women were raped – my students had no concept of how women’s lives are in other places. It’s so easy to take education and ownership of oneself – a sense that you can freely choose who does what to you – when it is not a challenge. How do you feel about the stuff you have heard that you can do nothing about and it’s going on around you?

  3. Mark Says:

    Cyka, in answer to your SMS: no, your comments are very welcome here.

    The important thing about my double standards post was that I am aware of how it is systematic and endemic (including me). I don’t intend to change my behaviour re the net for it (I think my blog alone is worth that, but the important words in this sentense are **I think**).

    Lydia. Erm. It was frustrating but also challenging to listen to that radio broadcast. No I can’t do anything about it not directly. In general any little good I do out here is supposed to help empower people: Im working within the enucation system. And it so happens that I am working with young women, many of whom are doing diplomas here at HRC with a view to going to University next. I gues the best I can hope is that while I cannot help any of **them**, if the college helps improve the lot of women in Kenya in general (in some small way at least) then I have an indirect contribution to make.

    But I didnt (exactly) come here to help. I volunteered because I want to learn. And if anything I do here helps anyone, thats a bonus. But help or benefit are such relative terms, I just don’t want to make judgements about it.

    And **I** do not know about rape in Rwanda.

    Maybe ther is some way we can make our litle contribution to mutual awareness for these students?
    **ERROR: Comment too long, brain meltdown**

    Mark

  4. lydia Says:

    Is it possible to link up some of my older students with some of yours?

  5. Cyka Says:

    lydia, how the boys support themselves is a little ‘easier’ than the girls, as their families are much more willing to put up what little money they have to send a son, rather than a daughter for higher education. a daughter they can just marry off and not have to worry about, but a son will be expected to not only support a wife and children of his own, but he’ll be expected to contribute to the financial welfare of his parents and extended family. for those that don’t have money, i think just like anywhere else, you’ve got those that take the ‘higher path’ and find a part time job(which aren’t very easy to find here outside of the city), and those that go for the easy money of either dealing drugs or ‘agenting’ working girls. i think the college mark is at is really special…these girls actually have a better chance to make something of thier lives than most up country girls. i reckon that once they finish their degree, they’ll most likely look for work abroad or with a western company in nairobi or mombasa.

    without going into a long diatribe about how women are viewed here, its quite diverse among the tribes. there are a few tribes where women are the ‘ruling’ sex, but you find those mostly upcountry. in general, although polygamy is officially illegal, it’s common for men to have two or three wives and/or mistresses. most of the women know of the others and are just assumed to accept or even be friends. older women are generally treated with more respect than younger ones. because families are so large and usually live in the same house or bomas, home life is usually peaceful and they take care of each other very well. domestic violence happens here, but i don’t think it’s any more prevelant than anywhere else. what is disturbing though is a recent survey that 85% of the women polled felt they could not refuse sex with their spouse/partner, even if they knew he was HIV+. the new government is working hard to bring women into a more modern spotlight, but it’s going to take time. i come from a country where girls will still marry for a foreign passport just to get out of the country, and i’ve seen quite a lot of the same here. but as i said, it will take time for women to be fully considered equals, especially with the prevalance of disease, female cirucumcision, and a fierce refusal to let go of ancient tribal customs.

    mark, i disagree that you can not help any of them.you have proved to be a white man that these girls can trust and learn from without a hidden agenda, and that alone will instill great confidence in themselves as women able to stand on their own two feet. and as i said to you before, if you can instill skills in just one of the girls who will pass it on to others, then you have made a huge direct contribution.

    actually, i’m quite glad we didn’t make it to black cotton, because you’d have been really disappointed at the general behaviour of the muzungu men here. again, this is why i don’t go out much here, because it’s embarrassing for me to watch my male friends go out specifically for the purpose of finding the working girls at the best price.

    the fee increase that kibaki is trying to put in is premature and frankly, quite stupid on his part. there are so many other problems left over from moi that need addressing, you’d assume that he’d leave education alone for awhile. just out of curiousity, what is the tuition at HRC?

  6. Cyka Says:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3558445.stm

    have just seen this, am annoyed that they failed to mention that a lot of the under-funding comes from aid money going straight into the uni president’s pocket. also, there’s a uni in moscow called ‘the people’s friendship university’ that has sponsored full scholarships for africans and cubans for over 20 years. in fact, i don’t even think russians can get into that school. but very few of them return to africa after graduation.

    hmmm. you’ve really got my brain going on the education thing now. :confused:

  7. Mark Says:

    This morning’s broadcast had an article about the hardship of african students studying in the UK. I can’t find a link to it on line.

  8. Lydia Says:

    Cyka, my brain’s going on this now – it had been sort of dormant on these issues, it’s good to have them "switched" on. I’m guessing from what you have said that you are from Russia – what’s it like for women in Russia now? I’ve picked up bits and pieces from your comments.
    Mark, I reckon what Cyka says is v true – just by being you you will be making a difference. HUGS! 😎

  9. Cyka Says:

    mark, i’m not online v long, need to know specs for the computers you’re looking for ASAP!!!

  10. Cyka Says:

    is this the link you’re after?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3565421.stm

  11. Mark Says:

    As a matter of fact that’s not it. This morning they were talking to a Kenyan woman at a UK uni about her predicament. She spoke with a strong accent and there were some people in the background when the article was being recorded. At one point she shouted at them:
    "Stop laughing at my misfortune!".
    She went on to say that she had been chosen from a large family to be sent to the UK to study but that with the increase in fees for foreign students, she would have to go back home and not finish her studies. I think thats it I was in fact in the kitchen when it was on and didn’t hear it perfectly.

    Maybe there is no on-line version.

  12. Cyka Says:

    i think most of the radio programs are put onto the site in audio format. check tomorrow, i know voice of america usually uploads their radio programmes only next day.

  13. Cyka Says:

    lydia, yes, moscow is home, but i have been in kenya for a year now and only home twice since then.

    i’ve had a bit of a family tragedy today, so i’m trying to catch a late flight home tonight, but i’ll be happy to answer your questions when i return

  14. Cyka Says:

    as a matter of fact, i believe this is what you were looking for. unfortunately the text only version has a bug, but you can listen to it from the archive in real player.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/networkafrica/index.shtml

    IN TODAY’S SHOW
    updated 03:30 and 07:30 GMT

    Presenter: Thoko Moyo
    ?
    Ivory Coast
    Bloody protests aftermath
    Sudan
    Talking peace in Chad
    Nigeria
    Local election preparations
    Music
    Kanda Bongo Man – Monie
    Guest
    Bukola Kpotie, student
    Sport
    Kenyan football crisis
    International
    African students in the UK
    Magic Moment
    From Ugochukwu gift Achor