Mary Mwendwa views a cheetah at Kenyan National Park. Photo/Mary Mwendwa

AS TOURISTS the world over dream of a visit to Africa to see wildlife, and spend their lifelong savings to make this memorable trip, some children in Kenya have never seen a lion or giraffe and perhaps never will.  The only animals they are familiar with are dogs, cats and chicken. Ask them for a Christmas gift or toy and all they will beg for is to see a lion or a leopard.

Like children in the Western world, some have only wildlife on television or in books. Some have no access to television and have seen none. This, despite some national parks dangling a few kilometres behind their settlement. The children in Kiambiu and Mukuru slums dream both day and night of that one miracle that will one day enable them visit an animal orphanage or a national park.

They pray without ceasing as they continue to miss out on some of Kenya’s natural environment and conservation and daily privileges and blessings other Kenyans take for granted.

Tracy Atieno, 13 years, flashes a shy smile as she explains how UNICEF and WERK through Operation Come To School campaign has helped her stay in school. Credit:Mary Mwendwa

Tracy Atieno is 13, and lives with her single mother at Kiambiu slums East of Nairobi. She walks for 30 minutes to access her school, Rabai Road Primary School, a public school in Nairobi.

Luxuries of going to big shopping malls, strolling in town and getting to bite foods like pizza is a like a dream to Tracy. Tracy’s life is confined in the slums and school. She cooks for her small family while her mother is busy trying to make ends meet.

“I have never stepped in a National Park, I love animals and only admire them in books, Kenya has many parks but sadly my mother does not have money to take me and my siblings to one.”

She has never operated a smart phone. Her mother has a phone which she says is a basic phone but forbids her from touching it. In case Tracy drops it, she cannot afford another one.

Tracy wakes up at 5.00 am every morning and walks for an hour to be in school by 6.00 am.  She covers the 4-kilometre distance to school on foot and she is always anxious about keeping time.

“During the rainy season it is very difficult to walk through the muddy streets. I arrive in school with mud caked to my shoes and I have to get them clean so that I can at least be comfortable in the classroom,” she says.  Sometimes when the rain soaks through her clothes, books and shoes, it means a long cold day ahead for her. “There is little one can do about it and I have learnt to bear with the situation.”

“I want to become a teacher so that I teach other children in the slums who do not go to school and also make them exposed to things that other children take for granted.” She says. “When I become a teacher, I hope to ask the government to take the children to a game park,” she blurts out her wish.

15-year-old Samuel Aswani is a talented artist. He is grateful to UNICEF and WERK for helping him develop his skills by supplying him with stationeries. He is passionate about drawing.

Samwel Aswani comes from Kiambiu Slums in Nairobi. He is 15, schooling at Rabai Road Primary school. He is a talented artist who wishes to use his art to make an impact in his life.

Aswani has not seen a lion, giraffe, elephant, rhino, ostrich and all the other game Kenya is famous for the world over. The pride of Africa remains a far-fetched dream to Aswani.

“I love drawing and painting but as you know where we live the houses are small even the drawing table I use is tiny. It is also noisy at times therefore it interferes with my concentration. The images of animals he draws are from the class texts but he would love to see a real one.”

Aswani confesses at times they don’t have enough food as a family but he understands their situation.

“I do need certain types of paints and drawing books which my parents cannot afford, that make me sad at times.”

“I am dedicated to become a famous artist despite these challenges. “He says

Aswani just like many of her age mates living in the slums would like to play football but when it rains the small field nearby gets flood with mud and they cannot play.

To them many things are luxury; even boarding a vehicle to a destination is a big privilege.

“I only travel when going to my rural home in western or when for holidays.”

A charming Amina Abubakar, 14 years, Class 8 pupil at Rabai Road Primary School transfered schools due to tuition fees challenges. Despite that she hopes to realize her dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Amina Abubakar recently sat for her class eight 2017 KCPE exams. Aged 14, she is from Kiambiu.  Her biggest fear is the dangerous environment she and her family live in.

There are many negative influences, ready traps for the young people of her generation.

“My mother sells shoes and my father lives in a different town. They don’t have a lot of money but they try their best, I don’t get to play because in the slums there are no places to play. At times I wish my mother took me to town centre to see nice shops and malls but she is busy looking for money to get us food,” she says.

Amina says life in the slums is difficult; as a girl, they do not have bathrooms in the houses as they are too small. “We share bathrooms and at times it is very difficult to take a shower at night due to fear of being attacked by men.” She told Tujipange KE.

“I have never been to a national park, I just hear of them, even the giraffe centre that is based here in Nairobi.” She narrates.

A charming Amina believes that through education, she will be able to realise her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon.

Residents watch an accident scene at the Mukuru river.
Tujipange African Media