By Nuru Ahmed
Since Covid-19 was announced in Kenya in early March of 2020 the girl child has been affected in so many ways; some have been physically abused through rape, defilement and torture where others have ended up pregnant.
In slums such as Kibera, the pandemic has done more harm to the girl child. Men have taken advantage of girls especially adolescents and youths.
Most Kibera slum residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.00 per day. Unemployment and crime rates are high. The burden of HIV and AIDs is also high.
Muhammad Abdalla a religious leader and Imam of Masjid Salama said, “Due to economic burden to the girl child, many end up accepting sexual activities with different men, some got into prostitution to earn quick money and contracted HIV/AIDs.”
“Many teenage girls who were attending religious education lost interest and got married when the Madrasas were shut down since the start of the pandemic,” added Abdalla.
Madam Clarice Akinyi the Headteacher of Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, said:
“The turnout when schools opened on the 4th of January 2021 is promising as 93% of the students came back to school.”
She noted that some did not want to repeat their class while others had disappeared from their homes without a trace.
“As a school, it is a challenge for us to find solutions for such students who have lost hope in education!” exclaimed Madam Akinyi.
Some became pregnant and the school is giving moral support to them, she adds.
“My parents couldn’t afford an internet connection and a smart phone for the online zoom classes. This made me remain behind in the syllabus as I was not attending any classes because I lacked a smart phone for the zoom classes, my interest vanished for completing form four,” said Halima Abubakar, 19 years, student at Olympic secondary school.
Abubakar added that, “most of her friends got pregnant in 2020 and most of them dropped out of school. My classmates joined peer groups and started using drugs, indulging in criminal activities like theft, beating and stealing from people, engaging in sexual activities with big men and others.”
“One of my classmates tried aborting and ended up losing her life, to me this pandemic has brought a lot of harm to the girl child in Kibera slum and the world at large,” Abubakar sadly explained.
Mariam Abdallah, 17 years, student in form three also at Olympic secondary school says she sees no meaning of going to school anymore as she opened a small enterprise of selling bhajjia (fried Irish Potatoes) near their home in Makina.
“I earn 500-1000 shillings daily from my small business and this money usually help in billing my basic needs like food, sanitary towels, detergents, and clothing among others,” she noted.
“I also help buy some food stuffs for my siblings at home. I would rather continue with my business than education since I am earning some money for my sustenance,” Abdallah added.
“Some of my friends also opened small businesses and we started a group of ten girls where we do ‘merry go-round’ (chama). We pay 100kshs weekly and by the end of the month two members of the group receive quite a good amount of money to help sustain ourselves.”
Some young girls were forced into early marriages by their guardians like Hawa Hussein who was in from two. “My uncle got a man to marry me and when I refused he threatened to chase me from home,” said Hawa who lost her parents when she was young.
“I wanted to finish my studies and be a qualified teacher so as to help the girls in Kibera to succeed in their dreams and aspirations in life but I got married at an early age. The man who married me refused to take me back to school as he had promised,” Hawa said sadly.
Parents also complained about the behavior of their daughters at home. The parents said children have lost respect for them and the elders in the community. They don’t want to be corrected or told anything by anyone.
Yasmeen Muhammad a resident of Karanja said my daughter Maimunah has lost interest in studies as she joined peer groups. These girls she joined finished form four in 2019 and are misleading her to wrong paths which she doesn’t realize.
“My daughter told me she will not go back to school as she sees no meaning or reason of continuing with her studies. This saddens my heart as Maimunah was in form three about to complete her secondary education,” added Muhammad
“I have nothing to do as Maimunah has become so violent at home and I can’t force her to go to school as she has already lost interest in education. Maimunah has gotten a bad tendency of stealing money at home which she did not have before,” added her mother Yasmeen.
Patrick Okello a resident of Ayani explains how young girls have been spoiled by drugs like cocaine, bhang, alcohol and heroine. Many young girls have joined bad groups and use drugs as they wish making their parents not be able to control them, he said.
“I have lost faith in my daughter Moreen as she started using vulgar words at home, going to clubs with her friends and using drugs. I wanted Moreen to be a nurse but this pandemic has ruined my plans for her as she refused to go back to school,” added Okello.
Mary Njeri, a single mother with three girls and two boys resides in Karanja estate. She added that not only has corona affected the girl child but also the boys. She says her son John tried to beat her when she was showing him the right way to succeed in life.
“John goes out at any time he wishes, he doesn’t stay at home at all and he comes back so late and yet drunk. As I tried correcting him, he pushed me to the wall and I almost broke my leg,” said Njeri.
Zainabu a resident of Ayani estate said her two boys have really changed since Covid-19 came in Kenya.
“My first son was in form three in 2020 and as they stopped going to school, he started using drugs, bringing girlfriends at home and not helping me do any house chores,” Zainabu said.
“I decided to take him to the village so that my parents stay with him as he was threatening to beat me if I continue lecturing him. “
“My second son is in class eight and I thank God he went back to school in October and I pray he finishes his primary level successfully since he is my hope!” Zainabu exclaimed.
“We as parents pray and hope this pandemic gets over so that our children live normally as before.”