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Agony of homeless minors forced to become urchins and fight off sex pests

George Tirop, 14, and other street children at Globe roundabout in Nairobi. He said he is willing to go back home

George Tirop, 14, and other street children at Globe roundabout in Nairobi. He said he is willing to go back home

Street children live demeaning lives and are exposed to the dangers of harsh weather and sex pests, interviews with some of them have revealed.
 
In their own words, they survive by the grace of God and take drugs to relieve their pain and suffering.
 
Those interviewed by the Nation are willing to be reunited with their families and go back to school.
 
Most of them are orphans or from broken homes where parents have separated.
 
Irene Nafula, 24, says she fled home in 2011 as she could not stand the cruelty of her step mother after her father and mother separated. She now lives on the streets of Eldoret. Cuddling her son, who is roughly seven months old, Ms Nafula bitterly recalled how her step mother threatened to kill her if she reported her ordeal to the father.
 
“In the streets, girls are prone to rape while sleeping and you have to start using substances like glue because a sober mind cannot take what I go through,” she said.
 
She got pregnant after she was raped “one rainy and cold night”.
 
The first born daughter in a family of three, she said street children survive by the grace of God.
 
“The food we eat, the cold, rain and lack of medication in times of need. It is only God who cares for us,” she said.
 
For Steve Kamau, 15, ran away from Njoro to Nairobi when his father remarried after breaking up with his mother.
 
Kamau said he could not stand her stepmother’s brutality and left. “I survive by collecting plastic bottles in town and selling them at Grogan at Sh15 a kilo. I hope to go back home one day and even go back to school, I was in Standard Six when I ran away”, he says.
 
In Nakuru, Maxwell Khaenda was 10 years old when he stole Sh100 from her parents and vanished, fearing that he would be punished. He abandoned school in Standard Five.
 
He confesses street life is harsh and unbearable, saying he wishes he could be reunited with his family that lives at Ponda Mali.
 
In Kisumu, Charles Odhiambo, 15, ran away from home in May 2012 after he was sent to pay his mothers’ chama contribution. He ran away from their Nyakach home to Kisumu with the Sh1,000 he was sent with. He wanted to buy a radio that he had been yearning for.
 
His plans were scuttled when he was attacked by a street boy in Kisumu who hit him on the head. He lost the Sh1,000.
 
“After I was attacked, I met another boy from Homa Bay who told me the injury in the head was a mark that I would permanently stay on the streets,” he told Nation.
 
Odhiambo collects garbage from hotels for a plate of ugali and relies on well-wishers for food. He said he intends to leave the street but that depends on whether his father will forgive him.
 
For 17-year old Kennedy Ochieng, he ended up on the streets of Mombasa following the death of his parents four years ago.
“Relatives did not seem to care about me so I ended up in the streets. I sniff glue because it temporarily drives away my problems,” he said as he sniffed.
 
Ochieng would like to go back to school for vocational training and leave street life.
 
In Nyeri, Yusuf Salim is part of a gang of glue-sniffing urchins scavenging waste bins on the streets.
 
While he cannot remember where he was born, he found himself on the streets of Nyeri after he was thrown out of Thuguma rehabilitation centre where he was sent to when President Mwai Kibaki’s government set up the centre.
 
Sometimes, he accompanies police during patrols where he can make as much as Sh2,000. He does not say how. “I always go to church and I know God did not create me to live on the streets. I pray to God that I will save enough money to rent a room where I can start to build my life. If I continue going to church, my pastor has promised to take care of me”, he said.

Nation

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