…I find this amusing
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,
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:
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.