Isaac Owino, a man in his early twenties, is usually up by 5:00am, a time when most of his peers are still tossing and turning in bed. The mathare resident is determined to make a living off of the car wash business. Immediately after clearing high school in 1996, he secured a job at industrial area where he maintained hydrolysis machines. But, as fate would have it, necessity is the mother of invention. He cleans cars, carpets, and sofa sets at Nairobi’s’ mathare north market.
But the beginning was never smooth given that he did not have sufficient funds, let alone customers. But due to his determination, he has made the best out of the business and does not regret taking the risk. Asked about his earnings, Joshua says: “my job is unpredictable but when things are good I pocket more than five to ten thousand monthly. This is enough to cater for my needs.” Isaac’s determination attests to the struggle by the youth to eke out a living in the face of employment. But why did Joshua opt for the car wash business? His answer leaves no doubt on the status of unemployment in the country: “I saw that there was no white collar job I could get since I was not educated to college level. In country where even graduate remain unemployed for years, I saw car wash as the only option.”
Most of the youths, however, remain unemployed for long periods due to the misconception that only a white-collar job pays well. Many are the youths who let their talents go to waste as they wait to be employed. It does not help matters that the government does not offer enough support to the youth to enable them engage in gainful employment. A number of youths have skills such as Isaac but have a problem accessing funds to enable them realize their dreams. Their talents therefore remain untapped and therefore remain in poverty and don’t hit the international limelight. Take, for instance, Tegla Lorupe, who came from a humble background and is now an international support figure. She owes her success to humility, patience, hard work and team spirit. If youths could realize their talents like the renowned international athlete their lives would be full of success and glamour.
Isaac thinks that if only youths could gain financial support through the government they could better their lives and excel in their various careers. But more importantly, the youth should always strive to nurture their talent even in the face of hardship. The smile in Joshua’s face is that of a man who knows where he comes from and where he is headed. Behind the smile is a young man whose mind is taking him far, if only to escape the harsh realities of employment. Though many people have despised his work in the past, he has demonstrated self-confidence and continues to earn an honest living while some of his peers have resorted to criminal activities. Isaac is a testimony of how far youths can go with determination.