Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

A problem of open defecation areas and flying toilets in Mathare

Joshua mapping a toilet

In the last two months we have been actively involved in mapping water and sanitation, open defecation areas and open drainages in Mathare number 10, Thayu, Mabatini, Mashimoni and later in the rest of Mathare. During this process I was surprised to see people shitting in an open ground, not worrying about people watching them.

Children in Mathare lack playing grounds and recreational facilities. This is because a lot of free space is being used by open defecation areas therefore forcing the children to play near roads which often leads to accidents.

I was touched by what I saw during mapping process. Because of it I started my own investigation. I wanted to find out why people still perform open defecation instead of using the toilets, which were built, at a very high cost, by the NGO’s and the government through community development fund (CDF).

Here are my findings:

  • Maintenance Cost: For the use of a toilet in Mathare 10 one needs to pay five or three shillings daily or a monthly fee. If one doesn’t or can’t pay he/she must look for other alternatives – like using open defecation areas or flying toilets which are scattered allover Mathare.
  • Poor housing facilities: Most houses in Mathare 10, Mabatini, Mashimoni and Thayu lack toilets inside, forcing people to use flying toilets or open defecation areas
  • Poverty
  • Lack of awareness to proper hygiene and sanitation

Nowadays toilets are being constructed allover in Mathare. The area leaders have put out a request to the government and NGO’s involved in construction of new toilets, to train community members on importance of clean sanitation and hygiene.

– Javin

May 31, 2011

Problems facing formal and non-formal schools in Mathare

Thatched school in Mathare North

During my time with Map Mathare I was surprised to find that in my area, Mathare North, there are only three government schools: Mathare North primary school, Drive inn primary school and Ruaraka high school. The fourth school collapsed. In the year 2006 the government released twenty million for the construction of girls high school. The money was misused and the project collapsed after six month. Most of the formal schools in Mathare were constructed by Nairobi city council in early eighties but due to corruption with top officials, the status of these schools are diminishing. The schools problems are poor performance in national exams, lack of teachers, a lot of children per class thus making it hard for teachers to teach. This is why many parents prefer to take their children to informal school.

In Mathare North there are more than seventy six informal schools both secondary and primary. A lot of children attend what are known as non-formal or informal schools. These are supported by communities, religious groups and other organizations by offering feeding programs (feed the children Kenya), text book distributions (DFID), and sponsorship programs by (well wishers) amongst other things. Most of these non formal schools in Mathare face many problems:

  • Lack of Playing grounds i.e. recreational facilities
  • Poor infrastructures in class rooms
  • Huge numbers of orphans, displaced children and lack of space
  • Lack of qualified teachers due to poor salaries
  • Unfair distributions of Text book in schools
  • Lack of food – many students are sleepy and unable to pay attention in class because there is not enough food for them at home or in school.

They say the presence of informal schools means that Kenya has two levels of education: One for the children from the slums, another for the children from better conditions.

There is a very big need of the government to assist this informal schools in Mathare because the problems are big and are spreading throughout Kenya.

— Javin

May 25, 2011

Children of the World

Children growing up in slums are free yet faced with daily health hazard and bleak future as their parents. If there is one thing you cannot take away from slum children, is happiness and smile.

Children in Mathare smile and laugh not because of ignorance but because they have inner peace which the rich and powerful cannot even buy. Playing and dreaming for a better future is all what preoccupy their minds. I once visited a local school and when I asked children what they want to be in future, nobody mention wanting to be a criminal or police. Why? Lets finds the reason later.- Simon

May 23, 2011

Mathare: Changing House Design

Storey building on the background

Construction of storey buildings using wood and iron sheet has become an indicator that the population in Mathare Valley is increasing at very high rate. This is apart from increase in house rent. The houses vary in size and the number of people per household.

A normal house is about 10 x 10 in size housing 3 – 5 people on average. The safety of these houses is questionable as they are never supervised by qualified personnel. However most people preferred them as they are considered safe. Lack of space for slum expansion has made structure owners to be creative and change their design.The design is also dictated by how deep one pocket is.

In the early 70s and 80s the City Council of Nairobi had constructed toilets and bathroom. A community elder who has lived in Mathare for more than  50 year told me that the project was funded by the World Bank. This led to laxity by structure owners to construct washroom for the community. Unfortunately due to land grabbing many of these facilities are no longer there.

Permanent buildings are much more expensive than semi-permanent even though located inside slum. The rent ranges between Kshs. 500 – 3500/- for a single room. Power, water and washroom are not a guarantee by the landlords. – Simon

May 22, 2011

Access to Shelter in Mathare

Having a comfortable shelter is dream to many slum dwellers. The business of accessing shelter had always been in the hands of elected leaders, village elders and local administration (sub-chief and chief) in  Mathare Valley. In Mathare village 2, it was the village elders who would identify a space and collude with elected leaders and local administration to decide who to benefit.

One of the key requirements in the 1980s was availability of funds by the beneficiary to put up the structures. Failure to put up the structure on time would lead to the re-allocation to another ‘investors’. Since most of the people in Mathare could not afford to put up the structures, the community was invaded by ‘private developers’ who were mainly outsiders.

When allocating space to build houses elected leaders, village elders and local administration never considered leaving spaces for social amenities.  One of the repercussions of not engaging community in development matters is that by 1995, community owned nursery schools in Mathare and Huruma were dished out churches that were pro-establishment.

By mid 80s, most structures were owned by absentee landlord and village elders and cronies of the local administration.  This made it very difficult for tenants to make long term plans for the community.

However with time and opening up of democratic space in 90s, it led to the formation of human rights and social movements in Mathare Valley. These groups have been instrumental in engaging the elected leaders, village elders, local administration and other government agencies about their rights.

Currently any development being initiated in Mathare Valley, the community must be engaged. This has helped control illegal evictions. – Simon

May 20, 2011

Mathare Valley connection and Dr. Willy Mutunga

I once hosted Dr. Willy Mutunga in Mathare and whenever I introduced him to the youth and women groups people never believed that he was the mdosi (boss) of Ford Foundation in Eastern African due to how he was able to mingle with the local people.

When he got interviewed for the job of Chief Justice people called me to confirm whether he was the same guy they had met. It is this simplicity that the women and youth remember of Dr. Willy Mutunga. He was able to talk and listen to their challenge which is very rare with potential donors who come to Mathare with an attitude.

When the new President of Ford Foundation Luis A. Ubiñas visited Mathare, I showed him round Mathare in the company of Dr. Willy Mutunga. I remember the Ford Foundation President meeting small children playing with ‘fire’ as part of their toys and he got shocked. Along the way, we met a jua kali artisan making home bank and the president was amazed by creaticity found in slum despite deep poverty. I remember Dr. Willy returning back to us and asking how best can we partner to improve our situation. It is this act that we will always remember him as he assume his new role.

As he prepare to assume his new position as the Chief Justice, I wish him all the best. – simon

May 19, 2011

A letter from Mathare to US Ambassdor

Dear United States ambassador to Kenya, Jonathan Scott

I am simple resident of Mathare Valley and may I take this opportunity to welcome you to Kenya on top of being officially acknowledged by our president. Kenya is a land of plenty but enjoyed by a few in the political and ruling class elites. I have read that you once lived and worked in DRC which might mean that you speak some Swahili. Karibu Kenya.

I have watched over the years your predecessor enjoying himself and curving a niche in the Kenyan politics. The current MPs have protested how he is close to the youths in Kenya and his low appetite for corruption.

I am sorry he is leaving without finishing the good job that he had started. I hope you will pick the pieces and continue.

I believe that having lived and worked in Africa, you know how things operate in Africa and hope the you will not disappoint.

My main reason for writing is to inform you that Nairobi has many slums apart from Kibera. Please make it a point of visiting Mathare and Mukuru so that you can see the other side on Nairobi.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely


May 18, 2011

Mathare Youth Vote

Felix, one of the contestants from Huruma Ward

The National Youth Council elections are going across the country and Mathare held its elections for the delegates. In each ward, youth gathered to elect their choice peacefully. At Mabatini ward, 13 youth came out seeking to be elected as youth delegate. In each sub location, 3 youth delegate will be elected.

While in all the polling station there was high presence of women, very few of them were seeking position. For instance, in Mabatini out of the 13 contestants, only 3 women were on the list seeking to be elected. In Huruma, the situation was the same, with only 4 women among 16 contestants. Given that there is low women participation, this might affect articulation of women issues at higher level.

The election has been so peacefully against to what was expected. At Huruma, one of the contestants Mr. Felix, 24 yrs was happy with the arrangement and was optimistic that he will be elected. The selection of administration camps as voting sites has greatly contributed to the elections being held peacefully.

When it came to mobilizing people most people were using mobile phone and texting through SMS service. Printing of poster was common combined with collection of mobile phone numbers. When I visited Huruma polling station, I found Felix calling people to remind them about the day.

The situation on ground revealed that the elections of youth delegates in Mathare being less tribal and this is one of the lessons that the political parties can learn from the youth elections. The election is driven by how well known one is for doing things than money politics.

However there is generally low voter turn-out by the youth. This could be partly attributed to low publicity of the elections by the Ministry of Youth and the local administration. Also the election being held on a working day has locked out youths attending colleges or those working.

From the start of youth election, there was very little interest civil society organizations which conduct monitoring of elections or promote voter registration. Part of Yes We Can Fund by the USAID should have been invested in the youth election. – Simon

May 17, 2011

Mathare, Youth Election

Youth Election, Mathare

The youths from wider Mathare have been engaged in serious campaigns to elect youth representatives right from the grassroots to national level. Tomorrow (18/5/2011) the elections will be held country wide for the local youth representatives. Both male and female candidates have come out to vie for various positions.

The process so far has been peaceful and there is total difference with how ‘adult’ led elections are conducted. In Kiamaiko for example, those vying for various position were called by the youths so that they can share their vision if elected.

Walking in the community one will notice poster allover while other have printed brochure outlining their agenda if elected. In Mathare I have liked the creativity by those seeking to be elected.

Many contestants have avoided being associated with the local MP, hon. Bishop Wanjiru or councillors as this will cost them votes.  This should be a pointer to the 2012 general election direction.

On the criteria set, the election is bound to lock out youth who have been active in the community because of education requirement. It is common sense in places such Mathare slums, it is youth who are less educated that have always been available to volunteer in community led projects. In the place of education, the Ministry of Youth should have substituted the requirement with how one has been active in the community. Above that, the government should be commended for putting system in place being the first election.

Our centre provided a base for voter registration and from the look of things; it seems that very few youths registered. If the youth are to capture power, then voter registration should be taken seriously. The only thing missing is the vibrant involvement of big NGOs and the United Stated of America embassy in Nairobi unlike the general elections when there is huge investments by NGOs and foreign mission. The USA ambassador will have done the job half way he had started of grooming youth leaders for 2012 and beyond. – Simon

May 12, 2011

Right to Sanitation-Mathare

Mathare area DO joins in celebrating sanitation with residents

On 28 July 2010 United Nations General Assembly declared, “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” Kenya being a member of UN I believe Mathare people are too.
Looking at the situation in Mathare, it is sometimes too much to bear for the residents. The government officials are overburden with situation due to lack of equipment and little investment by the local authorities. This has forced youth groups to organize themselves to bridge lack of resources by the government to address water, environment and sanitation challenges in the slum.

Today (11/5/2011), I was part of a team that saw the launching of new type of toilets by Plan Kenya through partnership with local groups such as Community Cleaning Services, Tunaweza Youth Group and MANYGRO from Mathare.
The event was attend by Plan representatives from Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Plan Australia and Kenya office among other countries.

It is now apparent to the resident that the right to clean water and adequate sanitation has to be led by the people and not by government officials. The joy exhibited by the residents during the launch was a demonstration of their determination to make it a reality and an enjoyable right.

Having access to clean water and sanitation is no-longer a matter of health but people appreciating their environment and respecting their surrounding.

The water, environment and sanitation is the next biggest employer in the slums. Nearly all toilets employ more than ten people per toilet. All water points are managed by people who ran them on daily basis. Tunaweza Youth Group in Mashimoni has been able to construct a bio toilet. Through this venture, they have a meeting hall and are in the process of harnessing gas to generate electricity and sell to the community.

The Map Mathare group has been mapping water and sanitation points to establish the real situation. It is through generating information that the community can engage either development partners and government top facilitate more development projects. Mathare team has managed to map nearly all the open drainage in small section. This will help identify points where there broken sewer and water pipes.

Plan Kenya and Plan Australia have managed to help the community achieve their potential to enjoy their to water and sanitation. – Simon

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