The Big Five differences of society
The ‘big 5’ is usually used in reference to the wild animals found on Safari, however it has occurred to me that I have witnessed big 5 differences between society in Nakuru and England. Since my anxious first day of being in an unknown, extremely busy environment, to 5 weeks on, I have experienced a vast change in the way I view Nakuru. I now see a vibrant city, with many talents at its heart. I have noticed a variation in the community ways of the city to those I am used to seeing in England, which some I feel are highly positive. Being involved with real people, in their everyday lives has given me a true sense of life here, and although I have seen cultural differences, I have found many parts of Nakuru to be inspirational.
Hard work & volunteers
The first of my Kenyan surprises came from seeing people at work. Residents here have no shame in admitting there is a crisis for more employment opportunities to be created throughout Kenya. However, the main approach I have seen is of a fighting population, who try to create there own opportunities. Men and women put there strengths into finding a market that they try and cater for. Many working 10-12hour days, sometimes 6 and even 7 days a week; it definitely can not be said that Kenyans are afraid of hard work. I have seen many inspirational men pulling heavy carts full of products, who do not give up at there lack of transport, but find another means of getting a job done. Similarly, tools we are used to seeing in England are not available nor cheap here, many men and women spend a hard day working to complete a task with only basic materials.
What astonished me most, is that on top of this high work ethic, the majority of those I have came into contact with still find spare time, to help others in need. I have never known such a high proportion of people, many with very little themselves willing to give their time and effort to help and inspire others. There have been countless stories of people giving money and time here. A lady in one of my groups even paid someone else a small wage to mind her shop for 5 days, so she could be apart of a summer scheme which reached out to over 2,000 children.
Living in an English society where gender equalities are accepted, it is hard to remember that this is not common throughout the world. Kenya seems to be a place where gender roles vary upon location and tribes.
In rural villages, one man described women as having ‘2 brains’ -irrational and rational, meaning they shouldn’t make decisions, as the ‘irrational’ part may take over. Not only do women, cook, clean and take care of the children, but they are expected to do much of the physical work, including the building of houses! Whilst a man’s role is providing security and taking care of the animals. Men are also given the option to have more then one girlfriend and even wife.
Although, In the busy centre, women are hard at work on their own businesses, appearing strong and independent. Some still fear their husbands, who they deem the boss of their relationship. Yet, like England, some women are divorced and many with a high aroma of confidence.
One thing that was a pleasant surprise, was that of the single mothers who have spoken to me, the fathers of children support their family, choosing to pay the families house rent, school fees or general support for each child, something Jeremy Kyle might like to hear to pass on to the Brits.
Those who travel and those who don’t
In our time here, we have been lucky to visit some of the many the beautiful sights and wildlife Kenya offers, two of my personal favourites being Thompson Waterfalls and the Maasai Mara. Working side by side with the community of Nakuru a sense of shock overcome me when I learnt so many of these residents have never visited the wonderful places there country has. The attractions are expensive, and money here is to be used carefully, so locals have limited choice.
With residents living in a continent so big, my shock further continued as I learnt very few have even travelled outside of the Kenyan borders, and those who have are usually for the purposes of a short business trip to purchase new stock.
I am sure the phrase ‘street kids’ paints a vivid stereotypical picture of the types of behaviour, emotions and psychology such children show. However, I have found there to be many variations amongst the street kids. Yes there are many who are sniffing glue to keep warm in the cold nights of the African equator weather and continue to get addicted. There are also those who are given an opportunity to improve there situation but leave to turn back to street life, the only routine they have endured. After a period of living on the streets, children become dependent on these routines in life that they know well and struggle to try new things.
However there are also those who are the exception to these stereotypes. There is a small percentage of children who do accept the help being offered to them and consider changing there lives. There are some, who from a young age are trying to create there own business opportunities, purchasing small products such as sweets and selling them for a profit. There are also a high proportion of Kenyan adults looking to improve the lives of such children. Two teens we have spoken to regularly try their best to gain enough money to eat each day, from those with a kind heart donating money or by giving them simple chores in exchange for small change.
The dreams of many of these street children is simply to have the opportunity to go to school and get a regular job. To me these findings were very important, to spread the word that the meaning of a ‘street kid’ can differ for every child.
The surprises of Education
As an employee in an English school holding a joint degree in Education Studies, I was immediately interested to hear of school life in Kenya. On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find Kenyan public schools were free to all. However, this is not the whole truth. If the correct school uniform isn’t worn by children, they aren’t allowed to attend. If the correct utensils aren’t owned by children, they aren’t allowed to attend.. and so on. School is therefore clearly not free for all. Furthermore, I am told the free schools can hold up to 100 children in one class, meaning each child is not given attention.
Although education is still seen by many as a wonderful thing in Kenya and some really appreciate that this option is now available. Many parents choose to pay there own money towards sending there children to private schools with smaller classes and there is a high emphasis on boarding schools being of high quality.
Overall, I have found these areas the most surprising in Kenya. However, I hope that not only will they be improved in the future but that we can take some positive aspects of these differences to our own English communities.
Written by Daniella Humby, 2013 Fellow