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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Take the Kids Home First, Dammit

I had a beautiful ride to Karen the other day.

When you are new in a city as expansive as Nairobi, sometimes you learn a few things the hard way. A friend asked me to visit her in the Karen area. Well, since we hadn't seen each other for long I said I'd be glad to. She asked me if I knew how to get to that side of town and I said Of course I did. But since I wasn't sure I could drive there, I decided I'd catch a Number 24.

That was a mistake.

Turns out Number 24 goes out on a major excursion. When I told one of those dudes who hangs at the door as the bus cruises along where I would get off, he looked at me strangely, then asked, "Why did you take a 24?"

"Won't it take me to Karen?" I asked.

"Yes, but you should have gone through Langata."


So I was in for a longer ride than I planned. And it didn't help that just fifteen minutes into the ride my friend started calling...wondering why it was taking so long. "Is it the rains?" she demanded.

I said, "Nope."

"Then what's the matter?"

The matter was...I was in the wrong bus, but being there made me see something that completely messed up the rest of my evening. As our bus came to a stop at one of those places where they empty folks and fill up, I saw a bevvy of excited school kids ready to jump in and head home. And by then it had started drizzling. I looked into the bus and could tell that there wasn't enough room for all of them. Was I going to have to get out of the bus to let in two more?

Man, imagine my surprise when the bus stopped, let out two passengers, then started off without the kids. Not a single one. Instead of the kids, the dude who hangs at the door allowed in two women and a hefty man! To my further dismay, nobody in the bus seemed to mind this sorry picture.

I rushed to the dude who hangs at the door and asked him to stop the bus. "The kids," I said.

"Wachana nao."

Leave the kids?

I couldn't take this. I told him to let four kids in and I'd pay the adult rate for them. To my sweet surprise, other parents in the bus took a child each and before long our bus was filled with happy children heading home to their parents and to do their homework.

In spite of the touching ending of that drama, I was left with many questions on my mind. How can it be that we would let parents ride home ahead of their children? I understand the right of the matatus to maximize profits, but are those profits worth our telling the young, helpless Kenyans that we don't give a damn about them? Can we treat the kids like they don't matter and still wonder why they turn out so angry and disillusioned in this society?

Someone needs to act, to work out a policy that forces the matatus to take the children home ahead of their parents. Until then, my fellow Kenyans, if you are in a matatu and a child is about to be left behind because he/she won't pay as an adult, step in and pay for that child.

Take the kids home first, dammit!


Anonymous said...

sam, can i cry?

Mama said...

Sam, welcome to Kenya.

That happened to me once, tena right at the stage in town. The children were so many over there (I think those Catholic Parochial ones) so i just called the smallest and told the tout that the girl was with me. I told her to stand there in the mat and the tout didn't dare ask for her fare. I think he felt really ashamed of himself!

Only in Kenya can you see such things happening and then see adults jostling for a mat to get home....what a shame!

Anonymous said...

Sam your children are your responsibility. why have children if you cannot take care of them? The survival of our species does not depend on you.

Humans are such an illogical lot. They will kill the last animal in a species and destroy the last forest cover just to have more children!

M-Pesa said...

Very moving indeed to treat the vulnerable little ones in such a loutish and shoddy manner. The innocent kids grow up in such a selfish and brutal society called Kenya and will eventually be shaped up by the same unforgiving and callous environment they are growing up in. Hello.. Isn't what you reap precisely what you sow?

We have taught them that when you disagree with your rival, you take up pangas and rungus, hunt them down, kill and rape the tribe that you think is at fault. We have taught the little ones that if some women and children cower in a church, you just torch it down and rape anyone who dares survive the inferno.

We have taught them not to pay taxes, how to loot maize from the poor and of course if you are rich and powerful you can't go to jail! Not in Kenya! We have taught our kids corruption pays big time and it's just fine to steal elections and quickly get sworn in at night.

We have taught them that their parents are poor because some imaginary "kabila adui" is rich! Our kids thrive in such a hypocritical society where losers are rewarded and winners humiliated and heavily penalised.

Where a degree doesn't count but who you know up there does matter big time! Then we act "shocked" when they grow up and join gangs like Mungikis, SLDF, and chinkororos of this country! Just what do you expect? We owe the young generation a heart-felt apology for our crooked and wicked ways!


Anonymous said...

I had to do a doubt take. Sam Okello actually wrote a decent article that is constructive. Kweli, Kenya might still have hope

Anonymous said...

we're really messing up the kids though. Look at the SONU elections and you know this country is doomed for the forseeable future. It just shows u how much young people follow and ape these leaders...sad

Philip said...

Did I once say here that our politician's behaviour is just a mirror of our society?

There is a lot of greed and selfishness in Kenya, much than we can discern, especially those in diaspora.

I cannot still believe that the people who conned me so much were my closest friends.

In Kenya they say you don't throw an opportunity when it comes your way:

That's why some will scramble for mat disregarding old women beside them.

That's why a motorist will scramble for 1 metre space along the road in a jam with pedestrian who want to cross.

That's why consultants will ask for a hefty fee offer you poor services without blinking an eye.

That's why most employers underpay their employees - infact they spent more on their dogs than on their employees.

That's why milking a man dry has become a norm rather than exception.

That's why most motorist will rather be alone in their vehicle as they head to and from town without giving a lift to their immediate neighbour.

That's why we will rather drink heavily than give that beggar 50 bob.

etc. etc. etc.

... and then we will all come together and shout, "KIBAKI AND RAILA ARE BAD!"

Sayra said...


The grown ups are busy been crude and been haters leaving the kids to raise themselves with the help of TV and the internet. We already seeing the consequences where those in their 20s besides drinking alcohol and taking hard drugs they are now learning the how to be parents and get quick money to take care of their kids (kids taking care of kids) and they will do ANYTHING to get that money ... be it been in a gangs, transporting drugs, prostitution, thuggery, etc

Not only that, they are lacking role models and mentors. So when they grow up in the case of the matatu they will be walking miles while matatus pass by when they empty. It will be a case of paying back.

Anonymous said...

M-pesa @12:07

You have a serious case of blinkered vision or you have a small mind in deed.......I think the PEV at least the most part of it could as well be expalined positively that they taught people to stand for their rights and that stealing is expensive......Thats a positive lesson. War and death are not nice but some times the are made can preach till you loose your voice but brother the truth never changes if you try to steal again people will die......its been so sinec Adam and it not about to change cause your too silly to figure it is this same self delusion that made you think that somehow you will steal from kenyans and use cheap propaganda to tell them that an empty plate actually has invisible food....the tragedy of idiots taken in by clever political persuition wake up.....your lookig rather silly stumbling around sleep walking is daylight already my broda...

Sir Alex

Mwambu said...

Sam, you epitomize what Kenya could actually be, as opposed to what Kenya is.

This small and selfless gesture by one mwananchi, has better prospects to make Kenya a great country, particularly when compared to the hollow and simplistic slogan, "Najivuniya kuwa Mkenya."

Great job!

One Wife Man said...

Samo aka Sam O,
I see we don't have very many ENTERPRISING Kenyans commenting on this post today ama where have all the INDUSTRIOUS thinkers gone?on leave perhaps

Someone should start an alternative PSV transport company for school children called Kids Home Fast!(excluding the dammit) and drop off those children

Kim said...

Taabu, thanks for addressing the plight of our children whose issue they go through are nevr talked about. I wish we are keen to listen to these children and what happens to them.

Keep up okello, also advice your stupid friend Taabu that there is more to life than the tribal hate he channels through this forum.

M-Pesa said...

"Sir Alex"

"I think the PEV at least the most part of it could as well be explained positively that they taught people to stand for their rights and that stealing is expensive......That's a positive lesson."

How on God's earth is raping a Kiuk child in Eldoret or burning to death an innocent Luo family in Naivasha a "positive lesson?"

Just when I thought you are dumb, I realise you even dumber...

Shiko-Msa said...

So sad indeed. Here the situation seems a little bit better. Touts allow kids into mats but ask them to share seats so that 2 kids can contribute full fare for 1 seat. But it's not all rosy. there are some touts who will not carry kids during rush hour.

Anonymous said...

Phillip @12:50 AM,

You are absolutely right. Our politicians/leaders are a 100% mirror image of us. Infact - surprise, surprise - we may be worse than them.

What you, Sam, saw the tout doing to the kids is what we Kenyans excel, in a different way, in doing to one another with IMPUNITY. Then we blame our leaders when it is we who are the problem.

There is a lot of greed and selfishness, intense ignorance and hate in Kenya. DECEPTION, FRAUD and THEFT rule in Kenya.

That is why, as happened on Madaraka day, Mwai "Mr pumbavu" Kibaki - the very eptitome of Upumbavu - can insult people (the Mr Mwangi journalist and his colleagues) the way he usually does from the podium on a national day (Pumbavu! Pumbavu!). There are clearly so many things wrong with Kenyans psyche, sensibilities, values and norms. Prayers will not help, God only helps those who help themselves. We flock to churches every sunday but it appears that going to church has had no impact in improving our behaviours, attitudes and values. We behave no better than hyenas, what with pastors/bishops fornicating with the female and male members of their churches who may also be married. We are great HYPROCRITES.

As much as I hate saying this, we may have to go the Rwanda genocide way for a lot of us who support the pumbavu status quo to come to their senses so that Kenya can begin to move forward towards real progress and prosperity and not the current mediocre "developement" and FAKE peace.

Mwarang'ethe said...

A number of observations are in order as concerns this issue:

First, you measure the level of civilization by the way it treats the weakest and the poorest.

Second, we are convinced that our objective in life must be to:

- BRIGHTEN the lives,
- LIGHTEN the labours, and
- INCREASE the happiness of the human race.

Third, the Good Book tells us that:

...if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well- watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58: 10-11 (NIV).

Fourth, every act in service of those in need is the best act of prayer. This is so, for we are told that prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action.

Fifth and finally, let us bear in mind these words, our actions will echo for eternity.

Anonymous said...

Mwarengethe, read Isiaih 20 about how he walked naked for 3 years as a sign and wonder to Egypt and Ethiopia. A naked prophet is your source of wisdom? Basically all the Hebrew prophets were raving lunatics.

They didnt have universities teaching psychology and psachiatry back then but today there is no excuse for you not seeing this.

Anonymous said...

What is this discussion about. you want mat touts to transport your kids for free? Africans!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

You know its suprising Sam.
You want your child to be given a free ride home? Do you now why they are not carried by touts? Coz their irresponsible parents dont give them fare while they eat lunch at Kosewe and drink at Ibiza jioni;
You wonder why i dont transport the neigbour? He didnt buy a car so that he can enjoy drinking and merrying every weekend. worst still, took his money to a stupid pyramid scheme i warned him about. In addition, give him a lift once and he wants a lift everyday without fueling even once;
This is the attitude of kenyans wanting others to be shouldering their burdens for FREE. Thats why the first thing you say when you get home is " What is Pumbavu Kibaki doing?" Kenyans need to start being responsible, if you dont care for your child to give him fare, no one will. If you dont want to buy a car coz you have other use for your money, well and good. No free lunches

Anonymous said...

These days due to the crunch, parents right here in Nairobi are throwing their children away and sending some to orphanages and relatives. Funny enough the same women go and bear more and more children. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH KENYANS? EVER HEARD OF BIRTH CONTROL? OR YOU JUST DONT CARE? ARE YOU A FACTORY OF PRODUCING CHILDREN? WHY DO IRRESPONSIBLE IDIOTS IMAGINE OTHER PPLE & GOVT SHOULD BEAR THEIR BURDEN?

Anonymous said...

If i had the authority, i would track the parents of those children an give them a kichapo ambacho kitararua matako yao. Why should you take your child to a school far from home if you cannot afford the fare/ transport? There is free primary all over for destitutes like you but you must take your child to an academy like the neigbour; but you cant AFFORD it

Anonymous said...

Resources are dwindling and the climate is changing. Humans used to control the environment for their benefit but its time to control humans for the benefit of the environment. At the heart of this is population control. Someone should come up with a crazy idea like if you dont earn above xxx you cant have xxx children. A scale like the taxation one. If this doesnt happen fast, we will all perish. But, wait a minute, maybe thats what is supposed to happen

Anonymous said...


Gee You creat and environment that makes sane people do we wild stuff then you focus on what they did mean time forgetting the cause.....your hopless........
kenynas have been thru so much pain for so long that the mere thought that someone will mess up their ability to determine their future can create beats out of ordinary people and thats what the stealing of the election did.....obviously its rather a casual thing because for u stealing is nothing new......

Sir Alex

Anonymous said...

Sam Okello did not solve any problem--in fact he encouraged it. Silly!

Anonymous said...

Sam yawa...eti those dudes who hang at the of those places that they empty and pick up!

Wouldn't it have been quicker to write manamba/tout.....bus-stop!?

Anyway, your article raises some serious issues. Am sad to note that Nairobi suits the super rich who can afford to drop off and pick up their kids from school.

Another sad reality is that those kids probably have to take 2 or 3 buses to get to/from school, which means waking up at 4am and being on the road by 5 am -come rain or shine.


Anonymous said...

tis is the best post ever on kumekucha!

UrXlnc said...

I couldn't take this. I told him to let four kids in and I'd pay the adult rate for them. To my sweet surprise, other parents in the bus took a child each and before long our bus was filled with happy children heading home to their parents and to do their homework
Sam Okello did not solve any problem--in fact he encouraged it.
Sam your children are your responsibility. why have children if you cannot take care of them?
you want mat touts to transport your kids for free? Africans!

Sam first of all kudos for standing up to the challenge and doing the right/honorable thing that clears your conscience and also provided an opportunity for those others with like view in the mat who probably would have liked to do something but for one reason or another were hesitant to initiate the process. That is a typical kenyan situation where people know what needs be done but do not want to be (seen as) first to bell the cat. this repeats itself thousands of times daily.

reaction no 2 is the alternate view point above which describes this as a band-aid and possibly unsustainable.

Amazingly whereas this problem is characteristic of institutional failure, yet its the parent who is singled out for blame (irresponsible, etc).

Anyhow the challenge is in moving from the band-aid/ad hoc response which quickly reaches saturation, to a more sustainable and long term solution

fortunately there are a handful of forward thinking kenyans slowly coming together to address these issues, hope you can team up or create your own parallel systems.

papa plus said...

If we weren't busy stealing every damn penny, maybe we'd impliment school system that took kids to and fro school in safety, no?

papa said...

In fairness to the ma3s, as a business if you have the option of an adult fare or a child fare, business sense dictates that you take the adult. Nothing personal, just business.

Anonymous said...

If the point of this article was to illustrate that matatus and their touts are bad. It has failed.

If the point of the article was to illustrate institutional failure, it has failed miserably.

The article however does a great job of stimulating thinking over the range of possibilities open to parents (and schools) in the form of co-production of transportation for their children.

So do spend some time to think a little harder re what can be done to improve the situation. Random, one-off acts of kindness simply serve to perpetuate the problem rather than resolve it. I have to confess that's the weakest link among Kenyans--we are not problem solvers!

Anonymous said...

we parents are the ones to blame. if you decide that your child is to school far away from home, sacrifice either by paying for the school bus or transport that is there or take the better step of personally picking and dropping them off either by private car or by foot. i blame us parents!! then when the kids are late, you dont bother until they are missing, by that time, God forbid, they have either been kidnapped, trafficked or lost.

Anonymous said...

this is the best post ever. I hate to see them leave kids . this happens daily in Mombasa and only a few have the guts to complain. once i had to get off a stupid mat who rejected kids. In Mbita 1980s kids were carried free! where did our morals go? no wonder a child no longer leaves a seat for the aged and you blame Kibaki! pumbafu sisi sote.

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