An estimate 56% of Kenya’s urban population currently lives in slums. The epicenter of this staggering statistic is Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibra. Kibra is among one the largest slums in Africa. The presence of Kibra has created a mindset colloquially termed a ghetto mindset, which is associated with Kibra slum dwellers.
In Kenya, settlements are classified into two types; informal (a slum) and formal (regular) settlements. Informal settlements are areas with poor security and these settlements constitute dire living standards and heightened vulnerability of residents. These settlements are characterized by overcrowding, poor quality homes often made out of mud or metal iron sheets. Informal settlements also lack basic amenities such as clean drinking water, electricity and sewage disposal and waste management. It would be difficult to imagine a different reality for a young man who grew up in Kware slum surrounded by gangs and vulnerable young women.
In 2014, Benard attended Kegoya Boys high school in Vihiga County where he attained a D+ in his K.C.S.E (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education). The grade was not what Benard expected and it dampened his spirits. He imagined his future aspirations becoming unattainable and relegated his future to becoming a ‘kamagera’ (bus tout) starting to become attractive to him.
Benard reflected on the impact that hardships associated with living in the slum had on his emotional and mental development stating, “…hearing constant swearing and the use of bad language from young children has a bad effect on the quality of my thoughts”.
In February 2018, Benard heard about the Beacon Technical Training Institute. He enrolled for Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy course. He was the only male on the course, yet this did not deter Benard from pursuing this new path. “I excelled at my course; infact I shined and Madam Jane Wathome herself facilitated our internship at Xtreme Hair Studio at the Galleria”, he stated. Consequently, Benard can now comfortably take care of his parents and buy the essentials he so desires. He never imagined that he would be rubbing shoulders with eminent government officials such as Cabinet Secretary Dr. Matiangi. “Just the other day, I was the one who shaved Dr.Fred Matiangi (Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security in Kenya) amid a chat”, he animatedly remarked.
For Benard, the sky is not the limit but the beginning of a great future. Armed with his college diploma and his great personality, we believe that Benard has the brightest future ahead of him.