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Bright street children dream beyond waste as they hope to find new homes in secondary school

By Harold Odhiambo | Published Tue, December 5th 2017 at 00:00, Updated December 5th 2017 at 00:02 GMT +3
David Ochieng' (left) and Mark Vincent both 14 years of age and orphans scavenge for valuables at Kachok dumping site in Kisumu on December 04,2017 to get money that would assist them in joining form one. The two boys despite performing well in KCPE, they risk missing form one slots due to poverty as their lives depend on dumping site. They scored 384 and 338 marks from Manyatta and Central primary school in Kisumu respectively. (Photo: Denish Ochieng| Standard)

Two street children who defied all odds to excel in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education are unlikely to join their dream schools next year due to lack of fees.

The two – David Ochieng and Mark Vincent – who forage for recyclable waste at the Kachok dumpsite scored 380 and 338 marks respectively.

Ochieng was a pupil at Manyatta Primary School while Vincent was at Central Primary School in Kisumu. They have for long rummaged for recyclable waste for sale.

Small proceeds

They rely on the small proceeds they earn from selling paper, metals, and plastics to purchase books.

If the two are admitted to boarding school, their dream to have a home there might come a cropper if they cannot raise the fees.

The ceiling for Form One fees for boarders is Sh53,000, which includes expenses for school uniform, lunch, and boarding-related levies. 

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It is only in day schools that learning will be for free. The Government also plans to purchase books for secondary schools.

The two have intensified their scavenging for anything that they can sell from the dumpsite in the hope of furthering their education.

When The Standard visited the dumpsite yesterday, the two, both aged 14 years, were busy scavenging for metals and plastics in the pungent dumpsite.

Ragged, hungry, and looking feeble, the two overturned heaps of garbage to find plastic waste or metal to put in the heavy sacks were carrying on their backs. Ochieng wore old and torn shoes and Vincent was barefoot.

At an age where they should be at home, going to school and enjoying their childhood, the two have been scavenging for metal for a long time. They sell it to jua kali artisans.

“Sometimes we make about Sh80 a day, while there are days we do not make anything,” said Ochieng.

The dumpsite has also been marked into territories by the almost 100 street families commonly referred to as ‘bases’, making it difficult for the youngsters to cope.

Vincent, an orphan, however, is not alone. His grandfather, Cosmas Onyango, who is also homeless, has been at the dumpsite since 1981 and has been struggling to raise the boy.

He taught him survival tactics at the dumpsite.

Vincent’s father, who was also born at the dumpsite, died in 2010 leaving the boy in destitution.

“I have been trying hard to get money from the scrap we sell to ensure that he stays in school,” said Onyango.

“I have been making about Sh100 at times Sh150 to support his fees. But now I am just hoping that he can get a course in construction or mechanics because I cannot afford secondary school fees,” said the grandfather.

The dumpsite, which is their source of livelihood, receives about 400 tonnes of waste collected in Kisumu and its environs daily but is a serious health concern.

Those who depend on the dumpsite, however, said the health concerns do not worry them because they have to make ends meet. John Orinda, the manager of the dumpsite to whom the two boys attributed their success in the exam, said the children were hardworking and disciplined.

Pursuing education

“We have a policy that none of the street children here should be seen sniffing glue in order to help control drug abuse,” said Orinda.

He said in the past eight years, four street children from the dumpsite have excelled in the national examinations, with three now pursuing courses at Masinde Muliro and Moi universities while another one has joined the Kenya Defence Forces.

“We normally contribute to those of us who are interested in pursuing education. We are hoping that someone will come and help our two bright pupils and take them to secondary school,” said Orinda.

With the county government also set to relocate the dumpsite, which has been at the centre of controversy, the fate of the street families and the two bright boys hangs in the balance.

“We are just praying that someone will help these two children. They are bright and need to proceed to secondary school,” said Orinda.

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