A day time walk through Masara, a one-street market centre in Migori County, portrays a low-key but rapidly growing town.
At night, however, the town located on Migori-Muhuru road, comes to life with deafening music emanating from all corners, in what sounds like a competition for the airwaves.
The centre in a linear setup, stretching approximately 200 metres, is home to more than 25 night clubs and drinking joints. It has become a centre of focus for law enforcers following reports that it’s the hub where many school girls’ future is destroyed.
Child prostitution has become the norm of the town, with girls as young as 12 years thronging the town at night to sell their bodies right under the nose of authorities.
Skimpily dressed young girls roaming along the streets from one bar to the other, some holding liquor bottles and glasses, crossing the deserted road, accompanying mature men is a common sight.
Investigations by The Standard revealed that a number of schools in the area have been affected, with teenage pregnancies, early marriages and school dropouts becoming the end result of this trade.
School girls opened up, telling of teary tales of how poverty has become a pivotal contributor to prostitution among them, with some struggling to get out of the cycle in vain.
Masara Secondary School, located right at the centre of the town, is the most affected. School Principal Daniel Aloka admitted that efforts to save the girls is slowly getting out of their hands.
“Any time we resume learning after holidays, we lose between five and 10 girls. And many of the cases we trace are pregnancies and marriages,” said Ms Aloka.
This term alone, the school lost five girls, with three having been married off or become pregnant while the whereabouts of two is yet to be known.
At Sibuoche Secondary, the story is the same.
“Dropping out of school is very rampant here. We lose 40 per cent of our girls from Form One to Form Four,” said Nashon Makemo, the school head.
The two teachers agree that the surrounding community is not very supportive in helping the situation, as most of them are engaged in gold mining, which has become the area’s main source of income.
And it is the money from the gold which has been blamed for the increased child prostitution, with the young girls being lured by the miners.
Out of the 15 girls aged between 13 and 17 years learning in surrounding schools, and who spoke to The Standard, 12 of them admitted to being in the prostitution business in Masara town.
Marion (not her real name), a Form One student at Masara admitted to being actively in the business.
The orphan claims she was sent away from her home by her elder siblings after she got pregnant while still in primary school.
“I regret what I do, but I do not have any other option,” said Marion, who says she has procured two abortions since giving birth to her baby boy.
The school management has allowed her back to school without paying any school fees due to her financial condition, but she says she has to fend for her basic needs.
Alice (not her real name) is six months pregnant, but still in the business. She attained 257 marks out of the possible 500 in her KCPE exams last.
“It started with some gold miner giving me Sh1,000 on my way from school, then he invited me to a night club and the rest is history,” she said.
The stories of these girls are replicated in almost all the eight surrounding primary and secondary schools.
Andrea Odinga, the chairman of Masara Traders, said the high number of unregulated bars is to blame for the moral decay.
Migori County Police Commander Joseph Nthenge said he would look into the matter.