Boy, 12, abandons school to take care of siblings and a sick mother

Brian Kiplagat, a grade four pupil, his six-year-old brother and four-year-old sister inside their makeshift kitchen at their rented house at Kapsowar,Elgeyo Marakwet County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Ordinarily, Brian Kemboi, a Grade Four pupil, would be focusing on school matters, but that is not the case.

When schools partially reopened amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the 12-year-old was juggling between taking care of his two younger siblings and visiting Kapsowar Mission Hospital to check on his ailing mother.

He has also been spending more time in the forest fetching firewood and charcoal pieces, which he hawks to get money for his family’s daily bread.

Kemboi, a pupil at Kapsowar Primary School, is taking care of his family living at Kambi Swahili slums on the outskirts of Kapsowar town.

Hand to mouth

“We live from hand to mouth after my mother fell ill,” said the boy when The Standard visited their abode.

Each day, he narrates, he goes into the forest and looks for spots where there is a charcoal kiln.

“I get lucky if I fill a debe, which I hawk within homesteads and fetch up to Sh300 depending on the quality. At times, I fetch firewood and sell. This has kept us going,” he said. On a lucky day, he buys food for the family, but on many occasions they are forced to beg from neighbours.

About three kilometres away is the mission hospital where Philarise Komen, Kemboi’s mother, has spent the better part of this year after being diagnosed with mild stroke, recurring abdominal pains, depression and paralysis on the left leg.

“I’ve got no other family members apart from my three children. My parents and siblings are all dead. My husband vanished as soon as we came out of Embobut forest because we were squatters,” she disclosed at her hospital bed.

She notes that seeing her children suffer has pushed her into depression.

“I am appealing for help because the hospital has been kind to me and has been waiving all my medical bills, but now I require a CT scan and Kapsowar Hospital does not have the facility,” she said.

The hospital executive director, Stanley Mutwol, revealed she was brought from Embobut by a missionary on a routine social work.

“She was found under a tree with her children at Sitat village living in deplorable conditions in a polythene structure. They were all in bad shape and the missionary took care of them and even rented a house for them and took the children to school,” he reveals.

But their hopes dimmed when the missionary left and they were left on their own.

Philaris Kibor Komen, 30 and a mother of three at Kapsowar Mission Hospital ward, Elgeyo Marakwet County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Pelvic scan

“We have since waived over Sh140,000 and we are incapacitated when it comes to offering her specialised care that needs referral to other facilities. At the moment, she requires abdomino-pelvic scan but we do not have the equipment,” he says.

Kapsowar Primary headteacher Samuel Kaino said Kemboi was hardworking, bright and of good character.

“If the issue of the mother is handled, the boy can change his family’s fortunes in future,” he said.