Back to streets with paramilitary skills

Published on 01/08/2009

By Alex Kiprotich

For Victor Mungai it was great joy to bid farewell to the cold nights on Nairobi streets and life of rejection.

After the many days of ‘wasted life’, he was now on his journey to becoming a professional and salaried responsible man, at last.

But his dream is far from fulfilment. More than five years after training as mechanic at the National Youth Service Training College in Gilgil, the former street boy is yet to get the salaried jobs the Government had promised before joining the training. And the only option now is going back to begging and drug abuse in the streets.

National Youth Service recruits during a recent pass out parade in Gilgil. Observers say the return of former street children after training at NYS could be a threat to national security. Photo: File/Standard

Mungai says street children were optimistic the Government’s plan to rehabilitate, train and offer them good jobs would bear fruits.

“We were very happy then but we were shocked when the Government dumped us back to streets after successful training,” he explains.

The case isn’t different for David Kamau, who says all the paramilitary and other technical trainings they received were a waste of time.

“Some of us now employ the skills for wrong purposes since we can’t secure jobs,” he says.

He laments that the Government has abandoned them after the “good training” at NYS.

“With no place to call home and no jobs, we had to go back to where we had gotten used to,” Kariuki says.

The luckiest of the group is Geoffrey Esebwe, who is now a shoe shiner in Nakuru. However, he also faults the Government for “wasting resources to train and send” them back to their old bad habits.

“Many of us reformed while at NYS but had to resort back to our old habits,” he says.

They say they were dismayed when they were dropped in Nairobi and other towns by State vehicles after the training.

“After they gave us the certificates, we were told to board some GK lorries which dropped us in various towns,” says Esebwe.

Street children begs in a Nairobi street.

When the Government announced plans to rehabilitate and train street children in early 2003, it was hailed as solution to a social problem that was getting out of hand. With unprecedented zeal, the State, through the ministries of Local Government, Social Services and Home Affairs embarked on the exercise to remove the youth from streets.

Programme stalls

The Ministry of Local Government through the City Council of Nairobi rounded up the youth, Social Services Ministry rehabilitated and briefly housed them at Bahati, Kariokor, Kayole and Pumwani rehabilitation homes in Nairobi while the Home Affairs facilitated their training at NYS college, Gilgil.

But despite the enthusiasm, the programme stalled after the first batch of 713 street children graduated with technical skills, later in the year.

Senior Deputy Director of NYS Edward Osore says the programme could not continue because there were no jobs. The Government was faced with the challenge of getting jobs for the graduates, thus making the training meaningless, he adds.

The private sector, which had pledged to employ some of the reformed street children after the technical training, did not honour their commitment.

“We did not see any need to continue training people to waste away later,” Osore quips.

He, however, says the youth’s return to streets poses more danger to the public given the drills they got from the NYS training.

Authorities say employers may have feared to absorb the former street children based on their criminal background.

Osore says: “The programme faced a host of challenges before its collapse. Proper planning before implementation could have averted failure.”

Staff did their best

He exonerates NYS personnel, saying they did all they could to train the recruits in plumbing, masonry, tailoring and electricity courses. The NYS official says the Ministry of Local Government, which was tasked with rounding up street children, stopped sending them recruits.

Former street boys, Geoffrey Esebwe (left) and Victor Mungai were part of the Government programme that sought to rehabilitate ‘chokoras’ before it stalled after 2003 trial. Photo: Martin Mukangu/Standard

Former Nairobi Mayor Joe Aketch, who spearheaded the programme, says a few lucky ones got informal jobs in the private sector. He blames the Government for failing to consider the programme in Budget allocation, adding: “We did all we could with meagre resources.”

The Government also failed to deliver its promise to establish a rehabilitation complex where the street children could be reformed before the training at NYS.

The former mayor says they closed down the centres because they lacked funds, facilities, food, shelter and medical supplies.

“The long term plan was to unite the street children with their families but it lacked strategies,” he concludes.



Read all about: street children National Youth Service Training College in Gilgil NYS



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