Mathare is a Nairobi suburb. It is a typical slum characterized by poor housing, poor drainage and sewerage system, extreme poverty and all the conditions that come with such circumstances. The slum has a population of over 500,000, a majority of whom are children.
Like most slums, there are very many initiatives meant to reach out to the population.
Of those many initiatives, the Mathare Book Drive stands out. It is an initiative whose aim is to gather books for the children who attend the 7 schools under the Mpito School Network in Mathare. The books they gather may be academic or ordinary books on any topics which may be read by children of up to 13 years.
The Book Drive
Two weeks ago, there was a book drive. It was one of those activities meant to raise money to buy books for the children. So, the book drive was in form of a hike. When the Founder and Projects Director of the Mathare Book Drive, Felix announced that there was going to be a hike of the Ngong Hills, all the seven, for the Mathare Book Drive, I decided I would attend. So, the day to hike came. I have never hiked. I have however climbed hills in my home town, but I didn’t, and still don’t consider that as hiking. Not because the hills are not steep but because I climb those hills to get to where I need to go. Hiking I think is a leisure activity. In my hometown, no one hikes for leisure. People climb hills to get to their homes, to go to school, to go to work, to go to hospital.
So, this time I decided to hike, for charity.
On Sunday morning, the day of the hike, while I prepared to go to Church, Felix texted and asked if I was going to hike. “Of course!” I replied
Little did I know that hikes are done in the morning. I cancelled my church plans and headed for Ngong town.
It started well. It kept well. We climbed higher and higher. The 4th hill is the mother of the 7 Ngong hills. It is very steep. I could feel my heart thump on my rib cage. I even noticed some hikers crawl on their fours…
One foot in front of the other, up, and up the hills…
Twino shared knowledge passed on from his grandfather about hiking: you climb in a pattern of three or four steps to the left and three or four steps to the right. – The knowledge was helpful.
Every child is guaranteed the right to education under the constitution (Article 43 (1)(f), and the Children’s Act (section 7), but the bitter truth is that not every child has access to education. The sad reality about Mathare is that children attend schools which are not recognized by the government. When it comes to time for KCSE, these children are taken on by another school which is recognized by the government, just so that they can sit for their exams. Some do well, and others do not.
But what if they had the opportunities like every ordinary child in the country has? A descent place to sleep, a stable family, a mother who helps to do the Math homework, a father who helps in a science project, a teacher to follow up on the academic progress of the child…
Well, more often, we cannot have everything. Bottom-line is that these children are not that advantaged.
So, what must we do?
“The story of the hummingbird is about this huge forest being consumed by a fire. All the animals in the forest come out and they are transfixed as they watch the forest burning and they feel very overwhelmed, very powerless, except this little hummingbird. It says, ‘I’m going to do something about the fire!’ So it flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire, and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can.
In the meantime all the other animals, much bigger animals like the elephant with a big trunk that could bring much more water, they are standing there helpless. And they are saying to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too little and your beak is so small that you can only bring a small drop of water at a time.’
But as they continue to discourage it, it turns to them without wasting any time and it tells them, ‘I am doing the best I can.’” – As told by Wangari Mathai
Like every child, the Children of Mathare are open to learning, they have creative hands and a very wild imagination. If you give them a book and they read word by word in that book, they will travel the world. They will live in homes they have never known. They will travel on roads they are yet to see. They will taste food sold in high end restaurants, they will dream dreams they would never dream – that’s how powerful a child’s imagination can be, that’s what a book can do!
Support the Mathare Book Drive in the best way you can. Participate in the next book drive. As for me, I am looking forward to the next book drive.
“Read, and let read”.
BY SAMALI BITALA
This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 9, Issue 2 of December 9th, 2016
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