His early life was very rough before they went to Kibera. He and his parents lived with his paternal grandfather who had 3 wives and many children. When he died there was a feud in the family over land rights and inheritance, etc. As his father was the last born in the family and therefore the weaker contender for an inheritance, he was chased away by his half-brothers and fled to Nairobi, leaving Eric, his mother and baby sister behind.
The family was very hostile and threatening and the feud became more violent, and Eric, his mum and sister fled at night with the little they possessed and could carry. When they arrived in Nairobi as total strangers they discovered the father had left and gone to Naivasha to look for work. Someone took them to Kibera where they squatted and then later rented a shanty room. They had nothing – no job, food, clothes. A friend took Eric to the newly opened project at Kibera Methodist Church when he was 5. So he started at Tusaidie Watoto (this means ‘let us help the children’) in 1997 and was one of the first 15 children when the nursery opened.
His parents are both still alive, but at that time were unemployed, as 80% of Kibera adults still are.
He went to Toi Government Primary School, Kibera, and got 366/500 at Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and got a place in Jericho on the way to Western Kenya. (most secondary education is still in boarding schools, although there is an increasing number of Day Secondary School opening)This was too far from his family and, although he was sponsored by Karibuni Children, they had to find the money for travelling and this was beyond their means. The social worker managed to get him a place at Lang’ata High School as a day student which meant he could walk to and from the school each day – between 45 and 60 minutes each way! It also meant he had to study in the small shack which is their home.
He’s the eldest of 5 children and the only boy – the youngest is now in class 1 at Primary School.
His mother joined the micro-finance scheme at Tusaidie Watoto and now has a roadside business selling fish which she buys from the Nairobi central market at 5.30 a.m. 4 days a week, and sells them every day from 5 – 9 p.m. each night. She makes about Kshs 300 a day (approximately £2.25.)
His father has been repairing watches at the roadside in Kibera, but with most people now having mobile phones, no-one apparently uses a watch any more! He makes about Kshs 200 a day and works from 8.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. every day.
Their home is a 2-roomed shanty slum where the girls sleep in one room with a curtain across so that Eric can sleep on the other side. His parents sleep in the other room with a curtain screening their bed from living/cooking/everything else area. Each room is about 10 ft x 10 ft. There is no electricity, no water supply and no mains drainage. Water is carried from a standpipe and toilets are pit latrines shared by many other families. The children study in these cramped conditions by candlelight or paraffin lamps.
Amazingly Eric achieved A- at KCSE and he was offered a scholarship at Strathmore University has completed his first term and continues to excel.
It was a joy to meet with him and get his story from him – no complaining; just a matter-of-fact telling of his story, which, of course, is like so many other children’s stories, except very few in Kibera still have both parents, and many drop out of school if they don’t have a sponsor.