Getting up early for school has been the bane of many mornings. The task seems especially annoying within the throes of teen-dom, with each additional minute clinging to the pillow a victory in the name of sleep.
Then follows the requisite preparations of bathing, brushing teeth, fixing hair, etc. … The lucky ones get to do this without having to share while others must vie for space with siblings and family members.
But how would it feel to not only have to share with family, but with the entire neighborhood?
Elizabeth and Monica are sisters living in Kenya’s Kibera slum, just a few kilometers from downtown Nairobi.
Though Elizabeth is an Unbound sponsored student and her family situation has greatly improved, they still live in a home without electricity or running water.
So the sisters make use of the community bathroom in their area, one of several scattered throughout Kibera.
“To avoid the long queue at the community bathroom, I wake up at 4:45,” Monica said. “I take a quick bath, dress, eat breakfast, brush my teeth and rush to school.”
Elizabeth avoids the community bath in the mornings by taking hers in the evenings. Because it is a public bathroom, it is only open during certain hours and it costs 5 Kenyan shillings (6 cents) per use.
“Living in the Kibera slums has not been easy,” Elizabeth shared. “However, I keep on encouraging myself that if I study hard and obtain good grades, I will get a good job and bring my family out of the slums.”
“I leave earlier than my sister because my classes start early,” Monica said. “It is usually very early in the morning, and it is sometimes scary walking alone.”
“[Kibera] is sometimes very scary,” she continued, “because some of the people who are our neighbors are thugs who carry guns around. It is also not a clean environment. There is raw sewage everywhere, and there are not enough toilets for the people.”
Despite the challenges, both girls keep their focus on school.
“When I get home from school, I wash my uniform and socks,” Elizabeth said. “I have two pairs of uniforms, but I like alternating them so that every day I go to school with a clean set.”
Her sister follows a similar routine and they divide the household chores evenly before settling down to work on homework.
“I am happy that I have made it this far,” Elizabeth said. “Many girls my age have dropped out of school due to lack of school fees and now they engage in risky behavior such as prostitution.”
“I am proud that I am in school and I have hope in my life.”
Regina Mburu, Unbound communication center liaison in Africa, contributed information to this report.
By Jordan Kimbrell, Unbound writer/editor