For most children, they never realise they are poor until they go to school and see children who have more than they do. If they are lucky to be in a school where all other kids are their equals, then they never realise they are poor until they watch TV or go to high school.
After noticing they are poor, most will either make it their life’s goal to get out of it while others won’t be bothered much about it BUT neither of them will wake up every morning and decide they won’t live because they are poor.
You hear some ignorant people discuss about “how can poor Africans learn English”? or “how can people in Africa think of make-up”? Well, Africans both poor and rich, wake up every morning and make decisions based on their life’s structure. They shower, they get their hair done, they go out, they buy new clothes, basically they LIVE.
This post is motivated by an article by a German, Robert Lender, who recently in Kenya and visited Kibera (biggest slum in East and Central Africa). When I saw the above illustration on his website, I was sure that it was going to be something racist and the usual. So I’ve had this article on my reading list for almost a month, and today I decided to finally read it. I was pleasantly surprised.
When Robert got to Kibera, he was shocked that there was a training school for hair dressers, chefs, drivers etc. He even found people from the slums getting their hair done. One of the women accompanying Robert had gel nails done, and these fascinated the women at the hair salon in Kibera. When Robert returned, they bought the UV light radiator and the required equipment and sent them to the women. Women in Kibera are now doing Nail gels.
From this trip Robert says, he learnt to look at life differently. His last paragraph says it all:
Für mich war es eines der vielen Beispiele in diesen 14 Tagen, dass meine Sichtweise ein wenig verschoben hat, mir wieder einmal zeigte, wie facettenreich Verhältnisse sind und nicht so einfach in Schemata hineinpassen … und das ein Sketch mehr Wahrheit in sich trägt als er vordergründig dachte.
It’s rare to find articles online that portray Africa differently from the traditional “primitive dark continent” even from people who have been to Africa recently and seen the transformation. Some will live in Runda, spend their weekends at getaways in Naivasha but once they get to this end of the world, the only thing they tell others is about the slums (which they never even saw).