BY Mwakera Mwajefa
Is Mombasa County losing its 21st century boy child who is faced with tremendous challenges such as families and homes, socialization process, and cultural factors as tomorrow’s guardians or future leaders?
The first goal of every family and society is to raise healthy and productive individuals who are physically, psychologically, socially, politically and economically acceptable and useful members of the society.
But unless properly guarded, the county risk losing its tomorrow’s fathers and future leaders within Mombasa and its environs, given the prevalence or vulnerability of boy child to the foursome threats viz. child labor, substance abuse, homosexuality and HIV/AIDS.
Rapid response officer Francis Auma of Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) is worried the rate at which the boychild is succumbing the four vices calls for concerted effort to arrest it before it endangers the 15-24 age group.
“What’s happening to this age group, as we speak, must be arrested immediately to guarantee their tomorrows and their futures.”
Although Section 32 of the Basic Education Act provides for free (no fees payable) admission to Public Schools, Ouma wonders why the responsibility for attendance is placed on the head teachers instead of parents, political leaders or local administrators to ensure strict enforcement.
Being vulnerable, in his view, the boychild has become ease prey for people-with-means to pick and disappear with them only to reappear after two-to-three later armed with an assortment of foodstuffs.
“You can believe it, but our Legal Aid Booth (LAB) office’s verandah has become a safe haven for youths trading themselves within the central business district (CBD) for retirement due to its guaranteed security from being close to the High Court premises and other key government buildings.”
However, what baffles him each morning when he reports to work is finding ‘used condoms’ litter around the LAB premises telling their own story of what happened the previous night.
His civil society has received several cases of families’ complaining of raising cases of sodomy within family or relative circles turning against their own nephews, particularly from Bondeni area.
“Right now, we have two active cases in the courts of that nature but many others have been dropped after families’ failed to provide evidence to prosecute because of shielding family or relative members involved.”
Asked to comment on the prevalence of homosexuality in primary, secondary and tertiary colleges, Auma said warned parents to take keen interests of their boy-children and be wary of bodabodas or matatu manambas they trust with their children safety to and from schools.
In his view, ‘strange things happen’ and those trusted could be the ‘evil forces’ against your innocent boychild being introduced into ‘queer’ behaviours with damaging results to their persons!
This writer is privy to a case of a girl-child who fell prey to a customized bodaboda rider who started ferrying the girl from home-to-school and vice-versa from Grade three to Grade Six when she was discovered to be pregnant.
A source that requested anonymity narrated an encountered with a drug-pusher assigned to supply condoms to drug-users within Kisauni and Mvita subcounties to help them fight HIV/AIDS from indulging into man-to-man sex.
The drugpusher told the source if he had a boychild it would be better to relocate him to upcountry learning institution to protect the boy from being exposed to homosexuality vice that is taking root in the county.
“Matumizi ya mihadarati ni chanzo kikubwa cha usenge na ukimwi unaosambaa kwa vijana wa kiume wanaotumia madawa hayo ya kulevya hasusan maneneo ya Likoni, Mvita na Kisauni. Ili kujiepesha na hayo ni bora kupeleka watoto wakiume shule nje ya Mombasa (Users of drugs are the sources of homosexuality and HIV/AIDS among male youths in Likoni, Mvita and Kisauni subcounties. It’s wise to send your boychild to study elsewhere outside Mombasa),” the addict warns.
In its Annual HIV Performance Report 2020-2021, the County health department is alarmed by the rising cases new infection 4,937 among the adolescents and young people (AYP) with Kisauni’s Magogoni, Mtopanga and Bamburi, and Nyali’s Kongowea and Mkomani recording four to six per cent of the total in the year of review.
The population topology of men having sex with men (MSM) was estimated at 4,953 distributed in age-groups as 189 (15-19); 1,779 (20-24); 1,713 (25-29) and 1,272 (30+) active members as at June 2021.
Richard Chacha, the County Communication director, is concerned with the emerging trends of consuming new psychoactive substances (NPS) flooding drug market as legal alternatives to common drugs of abuse the current demography can ‘go crazy’.
“NPS are readily available on the market with similar effects as substances under control such as bhang, cocaine, heroin, LSD or methamphetamine,” he adds.
Actually, according to him the rapid emergence of a large number of NPS on the global drug market poses a significant risk to public health and a challenge to drug policy.
But with the current antidrug-abuse strategies focusing on the traditional substance of abuse combating prescribed drugs NPS such as diazepam, benzhexol (artane), flunitrazepam (rohypnol), amitriptyline, chlorpromazine (largactil), codeine, carbamazepine, tramadol, chlorpheniramine, benadryl, haloperidol, propofol will require a whole new ballgame.
The County, geographically being an urban setting, finds itself in a catch-22 situation to deal with innovative substance abusers who use every trick in the book to remain under while using snuff, tamboo, ndovu, nicotine pouches, and shisha flavours.
To avoid being easily detected, the youth have emerged with novel bhang edibles such as weed cookies, weed mabuyu and weed sweets or candies that inexperienced eye can think is the usual edibles!
Acknowledging danger lurks for the boy-child, the Muslim Education and Welfare Association Harm Reduction Centre (MHRC) head of program office Hussein Taib says their 2019-2020 involvement with street families had disclosed more than they had anticipated.
“In 2019, we got little funds to assess needs, issues and challenges of men and women living in drug dens as a pilot project for only three months but since then we are still hooked there with expansions to Kilifi and Lamu counties,” he adds.
The 2019-2020 study has revealed very complicated lifestyles of the street families that are spread within the CBD and its peripheral like Mama Ngina Waterfront, Mbarak maboksini, Relini (Ganjoni area), Uhuru Garden, Nyali Bridge and Tudor among other places within the island.
Through a rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and socialization, the MHRC has been able to penetrate the drug dens scattered throughout the county and its suburbs.
“Our field officers discovered a lot of underground lifestyles of street families that involved MSM and people who use and inject drugs (PWID) apart from doing other drugs available to remain just high,” he says.
Hotspots where the PWID adolescents and young people operated at night are the dens adjacent to the NSSF Building, Uhuru Garden, Mama Ngina Waterfront and Mbaraki Cemetery where well-made graves become the ‘bedroom mattresses’.
According to MHRC findings these places become dangerous past certain hours of the night and anyone using them risks being attacked by criminal gangs among the street family’s complexity.
“Cases of the young and vulnerable of the groups being exploited for food in exchange for sex are rampant and those who declined are sodomized by the older ones,” Taib says after they were forced to rescue such a victim from there.
Without taking action, educating and providing Life Skills to the street families to reduce the harm associated with drug use in Mombasa and its environs, Taib warns that the menace will continue to grow and impact on students of all cadres.
To make a difference, MHRC has come up with a four-prong approach for the period 2021-2025 to provide committed and consistent family support to PWU/IDs; provide harm reduction services such as methadone to PWU/IDs; promote rehab facilities and encourage their good use and make follow-ups on the on the PWU/IDs, monitoring, evaluation and review about start-up business.
To deal with the status of the boychild in Mombasa, the County government must develop pro-family policies to strengthen the family unit as the right environment to nurture children and put mechanisms to stop all forms of childlabour by withdrawing licenses for businesses employing school-age children. Apart from this, the new administration should conduct more research to identify factors contributing to the marginalisation of the boychild and to prioritise solutions in programs and other interventions.