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A survey just released by the Nairobi-based African Population and Health Research Centre, working with the universities of Colorado at Boulder and North Carolina in the USA, has revealed that fear of the police, HIV and pregnancies are the top biggest worries for young men and women living in the poor estates of Nairobi.

Slums and deprived estates in Nairobi are home to some 70 per cent of Nairobi’s population, with the majority of people living in these areas being under 22 years old. The field work for the survey was concentrated in Korogocho and Viwadani slums and sampled more than 4,000 young men and women.

For girls aged about 18, the biggest worry is getting pregnant, HIV or being harassed by the police, in that order, says the report. For boys of the same age the key concerns in order are getting HIV, insecurity and police harassment.


The survey noted that while the high rate of police harassment suggested a strong presence of ‘security agents’ in these areas, crime remains a major challenge for the young.

“When people are mugged in the area, innocent youth suffer for those mistakes. Police will ask you whether you are part of the gang but they never listen to pleas of innocence,” said a 22 year resident of Viwandani.

For boys aged between 12 and 14, the biggest worry is insecurity while 29 per cent said police harassment was their biggest fear.


The report, conducted under the leadership of Dr Caroline W Kabiru of the African Population and Health Research Centre, says that while the young people from poor areas face the challenges of unemployment, they have also to contend with ‘life at the margin’.

However, the study concluded that, “Despite the concerns and challenges highlighted, over 75 per cent of youth between 12 to 22 years had high aspirations”, with all age groups, regardless of gender, aspiring to one day own homes, be able to take care of parents in old age and have good jobs.


The most optimistic about a better future are the youngest, but their dreams rapidly fade as they get older.
“For example, among males about 59 per cent and 47 per cent of the 12–14-year-olds and 15–17-year-olds, respectively, as compared to 33 per cent of the 18–22-year-olds thought they had high chances of getting a well-paying job,” says Dr Kabiru. This shows the youngest group has the highest expectations, whereas the middle age group had higher expectations than the oldest group.

For both males and females, as they grow older, undergo a reassessment of their expectations based on the realities of their life, whereas in more affluent families, 18-22-year-olds are more likely to be pursuing higher education and adjusting their goals upwards.

Few youths in slums aged 18 and above, find the job they want so the survey suggests their expectations change to fit the realities of their situations and such youngsters start thinking about becoming artisans, mechanics, hairstylists or owning small trades instead of doctors or engineers.

“The interest in trade, artisan, or craft-oriented careers underscores the importance of government initiatives such as Kazi kwa Vijana and the Youth Enterprise Development Fund in reaching such marginalised youth,” says Dr Kabiru.


Investment in youth polytechnics, would provide the disadvantaged youth appropriate vocational and training opportunities

The study advocates investment in youth polytechnics, which would provide the disadvantaged youth appropriate vocational and training opportunities.

Dr Kabiru said that those young Kenyans who do not adjust their aspirations downwards when confronted with challenges are more likely turn to crime and delinquency.

“We found indications that the greater the disparity between the youngsters’ aspirations and what they eventually achieved to be significant of whether the individuals turned in to delinquency or crime, which is prevalent in the area”, she said. The high rate of crime in the area, says the report, is a direct result of unemployment and poverty.

The researchers says that despite everything life throws at young people in Nairobi’s most impoverished areas, even children born in poor families have high aspirations and expectations and that these should be nurtured early through the right policies and interventions.


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