Street Mother

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“I want to go back to the streets,” Grace Njeri said. “This is not where we should be.”

“Mother, you can’t say that,” replied Shiko, Grace’s ten-year-old daughter. “We have just been given another chance in life.”

Her daughter was lecturing her again, Grace realized. Her wiser-than-her-years daughter. Ten but going twenty. She really wished she could be a good mother.

Grace missed the streets – sniffing coke, taking brown sugar, smoking pot, and living a carefree life.

“I don’t like this home. We should go back to where we came from. We were free out there. No one told us when to sleep and wake up, to wash clothes, or what to do.”

“But mom, they said they would take us to school, pay the fees and give us jobs. I want to go to school, mommy.”

“School?” Grace smiled with genuine amusement. “Hii serikali ya Kibaki ni bure kabisa (President Kibaki’s government is good-for-nothing). Do you think they will do that? People like us don’t go to school. We are outcasts, cursed. For how long do I have to tell you?”

“But that’s what they told us when they brought us to this home.”

“Shiko, my dear. Don’t you know that they just wanted to clean their streets? We are a menace.”

Shiko, the smart street kid, stared at her mother in bewilderment. Though she used to sneak to go to school, her mother always told her that she was not like other kids. She smoked pot, sniffed glue; coke, crack and acid were her ice-cream and candies. That’s why she was different.

Mi nataka kwenda shulee (I want to go to school)…”

Grace felt like smothering her daughter.

“Kibaki brought free primary education,” Grace told her daughter. “Got to school if you want lakini usiniitishe kitu. (Don’t ask me for anything).

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