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What did Africa do?


Map of Africa.Photo: Nationalacademies

When I was younger, and I saw a parent smack their child in public, and saw the child cry, I would always ask myself, ‘what did that child do?’ So, I know I am not the parent, but as a bystander, I am still allowed to have an opinion, even though it wouldn’t help the child whose behind still hurt from the serious spanking from the parent.

But I have a serious question, and this is it: “What Did Africa Do?” In the last three years, I have had the opportunity to visit some parts of Abuja and Lagos, for some of my Girls Education projects, but more recently, to speak to kids about the power of media, and I talked to them about the basics of film making.. I show them some film making equipment’s, sometimes we role play, and they shoot small skits themselves. Then I teach them some basic editing skills too.

Makoko in Lagos is one place I have visited twice, with Slum2School, and we always have a great time. Whenever I leave, I always wondered, ‘how can people live like that,’ in those kinds of places? I thought it was really bad – until I visited Nairobi a few weeks ago, and stopped first in Mathare. It is like Makoko – Lagos in many, many ways. You know, the steep embankment when you walk around, the litter everywhere you walk, sometimes you see running water on the ground with bad stuff in it everywhere, and then, there is Dandora Slums.


Right now, you should take a break, break out your smart phone or open a new browser, and google ‘Dandora Dumpsite.’ Seriously, you should, before I continue, so you can understand what I am describing here.

There are huge vulture-like birds everywhere, competing with the kids for space and with the adults for food and things like that. And every hour, trucks from across Nairobi come by and dump garbage there, and people fight for the stuff – openly. And then nearby, kids are getting ready for school.

What goes through these kids’ minds, when they see these trucks dump other people’s garbage in front of their homes? Did you Google it yet? Do you see what I am writing about?

How is the boy or girl who live in that place supposed to feel, if, and when they ever get out of there? Well, I found out. I had this great idea, and spoke to some company CEOs in Nairobi about a small idea I had. In the end, we took in a bus about 45 kids from the only school in Dandora, to the nicest mall in Nairobi, called ‘The Village Market,’ where there is a movie theater as well. Oh, you can Google this also, and compare to Dandora Dump. We hung out for the entire afternoon, and the we ordered them Pizza. They just looked at each other, and smiled. Later I found out they had seen Pizza on the bill boards, but never seen it before placed before them. Then they saw my new film ‘Follow The Ball”, we took pictures, clowned around some more and talked again about film making.

In the end, as they were about to get back on the bus to Dandora, one of the older kids put up his hands to ask a question, but he whispered the question, so I didn’t think I heard him correctly. Actually I did, but I thought he said something else, because his question did not make sense to me. So I asked him to say that again. This time, the entire group was quiet, and stared at him. He said calmly, and louder this time – “Are we still in Kenya”. Then the entire class turned to me, to wait for my answer.

I almost cried, because there and then, I knew there were very many things the kids didn’t know. I knew they perhaps they didn’t know what a passport was, or a visa. I knew they had perhaps never been to an airport before, or got on an airplane.

So, I answered him – Yes, we are still in Kenya!! He said, ‘thank you,’ and the entire class filed into the bus. Their playful faces and smiles, had disappeared slowly, and I thought perhaps, they were sad because they had been held back in a very horrible place all their lives, while there were nicer laces like The Village Market that existed.

Now I ask – what did these kids do, to be kept permanently in Dandora? What did Africa do, to have many or its people living in places like these? I hope for a very simple and honest answer someday.

In this article:
Zuriel Oduwole
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