Life at Nairobi Children’s Remand Centre
For children awaiting judgment in cases of murder, theft and loitering, Nairobi Children’s Remand Centre is home away from home.
The remand centre, which holds at least 100 boys and girls at any one time, resembles a boarding school, where children in uniform carry out chores and interact freely with the staff.
These children, whose childhoods have been brought to a screeching halt spend weeks, months and even years of their lives waiting for lengthy and traumatic court processes, robbing them time they would have spent at school or home.
Sarah is 17 years old and is supposed to be in Form Four. She has been at the Nairobi Children’s remand for more than a year now, as she waits for the outcome of a murder charge against her.
“Last year, I got into a row with an older girl. After the row, the girl came to our house in Kibera to pick another fight with me. The people around me would not allow us to fight and asked her to leave but she refused. A scuffle ensued and the girl was stabbed and she died. The blame fell on me and that is why I am here,” says a jovial Sarah.
Sarah is hopeful that in a few weeks’ time, her case will be over and she will be proved innocent and set free to go back to school.
Kevin, who is 15 years old and should be in Standard Eight allegedly stole his father’s phone last year and was immediately taken to the police.
“My parents and younger brother live in Kawangware. Although I don’t like this place very much, I have to stay here, hoping that all goes well with my case and that I will do my KCPE,” says Kevin.
A typical day at the Nairobi Children’s Remand Centre requires that the children to wake up early to clean up and cook. While the big boys light the fire and cook, the girls clean and ensure everything is in its place.
Once they are done, they are involved in various activities such as guidance and counselling, watching television and playing ball games. There is no school although the children have many books at their disposal at the common room and the library.
Twelve-year-old Mwanaisha from Moshi, Tanzania, only arrived at the centre on Monday. Mwanaisha is not only getting used to the remand environment, but also to the fact that she is in a foreign land alone.
“I live with my parents in Tanzania. Three days ago, a family friend trafficked me to Kenya to work as her househelp. She has a husband and two small children. Luckily I did not work for the family as the police rescued me on time and brought me here,” she says.
Mwanaisha is worried about her parents, who have no clue of her whereabouts. She does not also know how long she will be staying at the remand, but is hopeful that the child officers will take her back home to Tanzania soon.
But seven-year old James says he is just happy to be alive and safe. When his parents gave him away to stay with his auntie, they thought they were offering young James a better life they could not afford for him. How wrong they were?
“My aunt is a very bad woman. She told me one day to search for her small child’s lost shoes but I could not find them. She beat me up very badly and the police took me and brought me here,” says James.