Tell your sons that there is no safety-no place to hide-when one lives in contradiction to the laws of God! Remind them repeatedly and emphatically of the biblical teaching about sexual immorality-and why someone who violates those laws not only hurts himself, but also wounds the girl and cheats the man she will eventually marry. Tell them not to take anything that doesn’t belong to them-especially the moral purity of a woman.”
– James C. Dobson, Bringing Up Boys
It is a conversation that begun with a simple question when I took my shaving machine to be sharpened in Satellite today.
“Where is your barber shop?” John asked.
“I don’t have a barbershop,” I replied. “I shave myself at home so I can save money and resume my work with boys in juvenile prison.”
“Okay, that’s new – and unique,” he said. “What are the issues you deal with in prison?” he asked, taking a short break from sharpening my shaving machine. “I guess one of them is single-motherhood as a result of men failing to take full responsibility.”
Before I could answer him, my mind wandered back to Silas Tabu. He was 17 when I met him in juvenile prison. After about three sessions with the group, he asked me to trace his family in Kayole. At first, I ignored him, wanting to see whether he really meant it or not. A month later, he grabbed my hands and looked into my eyes.
“James,” he said, his eyes piercing into my soul, “I’ve been asking you for the last two months to visit and talk to my parents in Kayole.”
“Yes Silas, I have noticed and plan to see them,” I said.
“When will go?” he inquired still holding my hands and gazing into my eyes.
“As soon as you draw me the map to your house and tell me why you want me to go there,” I replied.
“Okay,” he said, writing ‘Silas House’ at the top of the piece of paper I had given him. “You take No.19/60 in town and alight here,” he explained. “This is where I used to go to school before I got arrested. Talk to the students there about the dangers of engaging in crime and prostitution.”
“Okay, I understand,” I replied, without really understanding how I was going to speak to girls about prostitution. “What about your parents?” I asked.
“I’m getting there,” he continued drawing. “You can either walk or take a No. 17 matatu, it’s only 10 bob. This is where my mom works. And please wait until my dad comes back home so you can speak to both of them. Speak especially to my dad!”
I left the prison and went back to Ayany where I was staying with a very good friend of mine. Since I wasn’t working and didn’t have a source of income, money was tight. Luckily, I had a friend who I knew while working at KBC. I called Nancy Ng’ang’a and asked for bus fare so I could start tracing homes and families of the boys.
The following week, on Tuesday, I left home with the map and a list bearing 100 names of the boys in my hand. I left early in the morning. Looking at me, you wouldn’t tell I wasn’t heading to work! I took the first bus from Ayany to town then took No. 19/60 from the City Stadium where the bus fare was 10 shillings cheaper.
Arriving at the school where Silas used to attend opened my eyes to the sorry moral state that some parts of Katole are in. The long winding and dusty road leading to the school, a shack of rusting iron sheets, was littered with used and discarded condoms, cigarette filters and broken illicit liquor bottles.
The sickening stench of urine and evaporating semen mixed with the sweet aroma of chips ‘mwitu’ fought for space in the humid air. My shoes – and the ones worn by the two volunteers accompanying me – were collecting dust with each weary step we took towards the school.
While talking to the students about finding treasure that will enable them to live with purpose, I discovered that most of them were being molested by the head teacher, who was supposed to protect them. You couldn’t tell this from a mere and casual glance. But it was evident from their eyes and the way they spoke about the effects of casual sex.
I also learned that gangs escort and wait for the students after school as they coax, force and blackmail them into crime, violence and prostitution. Their parents also receive the same threats while the local authorities have limited resources and the mandate to combat crime in the area.
Profile photo on the wall
We later arrived at Silas’ house at 7 PM. The first thing I noticed was the large portrait of Silas’ dad hanging from the wall. He looked serene and had an aura of seriousness surrounding him as he sat on his black and white photo. Looking at him, there was no way of telling that there sat a man who doesn’t engage with his children and wife.
“My son Silas, is a good boy,” the mom said. “The only problem is his dad. He doesn’t talk to our children. I think Silas and other boys like him get into trouble in order to wake up their fathers.
“My husband will ask our daughter where she was, who her friends are and that he was concerned when she doesn’t come back home early. That seldom happens with our sons. He isn’t concerned about their welfare,” she continued. “Please, speak to him and ask him to take responsibility.”
“Okay,” I said.
As we spoke about other things, my mind kept wandering. I was uncomfortable, uneasy and couldn’t find the best approach to the huge responsibility that lay ahead of me. Silas’ dad was about to arrive from work. Just before the clock struck 9 PM, the door cracked open and in stepped, Silas’ dad.
Back to basic continues tomorrow…