Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world. Despite being only five percent of the area of Nairobi, it makes up almost half of its inhabitants. Moreover, they face massive problems as they must battle with corruption, poverty, and horrible living conditions.
Problems with the slums
Poverty is the overarching issue that encompasses most of the problems that inhabitants face in Kibera. This massive problem, coupled with the fact that over half of Kibera is unemployed, means that it is really difficult to sustain yourself and even more difficult to climb up on the economic ladder.
Something that a lot of us take for granted is the fact that we have proper ways to dispose of our waste. Getting rid of sewage is as easy as flushing the toilet. However, in Kibera, it is much different. Not only is there no proper hospital, but there are no toilets or proper infrastructure for garbage disposal. “Flying Toilets” are commonplace as sewage is put into bags and chucked into the street. Also, with this lack of sanitation, diseases can wreak havoc, and STDs are extremely common as protection is not used when engaging in sexual activities. Projects are now working to help recycle and allow for people to get tested for HIV. However, government corruption means that infrastructure will likely not improve drastically.
Drugs and Alcohol
When you have nothing to do, drugs and alcohol can be an easy and cheap way to pass time. However, this breeds things such as crime and addiction. Changaa is an extremely dangerous liquor that has found its way into Kenya. It has a fifty percent alcohol content, and can often lead to things such as blindness or even death, as the drinks are not prepared correctly. Due to this drinking, crime is spurred on even more. Recently, efforts have been made to help teach these changaa brewers how to make safe and high quality changaa that will not lead to permanent damage and death.
Struggles of Being a woman
Women face massive struggles in the slums, and especially girls. As money is hard to come by, many will go into prostitution. This leads to the spread of STDs such as HIV and, coupled with the fact that there are no hospitals, means that abortions and childbirth can often lead to maternal death. Moreover, it is dangerous for girls to even go outside alone as tight walkways can easily lead to crimes such as rape to occur. Right now there are many efforts being made to help empower these women and make them rise up.
Early Childhood Development
Although many parents are living in the worst conditions and barely have enough money for food, they spend what little they have on to giving their children an education. Children are often sent off to daycares as parents struggle to make enough money to sustain a living. However, the conditions of these daycares are horrible, and they are often crowded and don’t provide much. Since most children aren’t even fed at these daycares, malnutrition is common and almost twenty percent of children will die before they make it to the age of five. Moreover, malnutrition means that growth is stunted and even the brain won’t develop correctly.
Kidogo is an organization that helps to solve the problems of the horrible conditions that children will face while growing up in Kibera. They do this, by creating a program where anyone who can afford it can become a “mamaprenuer.” Mothers buy kits to help renovate their homes or pre-existing daycares into more suitable learning environments, and create their own business.
What Is Different?
As stated above, Kidogo can help local mothers to create their own successful businesses while also drastically improving the quality of local daycares. They do this by incorporating playfulness into their learning.
“The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize they’re learning until it’s too late ”— Harold Edgerton
Not only that, but they also have planned meals that help to nourish children so that they don’t become permanently affected by malnutrition.
Does it really work?
Currently, Kidogo has improved many children’s lives. Mamprenuers must graduate through a training program that teaches them how to be a good teacher and mamprenuer. This leads to almost 98 percent of kids who attended Kidogo to finish at the top of their class as they are taught correctly and better than other kids. Since mamprenuers are also able to have a business that they can regulate, and this essentially solves two problems at once. However, there are still some issues that needed to be addressed. And that is where TKS came in.
A Global Challenge
The Knowledge Society is a youth program spanning 5 cities(more coming soon) and it helps to train young children to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Kidogo recently challenged TKS kids to help solve some of the issues that they are currently facing.
Although Kidogo works well in Kibera, they were hoping to expand into other slums and regions. However, expansion can often lead to a decrease in quality and control.
Although mamaprenuers are able to make money off of this whole system, it is not enough to be sustainable. Mamaprenuers need to teach more than fifteen children to break even in cost, and many parents often curb payments, leading to less and less money falling into the hands of the hardworking mamaprenuers.
I partnered up with James Wang and we decided upon creating a forum that would allow for mamaprenuers to communicate with one another and teach one another. We had three weeks to complete the proposal, and we spent our first week learning more about the enviroment and problems that these mamaprenuers are living in.
The Entrepreneurial Learning Curve
Although these mamaprenuers are properly trained, there are some things that training can’t teach. Even if you know something, you must also know how to apply it in different situations. This will mean that some avoidable mistakes will be repeated over and over again, when they really don’t have to.
Egg Crate Isolation
Although this is a pretty weirdly named idea, it has a lot to do with mamaprenuers. Egg crate isolation is the idea that teachers are often only a wall apart from one another, yet many teachers often feel isolated. This is taken to the extremes with mamaprenuers, as they are often many hundreds of walls away from one another. This type of isolation can often lead to things such as worse performance and it could even lead to the eventually quitting of a mamaprenuer.
Standardization of the System
Often expansion of a company will lead to the decrease in quality. Here is the Colonel’s take on expanding KFC:
“You know, that company is just too big to control now. I’m sorry I sold it back in 1964. It would have been smaller now, but a lot better. People see me up there doing those commercials and they wonder how I could ever let such products bear my name. It’s downright. [sic] embarrassing” — Colonel Sanders, KFC Founder
As companies grow bigger, that often means that not every aspect can be monitored. This leads to a gradual decrease in quality, and can even lead to the abandonment of the original company values.
After our first week, we began thinking of solutions. After a week, we came to an agreement. We proposed using forums, as forums have been shown to be extremely helpful when it comes to asking and answering questions and forming a community.
Fostering a Greater Sense of Community
By allowing for interconnectedness through forums, this could allow for mamaprenuers to lose the effects of egg crate isolation and would create interactions between one another. This would forge bonds together and allow for a community to be developed.
Scaling without Compromise
As Kidogo continued to scale, mamaprenuers can act autonomously as they help one another rather than relying on Kidogo HQ. This would be very important in decreasing costs and also allow for mamprenuers to help one another and solve one another’s problems.
The Trickle-Down Effect
By helping out mamaprenuers, the benefits will be felt by the children and the parents as well. This could mean things like better schooling and diets. Eventually, the whole community could benefit as these mamaprenuers work together.
Although we thought we had a fantastic idea, we still had missed out on many things. Three weeks may seem like a long time, but those days go by quick! Although we were able to ask Kidogo questions, we still were not able to get a broad enough scope on Kidogo and Kibera in General
Low Literacy Rates
Although we knew that many mamaprenuers could communicate via phone, we did not realize that many of them did not know how to write. This meant that it would be harder for communication online and was a massive problem with our proposal
Although the creation of the forums would see benefits to some extent, there were no guarantees when it came to improving sales or teaching. Those were all speculative, and as such would be a risk claim to take in Kidogo’s part.
Not Acquainted Well Enough
Although we spent a week to research Kibera, we did not research enough. One week is not enough to fully understand the microcosm that is Kibera. Although learned enough to get a general idea of Kibera, we missed out on the nuances and small details that really mattered.
I was honored to work with Kidogo and to even have them consider our proposal was amazing. This challenge taught me a lot when it came to research and also when it comes to teamwork. However, the most important thing it taught me was to be grateful. So many millions of people live in these slums, and I am lucky to even have a toilet and food to eat. This was truly a breathtaking experience and thanks to TKS and Kidogo for allowing all of this to happen. And also a massive shoutout to James!
Thank you for reading this article! You can check out my other articles on medium that are focused on philosophy and tech! If you want to contact me you can visit me on LinkedIn or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit James Wang on medium here:https://medium.com/@bruegel.