After the death of his father, Emoit was taken to live with his paternal uncle since his mother could no longer provide for his basic needs. He faced many hardships in his life and longed to be reunited with his mother. Unfortunately, things got worse for him and he started harvesting sand. He eventually engaged in criminal activities which almost cost him his life.
Emoit, his mother and his five siblings, reside in Busia County, in the western part of Kenya. His four sisters are all married, and his brother will graduate from high school in March 2022. His father and mother were casual labourers in the neighbourhood and had a combined wage of approximately 50 euros. The family lived a happy normal life up until the father passed away after a short illness in 2014. Due to the complicated family disputes, he was buried in his brother's home as opposed to his paternal home. Unfortunately, his mother was not able to take care of all of them. With the family's tough socio-economic situation, she opted to stay with a well-wisher, leaving Emoit under the care of his paternal uncle.
At his uncle's house, life was good. "We used to have three meals a day while staying with my uncle. "The meals were delicious and very nutritious," Emoit said. We could wake up at six in the morning, have breakfast and go to school, come back for lunch at 1:00 pm, and play with our neighbours' children on the playing field,” he added. Luckily, he was also admitted to a nearby primary school, 7 kilometres away from his uncle’s home. At school, Emoit’s character stood out, and the teachers loved him because of his discipline and exemplary performance. Every time Emoit would fall sick, his uncle would take him for medical care at the nearby sub-county referral hospital, situated 6 kilometres away. However, everything was not as easy as he thought. His uncle was very strict on him. He was being overworked and had to abide by his rules at all times. The long distance to school also affected him. All he wanted to do was to live with his mother again.
In 2017, Emoit returned to stay with his mother, who was still living with the wellwishers. Sadly, she could not take him as this would contradict the initial arrangement she had with the well-wisher of not having children around. She, therefore, made a decision to take Emoit to his maternal grandmother. Emoit, who was in grade five at the time, was transferred to a nearby primary school, about 800 metres from her grandmother's home. At his grandmother's place, Emoit felt loved and experienced a sense of freedom.
Unfortunately, his grandmother, who depended majorly on income from subsistence farming, could not provide for Emoit's basic needs such as clothing, balanced diets, school fees, or even medication. As days passed by, his life became unbearable. Emoit could only eat one meal a day and was often hungry and sad. In 2018, when he was in grade five, he devised an alternative way to survive. "Some of the basic needs could not be provided by my grandmother," Emoit said. Due to peer pressure, he was influenced by some of his friends and started sand harvesting work. He would work over the weekends where a 20-litre bucket full of sand would be sold for 0.033 euros (KES 5). After an exhausting day of sand mining, he would be paid 0.25 euros (KES 30).
Day by day, sand harvesting became more enticing and lucrative to him compared to school. Since his grandmother would not monitor his whereabouts, Emoit started missing school to "make money." He would spend the money he earned from sand harvesting on leisure activities such as playing video games and eating snacks at the market centre. For one year, Emoit engaged in sand harvesting. He never completed his end-of-year exams, and sadly, he had to repeat grade five.
During rainy seasons, when sand harvesting became difficult, Emoit and his friends shifted to alternative means of getting money. They started pickpocketing and stealing from people. One day, his former primary school teacher decided to follow him to find out how he was fairing. He could not believe what he saw Emoit doing. He said, "I could not believe that a boy who was very disciplined had turned into a rogue."
Emoit had completely changed, he was the complete opposite of his former self. In February 2020, while strolling in the market, he tried to steal from a business lady. Sadly, the mob descended on him, beating him up thoroughly. "I saw death with my eyes. If I did not die from the beatings on that day, I thank God," Emoit exclaimed.
Fortunately, a businessman at the market centre who had participated in the Child Protection and Violence Against Children identification, reporting, and referral training recognised Emoit. He prevented the mob from killing him and hurriedly took him to the nearby sub-county hospital to receive urgent medical attention. Thereafter, he escorted Emoit to the Department of Children's Services (DCS), where a case plan was developed. The DCS thereafter referred Emoit to the Child Protection Volunteer (CPV), who connected him to the Medical Social Worker for guiding and counselling sessions held weekly. In May 2020, he was admitted to his former primary school and introduced to the Child Rights Club (CRC).
Through the child rights club, Emoit benefited from the child rights sensitisation forums, He received emotional support from the peer network and built his self-confidence. Emoit has been actively involved in the sensitisation forums, gardening, and poultry rearing.
Due to Emoit's family's poor economic situation, the CRC patron engaged the school administration and enrolled him in the school lunch program. "We saw the boy needed help, despite being in school, life was unbearable at home," The CRC patron said. As a result, the school administration also exempted him from paying school fees [50 euros (Kshs. 6,000) paid annually and other school levies, including the lunch program, which is charged at 24 kilograms and 18 kilograms of maize and beans respectively per year.
The patron further requested the JOFA project team to collaborate with like-minded organisations and link Emoit’s mother to socio-economic interventions, as well as link Emoit to psychosocial support.
As a result of the JOFA project intervention, Emoit was integrated back into school. The school administrator is constantly in touch with his mother to ensure that he doesn't engage in dangerous activities. In addition, his performance in school has significantly improved. In the last exams in July 2022, he scored 312 marks out of a possible 500. "I just want to be in school. I would like to thank the school administration for the help. I am in school today because of their concerted efforts," Emoit said happily.
The JOFA project team, in partnership with other like-minded organisations, linked his mother to socio-economic support. The project also continues to follow-up with the school administrators to ensure that the meals provided in school are sustained to keep vulnerable children like Emoit in school. The teachers are optimistic that Emoit will soon catch up and record even better grades in the coming Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) national exams. At the time of documenting this story, the school administration had already applied for the M-PESA Foundation Scholarship on Emoit's behalf to ensure a seamless transition to secondary school.
Emoit’s daily routine has changed, his confidence has gradually improved, and in his free time, he no longer engages in risky activities. He is not only optimistic about the future but also has big dreams for the future: "I am a doctor in waiting." He concluded.