After separation of his parents, 9 year old Indukhulu was taken to his grandparents, since his mother could no longer provide for his basic needs. His sister was enrolled in school but he was not considered. Following the demise of his grandmother, he was taken to his stepmother who made him do exhaustive chores everyday. Luckily, he was identified by JOFA community focal person who facilitated a case conference that changed his life. He is now enrolled in school, happy and living a normal life.
Indukhulu lives in a small village in Busia County, Kenya. He is the second born in a family of two. Indukhulu’s father is a polygamous man, his mother is the third out of five wives. Indukhulu’s father stays in Nairobi, where he works as a public-service bus driver to fend for his family. He earns an approximate salary of 151 euros every month, while his stepmother is a businesswoman selling second hand clothes, moving from one market to another on different days earning about 120 euros every month to supplement the family's needs.
Indukhulu stayed with his mother and sister up until 2016 when his mother decided to leave and get married elsewhere following family frustrations. Thereafter, Indukhulu and his elder sister were taken to live with their grandparents. Under the care of his paternal grandmother, Indukhulu did not attend school despite being 4 years old, which is the recommended age by the Ministry of Education in Kenya for children to enrol for basic education. As his sister was enrolled in school, Indukhulu was left at home to look after the livestock.
Sadly in September 2021, Indukhulu experienced a traumatic ordeal. He lost his caring maternal grandmother. He attended the funeral and when he came back four days later, his paternal grandmother had left for her first marriage in Uganda. Indukhulu was extremely distraught and felt hopeless. A decision was made by his father for him to move in with his stepmother. It was during this time that Indukhulu’s life completely changed. Whereas his step siblings went to school, he was subjected to all household chores.
Indukhulu would wake up at 6:00 a.m. to sweep the house, clean the compound, fetch water, wash all utensils, clean his step-sibling’s clothes, and fetch firewood. He had no time to play as he used to before. Most often, he could be seen at home, moving up and down within the compound, if not slashing grass, then cooking or engaged in other chores. Neighbours would watch him toil hard everyday and did not understand why he was not enrolled in school like his step siblings. The responsibilities given to him did not go hand in hand with his age. Based on the neighbourś statement, Indukukhuluś mistreatment was attributed to the step-motherś attitude towards him, as a step-son. He considered the chores to be normal routines and did not know about his rights as a child.
In July 2022 during the JOFA Project Midterm Review, one of the research assistants who is also a Community Focal Person (CFP) identified him while he was collecting data in his village. He was carrying a 10 litre jerry can on his head, had dirty and torn clothes and looked very tired. The research assistant engaged Indukhulu to find out why he was not in school at 11:00am when other children of his age were attending classes in school. Indukhulu narrated his struggles and ordeals to him. The research assistant immediately contacted the village elder of the area under study. In August 2022, the Bululo B village elder and Nang’oma LCAC member who had benefited from the training on Child Protection (CP) and Violence Against Children using the revised CP case management guidelines and relevant CP Standards of Operation Procedures for effective coordination and an increased role in the identification, reporting, and referral, reported the matter to the sub-county children officer, Matayos sub-county. This was after she spent two weeks investigating the matter after it had been reported to her by the research assistant.
The sub-county children officer immediately assigned a Child Protection Volunteer (CPV), who is also a member of the LCAC, to develop a case plan. A case conference with Indukhulu’s family members (his mother, his stepmother, and his father) and CP stakeholders from the location was prioritised. On September 27, 2022, the case conference was held at the Nang'oma chief's office, with 13 participants (6 men and 7 women). The conference was chaired by the senior chief of Nang’oma Location. The assistant chief of Nang'oma sub-location, the sub-county children officer for Matayos sub-county, village elder Bululo B Village, two child protection volunteers, Indukhulu's biological mother, stepmother, father, a teacher from Nang'oma Primary School, a CSO representative and two parents from the location were also in attendance.
Evidently from the meeting, blame was traded with Indukhulu’s father citing negligence from his parents in taking care of his son as he was away working in Nairobi. Indukhulu’s mother on the other hand cited marital issues, which led to her separation from her husband, as the main cause of her son’s predicament. "I left my son when he was 3 years old," she recalled.
At the meeting it was revealed that Indukhulu had experienced physical and emotional abuse and had been exploited. Following the meeting, Indukhulu received guidance and counselling sessions on a weekly basis, provided by the children’s counsellor. After a custody arrangement to ensure safety for Indukhulu, the sub-county children's office and the chiefś office instructed Indukhulu’s parents to enrol him in preparatory primary 2. His parents were also informed to track his performance in school, also to be followed upon by the Child Protection Volunteer. Indukhulu is being closely monitored by Directorate of Children Services (DCS) through the CPV on a weekly basis as well as his teachers.
“He is a good boy, and based on his performance this term, if it is anything to go by, he is a bright boy," one of Indukhulu’s teachers said.
In 2023, Joining Forces for Africa (JOFA) Child Protection Project plans to roll out parenting sessions in 24 schools in Matayos and Teso North sub-counties. Indukhulu’s primary school is one of the schools mapped out for the program. Measures are in place to engage his father and stepmother to join the Parenting without Violence (PwV) sessions to be sensitised on reducing and eliminating Physical and Humiliating Punishment (PHP) of children in the home, by promoting a respectful, loving, and non-violent home setting. Like Indukhulu’s parents, families currently struggling with parenting will ultimately benefit from the intervention. Indukhulu, on the other hand, will join the child rights club in school when he reaches the age of 10, the appropriate age for children to participate in club activities.
Upon closure of school for the December 2022 holidays, Indukhulu’s school report card indicated that he was improving on his performance in school. He looked happy and had a smiling face, contrary to his former self. “He has really blended faster than I expected,” his teacher says.
As a result of the JOFA project interventions, Indukhulu was integrated in school. His daily life has improved and he is no longer involved in non-age appropriate chores. Now he wakes up at 7:00 a.m. to have breakfast with his stepbrother and prepare for school. He spends his leisure time studying with his stepbrother and playing his favourite game, football, in the home compound. His father still lives and works in Nairobi but is able to visit the family at least after every two months and follow up on his son’s progress. Indukhulu says he feels okay and is very happy to be in school. He is excited to have new friends and play football with them. Speaking of his future aspirations, Indukhulu said, “I want to be a good person, and I also want to be a driver like my father.”