17-year-old Sepetu was born in Kilifi County, one of the coastal regions in Kenya. He lived with his parents and three siblings. His father was the family´s sole breadwinner who earned a living as a bottled water vendor. Unknown to the rest of the family, Sepetu´s father was planning to leave them in search of greener pastures. He sent Sepetu, his mother and his siblings to their rural home in Busia County, where he had a piece of land then he left for Tanzania. Since then, his whereabouts have remained unknown.
Sepetu´s mother became the family´s main provider. With no stable source of income, she became overburdened and in 2016, she took her youngest child and left for an unknown destination, never to return home. With both parents gone, the then 12-year-old Sepetu had no choice but to assume their roles, which meant that he had to skip school and look for work. He woke up at 6.00 am to make breakfast for his siblings and prepare them for school. In order to meet their needs, Sepetu would either cut sugar cane or work at the jaggery to earn an average of 0.54 Euros per day.
In 2019, the situation changed for the worst. Sepetu became ill and incapacitated and could not work to provide for his siblings. With no alternative, the family depended on neighbours, well-wishers, and extended family members. Luckily, Sepetu´s aunt intervened and he was taken to receive medical care. His recovery was gradual. His other siblings had been moved to their grandfather´s homestead where they currently live. After Sepetu´s condition had improved, his aunt admitted him to a secondary school in the area. Unfortunately, barely a month after his re-enrollment, he had to drop out due to financial constraints. His aunt was a struggling farmer who couldn't afford to pay his school fees.
Without any school activity to keep him engaged, Sepetu joined a group of boys who would go and harvest sand to earn an average of 0.54 euros per day. However, his aunt had cautioned him from associating with the group and advised him to disengage but Sepetu remained adamant. His aunt then reported the matter to the Malaba assistant chief who referred the case to the officer commanding station. The boys were arrested but Sepetu would be freed after he was discovered to be underage. Guided by the knowledge acquired during the Case Management and Referral training organised by Terre des Hommes Netherlands, the police officer referred Sepetu to the Sub-County Children Officer (SCCO).
The SCCO, the assistant chief and the police officer conducted a home visit for assessment. In 2021, Sepetu was awarded the Presidential Secondary School Bursary and secured admission in form one at a boarding secondary school in Malaba. Additionally, the assistant chief mobilised resources and purchased the additional scholastic materials that were required before admission. Sepetu is now able to concentrate on his studies and is a registered member of the Child Rights Club (CRC) and receives mentorship from the club patrons.
¨Through the CRC, I get encouragement, especially through fellow students who have passed through hardship but came out strong. My pillar of hope is a form three student with an almost similar story. Irrespective of the challenges he has gone through, he is doing very well in his studies.¨
The area assistant chief continuously follows up on Sepetu´s progress at school. He ensures his well-being in case he has other needs and gives regular feedback to the SCCO office.
During school holidays, Sepetu stays with his aunt and no longer engages in menial work but instead, supports his aunt on the farm and also in performing household chores. His siblings still live with their grandfather continue with their education without any hindrance.
Currently, Sepetu is healthy and composed, contrary to his former self before the intervention. Speaking excitedly he said, “I am extremely happy that my life has been transformed from a nobody to somebody. The first time I went home during half-term, children (our neighbours) admired my new look. I felt accepted, welcomed, and respected, unlike those days when I would be called Chokora (street boy).”