• Dozens of school-age youth have been arrested in sex, drug orgies since pandemic hit
• A visit to a coastal area found that studying has been forgotten as they party their free time away
It's 10pm at one of the estates in Kisauni, Mombasa county, some time last month. A young girl of about seven years stands outside a house with a smartphone, watching a clip of a woman dancing.
She leans on the wall and relishes the dance. She is joined by another girl, who appears to be of the same age.
“Ukimaliza utanipea na mimi? (When you finish watching, will you also give me)?” the new girl requests.
A closer look shows the two are enjoying Azziad Nasenya’s now famous ‘Utawezana Challenge’ dance.
Nasenya’s hip-swaying dance to a raunchy song, 'Utawezana', took the Internet by storm and instantly became a sensation. She dances while dressed in a short covering a quarter of her legs and a sleeveless top exposing her stomach.
At their tender age, the children are expected to be with their parents, but they are out here, watching ‘sexy’ video.
It is that time of the night when TVs are showing post-watershed programmes meant for adults. But for these two, being outside their home means they can access and watch any content without the knowledge of their parents.
One wonders what they will watch next if they can watch this erotic clip now.
They can, however, just enjoy the dance and not the music in it because louder music is playing inside the house nearby.
The students drink and dance long into the night. It’s hard to sleep when they hold the parties because we have noise all overKisauni resident
DRINKING AND DANCING
Inside the house, high school students chat and laugh aloud as others turn the sitting room into a dance floor. There is no mask-wearing or social distancing, as required during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is as though they think they are immune.
As Tanzanian songs laced with love lyrics fill the air, a 42-inch television shows a video of a black American soul song.
Some boys chat at the doorstep, holding beer bottles concealed with newspapers. The youth call the beer ‘mzinga’.
While the house is well lit, the outside has a dim light. It’s a birthday party. But it is not easy to identify whose birthday it is as everyone is more concerned with music and group chats.
This estate has seven blocks and more than 300 units, and all youths have gathered here tonight.
Despite the coronavirus regulations banning gatherings, parties have been going on at this particular estate, a resident says.
“The owner of the house loves parties, so many students meet there,” the resident said.
“They eat, drink and dance to music inside as others gather in crowds outside. Normally it’s hard to sleep when they hold the parties because we have noise all over.”
One could easily blame the Coast's warm weather for the dress code of the night, but the interactions suggest a different reason.
A girl dressed in dera, a popular coast dress that gives women bodily freedom to shake, disappears into a corridor with a tall boy.
“You see that girl,” my host said, pointing at a quiet and seemingly reserved one next to five other girls. “She was beaten by her father last week after he discovered she had been sneaking out to her boyfriend's place at night.”
It turns out the girl in question was in Form 2 and a pastor’s daughter. She would sneak out of her bedroom at night, through the window, and into her boyfriend's room in a different block, then sneak back home later.
She would arrange the blanket and clothes on the bed in such a way that she seemed to be sleeping while in fact, she was away.
Her father once suspected her escapades. When he asked her, she claimed she had been at a late night party and asked for forgiveness.
But she continued sneaking out until her father caught her one day while sneaking back.
“He beat her so badly, we all woke up. She surprised everybody when she shouted at him that all along, she been going to spend the night with her boyfriend,” my host said.
“She shouted, ‘He is my boyfriend and there is nothing you can do about it. I love him’.”
And here she was, like nothing had happened. The music went on for about one and a half hours, then a group of boys moved to the carpark.
Listening in to their conversation reveals how another boy in the estate was beaten up by the group for eyeing the girlfriend of one of them.
Some of the boys have curled their hair. Others have adopted complex hairstyles, while others simply have shaggy, unkempt hair.
They all have smartphones. And although they are high school students, they hang out at the spot every day.
With schools closed, many students have been having a lot of free time, and studying has not been one of the ways chosen to fill it.
Kisauni subcounty police commandant Julius Kiragu said parents should take responsibility for whatever children engage in inside the estates.
“You see, police cannot be everywhere. Everybody should take responsibility. Where are the parents when the children are having parties?” he asked.
Police cannot be everywhere. Everybody should take responsibility. Where are the parents when the children are having parties?Kisauni subcounty police commandant Julius Kiragu
Last week, 39 schoolchildren aged 12-22 years were arrested during a party at an estate in Muhoroni.
On July 4, 35 teenagers were arrested during a sex and drugs party at Sange estate, Homa Bay Town.
The 20 girls and 15 boys aged between 13 and 17 were found drinking alcohol and smoking bhang, according to police who recovered used condoms and brands of alcohol.
On June 20, police in Kisii arrested 38 youths aged between 14 and 20 during a party in which used condoms were also recovered.
At the time, Kisii county police commander Jebel Munene said, “I am appealing to parents to monitor their children, especially in this period when schools are closed. Taking care of children is a collective responsibility.”
Statistics paint a grip picture of rising teenage pregnancies in the country.
On June 16, Machakos Children’s Officer Salome Muthama said 4,000 schoolgirls had been impregnated in five months.
The statistics are replicated in other counties.
Faced with the surge in teen pregnancies and sexual and gender-based violence amid the Covid-19 lock down, President Uhuru Kenyatta on July 6 directed the National Crime Research Centre to investigate in 30 days and report back to him.
Nearly two months later, it remains to be seen what action will be taken.
Edited by T Jalio