Recorded December 2015
My name is Tobias Otieno. I am thirteen years old. I was born in Kisumu. My father is a casual laborer. His name is Dan Taabu. My mother, Peris Aketch, sells chips and samosas by the roadside. I have two sisters and two brothers.
My life as a child was good. I went to Ziraguni Primary School up to class six. In 2013, one of my classmates named Rogers fell ill at school and I offered to take him back home. But when I came back to class, my teacher called me up front of class and told me that I had broken a rule. He beat me in front of my classmates and sent me home. I was so embarrassed because my good intentions were mistaken for disobedience.
The class teacher told me to bring my mother to the head teacher’s office. I was afraid of the head teacher because he was very fierce. I decided to hide. For two days I pretended to walk to school only to come back and hide near our home. But the second day, my classmates told my mother I was not in school. The next day, my mother took me to the deputy head teacher. He beat me in front of my mother. Afterward, they said I would go to the headmaster. I knew that meant another beating. So I ran all the way home, changed into home clothes, and I walked to Kisumu town where I could hide.
The people in Kisumu town were very kind; some bought me some food and drink. I spent nights in alleys and no one mistreated me. But I was getting lonely. One day as I was walking around, my brother found me and convinced me to come home. But that evening, they beat me so that I would never leave again.
The next day they were going to take me to school. I put on my uniform, but then I told them I had to go out to the toilet. I ran away again, back to Kisumu but to a different part. There I found some boys who liked me. They took me to an orphanage called Ovic. After a month, some of the boys in the orphanage started talking about running away to Nairobi. I liked that idea. I figured that would take me far away from my family.
We planned how to hide by hanging on the underside of a passenger bus. It was challenge because we could not risk sleeping. We had to hold onto the bars tightly until the trip ended. Lucky for us, the bus had several stops, so we could turn loose of the bars for a short time and rest. When we got to Nakuru, we saw police checking the bus. I was scared that they would arrest us. I ran and hid in a ditch. I heard the policemen talking to my friends, but I stayed hidden with my cousin and a friend.
Unfortunately, it started raining. The rain was heavy and I was very cold. I started shivering. The bus had left, so we started walking toward Nairobi. On the way a kind person gave us some tea and mandazi (like donuts). This made me feel warm. My friend was very good at begging. He would pretend to be mute; it was easy for him to convince people to give him money. We walked for a long time down the highway. We stopped at every town to beg and to rest. For a week, we walked around hills. I did not see any progress and at the back of my mind I thought we were stuck in the same place. I started doubting my friend. Then I saw a big town ahead.
We headed to a shopping Centre. One of the women there came to us and talked to us in Luo, my tribal language. She gave us some food and asked us where we were going. My friend told her that we were going to our uncle in Nairobi because our parents had a fight and left us. She was very worried about us being alone. She volunteered to go with us and paid for our fare. I was so excited when we got to Nairobi, but the lady did not let us explore the city. She asked Marcos where were going. Marcos told her that we were going to Mathare. She got another bus for us. When we got there, Marcos led us through the congested pathways of Mathare. He was walking very fast. Marcos told me that he was lying to the lady and that he did not know anyone in Mathare. Before long, Marcos disappeared. Now it was just the lady and me. She was upset and angry because we had lied. She left me. Now I was alone.
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