Staying with Shafik and Akram

Katanga Family

Megan and I really wanted to get a taste of what it is like to live in Katanga Slum, by staying the night with a family that attend our school. We would not only stay a night but also join the family in what they do throughout the day; eating, playing, drinking, bathing and washing clothes. Before we stayed the night we didn’t tell the family we would stay with them, we didn’t want them to prepare for us e.g. tidy-up, buy nicer foods.

Below is a list of what we did in order of time:

8:30am – We finished school by walking the children back to their homes. This was a chance for Megan and I to see our new children’s families and homes. We had chosen the family we would stay with, but they didn’t know until we turned up at their house.

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1pm – We got invited in to a house full of people with porridge cooking in the background. They, and we, each had a mug full of white slodge. I personally don’t like porridge anyway so I found it hard to drink/eat but Megan liked the lunch we got given. Porridge is quite filling, good choice.

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2pm – Now we had a couple of hours to enjoy playing whilst the children took it in turns to bathe in a small orange bowl. There was 7 children needing to get washed in the end; 2 brothers, 4 sisters and a friend of the brothers. The mum would fill up her bucket with cold water, strip the children down and get them to sit in the bucket; she would grab her blue soap bar out and start scrubbing the kids.

Some of the children don’t mind being washed but there is one particularly who ‘crossed himself’, like Catholics or footballers would, as he walked towards the bowl… he hated it, screamed and cried all the way through. They ended up clean through.

They would put on a different set of clothes, than they had on previous to the wash, and would end up sleeping in these clothes, wearing them until 2pm the next day when they would repeat the cycle.

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4pm – Only 2 1/2 hrs since we finished our ‘lunch’ we started our tea (the last thing we would eat for the day). We got given a decent amount of beans, potato and motoke  (steamed bananas). The children all ate in the bedroom whilst the ‘adults’ ate in the living area; Megan and I were adults apparently.

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5pm – Play until bedtime. They used to play until 8 and then watch TV until 10 (limiting them to 2 hours of TV a day) but their TV broke. Instead they play until 8 and slowly get ready for bed at 9.

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9pm – We were staying with a Muslim family so one of the children prayed, being thankful for the day; then, bedtime.

Megan and I felt so embarrassed as we were given the only bed they had to sleep on. The mum and older children (16, 20 years old) normally slept in the bed but tonight the mum and the 20 year old slept on the sofas next door. The other 8 children slept on a mattress that they pulled down from leaning on the side of the wall. Imagine 8 children sharing a standard sized, double mattress; a 16 year old girl, 3 boys age 9 & 10 and 4 girls aged between 4-7.

The family had mosquito nets set up already but they did need a bit of attention, before we slept, tying knots in to get rid of the holes.

The light was left on, not sure why, but we think it was so the could get up in the night and go to the toilet if they needed to (even though the ‘proper toilets’ are locked at night).

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4am – Music from around the slum finally stops booming, the bass is turned off and we finally get some sleep.

6am – The Muslim call the prayer starts over a tannoy system, which alerts the mum to get up and do her prayers… End of sleep.

6:30am – The mum wakes all the kids up to do their prayers before ‘breakfast’.

7am – Breakfast is black tea with sugar. The boys attend our school so get some food at break time but otherwise I’m not sure how the family copes on just tea until porridge at 1pm.                                                                                                                                         The kids stay in the clothes they slept in and go to school.

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Whilst the boys go to our school in the morning the mum washes clothes and buys food for the evening. The other children who don’t go to school spend the morning playing.

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We both loved our time with the family, being exhausted after all that playing. I can imagine how boring just playing is all day every day, and how easy it is for children to grow up into crime not having an education, no money and plenty of spare time. This is why kids in slums look forward to going to school, it gives them something to do and they get food too.

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