Two weeks ago, I passed by the market to buy my beloved plantains. As I was about to drive off, my supplier reminded me that his son had graduated with a degree in economics more than a year ago and was still jobless. His daughter had also followed suit and graduated with a degree in commerce. Unfortunately, she was also jobless. He was optimistic that I was the right person to find jobs for his children. When I suggested to him that it was not such a bad idea for them to think about opening a grocery business like his, he was not too impressed. I provoked him and told him as much as he felt his job was ‘low class’, he had managed to finance the education of his children to university level, surely that was a great achievement!
What is in an accent anyway? Turns out that there’s a lot of things. For some, it is a signifier of higher class and poshness acquired from studying in elite schools complete with elocution classes. For others, it is a source of anxiety and a sign of lower status. Whilst for others, it is a badge of identity that they wear very proudly.
The power to represent Kibera residents has been exercised by various agents within the international and local media spaces for many years. In some cases, even Kiberans have exercised this power over each other. The media representation attracts attention that leads to vast monetary contributions and financial gain for some residents and organisations within Kibera. However, the same representation has led many Kenyans outside Kibera to distance themselves from the negative media image.
A good number of the young Kiberans I interacted with during my PhD fieldwork argued that philanthropy is a white person’s thing and that the few black Africans who donated financial assistance or services always had a political motive. Therefore, their projects were short term and very uncertain.