The Ruben Centre is situated in the Mukuru kwa Ruben area of Nairobi. The Ruben Slum (also known as the Mukuru community) was born in Nairobi’s Industrial district approximately 35 years ago when people began to build make-shift homes near the factories they worked in. The area now has a population of over 600,000 and many families live in corrugated iron shacks measuring 10 x 10 feet.
Many of the slum dwellers in Mukuru work as casual labourers in the manufacturing industries situated close to the slum. Others
Mukuru Slumoperate small-scale businesses selling vegetables and fruit or hawking various items. Earnings are low and often inadequate to feed their families. consequently, their children look to other means of survival such as prostitution, drug peddling, begging and criminal activities.
There are many health related issues within the slum, and the most common diseases include malaria, typhoid, dysentery, tuberculosis and AIDS. Malnutrition is visible among the children. This is primarily related to the high cost of food in relation to the low family income. Any medical facilities are beyond the reach of most of the residents.
As well, the high level of poverty puts basic education beyond the reach of many families. This has impacted negatively on education. It has contributed to high illiteracy and drop out levels among those fortunate enough to be going to school. Dropouts amount to 44% of the school-going children in the slums. Many parents are unable to pay the few hundred shillings per term towards school fees. This makes it particularly difficult for school management to run the schools because they have little or no financial resources. The lack of teaching materials, desks, adequate sanitation facilities and playing areas fatally undermines the children’s psychological, emotional and physical growth.
Another problem facing the children of Ruben slum is the need to work at a young age. May children are engaged in petty productive work to supplement basic family needs. Child labour in Mukuru includes hawking, petty trade, transportation using carts and household work. They also carry items for traders and other commuters. Mukuru Slum
The Ruben Centre, with its three core areas of Education, Health and Community Development, is attempting to reconcile some of the hardships that the residents of Mukuru face. The Ruben Centre has strategies for strengthening the relationship that exist between the Centre and the local community, which include:
- Quarterly Meetings with parents of the school children, either together or in class groups.
- Regularly conducting information session with outpatients at the clinic as they gather for services.
- Inviting the local Chief and other community leaders to functions and meeting to address specific concerns.
- Regular sharing of information with police and inviting them to conduct visits and sessions with children as situations materialize.
- Inviting the community to use facilities at the centre as is appropriate.
- Inviting parents and families to be present for some special celebrations for the school.