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Photo Essay

PHOTOS: A day in the life of a 9-year-old living in one of Kenya's largest slums

Today is the International Day of the African Child.


THIS IS GAUDENSIA NYANGWESO. She is nine years old.

She lives in Korogocho, one of Kenya’s largest slums with her family.

The area in the capital of Nairobi is home to between 150,000 and 200,000 people.

“Millions of children are living in extreme poverty in Africa today, without access to adequate water, sanitation, education, and healthcare services,” Goal says. “Many of these children live in some of Africa’s many slums, such as Korogocho.”

Gaudensia lives in a one-room flat in Korogocho with her family.

To mark International Day of the African Child, Irish charity Goal documented a day in her life with an aim to raise awareness of how children live in some of the poorest parts of Africa.

Angela Huddleston from the aid agency – which is providing water, sanitation, hygiene and other services to some of the residents of Korogocho – spent a full day with her, from the moment she woke at 5am in the morning, until she was ready for bed at 8pm.

In Gaudensia’s own words, and with the help of Angela’s pictures, this is a typical day in the life of an African child living in one of Kenya’s largest slums.

waking up

A normal day for Gaudensia begins between 4.30am and 5am, when she wakes and gets ready for school. She lives in a one-room, rented flat, with her mother, Rose (pictured here) and two older sisters. The family all wake at around the same time.


As the youngest child, Gaudensia shares a bed with her mother. The building in which the family live consists of 14 one-room flats, and has around 42 other tenants. There is a pit latrine just outside the building, which serves all of the residents. Rose cleans the latrine every day, to earn some extra money.


A normal breakfast for Gaudensia and her sisters includes strong or ‘true’ tea (which is black tea brewed with water and sugar). The girls shared some ugali (boiled maize meal and water) on the morning that GOAL visited. We were treated to boiled sweet potatoes and a bean mixture, as well as ugali and strong tea.


Even though lessons do not begin until after 8am, Gaudensia and her sister Yunia leave the house at around 6.30am for the 30-minute walk to school. They both attend Kariobangi Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) Primary School. Since Yunia is in the later classes, she starts at around 7am. On their 30-minute walk to school, Gaudensia and Yunia must cross a major street, traverse dirt roads, follow small pathways, and pass isolated housing estates.


GOAL donated ten desks to the school at the end of 2013, and Gaudensia shares one of these new desks with another pupil.


Since last year, there are four latrines for the girls, two for the boys, and one for the teachers. There are tanks outside the toilets for the children to wash their hands. The water in the tanks is mostly rainwater, collected from the gutters. It is used for hand-washing, flushing the toilets, and even for drinking.


The school does not have a food programme, which are common at public schools in Kenya. Instead, a local church supplies food for the pupils three days a week. On the remaining days, food is cooked on school premises. Pupils must pay 50 shillings (€0.42) for lunch.

Some of them bring food from home, because they cannot afford the cost, while others go hungry because they have neither food nor money. On this day, the church brings lunch to the school – beef stew, cooked cabbage and ugali.

Gaudensia has a large chunk of ugali, three pieces of meat with sauce, and a good-sized scoop of cabbage. Some parents give their children money to buy an avocado or a banana to supplement the meal.



Although Gaudensia is quite a studious girl, often preferring study over play, one of her favourite games is ‘katii’, which translates as ‘throw-and-catch’. There are two playgrounds at the school, one in the centre and another at the front. The playgrounds are on bare ground, which turns into mud during the rains.


Gaudensia and her two friends, Marion and Michelle, finish school at 3.10pm. After the teachers assign homework, the students are free to go.


Her mother is usually out working when Gaudensia gets home. Her routine is to remove her heavy school shoes, put on flip flops, make some tea, wash the dishes and do her homework. She generally goes to bed between 8 and 9pm.

How does that compare to the life of an Irish girl of the same age? GOAL went to Wexford to find out…and found some simalarities – and stark differences.

GOAL - Irish child 1 Picasa Picasa

Susie O’Gorman is also nine years of age and lives in a house in the countryside just outside Wexford town, in the south-east of Ireland. Approximately 150,000 people live in County Wexford, across an area of just over 2,300 square kilometres. Korogocho slum is 1.5 square kilometres in size, an area less than quarter the size of Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

GOAL - Irish child 2 Picasa Picasa

Susie is the second eldest in her family. She has her own bedroom, as does her older sister, while her younger sister and brother share a room.

GOAL - Irish child 3 Picasa Picasa

A normal breakfast for Susie consists of broad bread and jam, readybrek with honey and raisins and a glass of fruit juice.

GOAL - Irish child 4

Lessons start at 9.20am for Susie. She is in third class, while her older sister is in fifth class. Susie will normally travel to school by car, or she will walk down the road a short distance to catch the bus to school. School is approximately two miles away.

GOAL - Irish child 5 Picasa Picasa

Susie also shares a desk with a classmate. There are 22 boys and girls in her class. Some of her subjects include English, Irish, Maths, History, Geography and music.

GOAL - Irish child 6 Picasa Picasa

In Susie’s school, the toilets are at the back of the classroom. There is one toilet for boys and another for girls. The sinks are positioned outside the cubicles.

GOAL - Irish child 7 Picasa Picasa

Susie’s brings her lunch into school every day. On this day, she had a brown bread sandwich with tuna and salad; a slice of cucumber, a mandarin and a small bar of chocolate.

GOAL - Irish child 8 Picasa Picasa

Susie enjoys basketball, athletics and gymnastics. There are two playgrounds in the school, one for the junior classes and another for the senior classes. Susie plays on the senior side and has access to a court and grass area.

GOAL - Irish child 9 Picasa Picasa

Susie and her friends (pictured here are from left to right: Susie, Eimear, Ava and Alana) finish school at 3pm.

GOAL - Irish child 10 Picasa Picasa

When Susie gets home, she has a snack before starting her homework at 4pm. After she has finished, she will go outside to play and later set the table for dinner and feed her cats. She normally goes to bed at 8.30pm.

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