While doing my community service at the district hospital in my home area, I was assigned to help take care of mentally disabled patients. It was not an easy task. Helping the nurses, washing the clothes for the patients and trying to help them receive our care, this was an eye opening experience. I was surprised when I was told that these patients were severe drug abusers – though that explained their hallucinations that would get them shouting: “Get the car.” “Yes I’m coming!” “Don’t stop!” “I’m so tired.” “I need my money now or else I take off your head!” Other times they would be so silent that the air felt thick with their presence.

Most of the patients were 10-18 years old. Because I was a girl, I worked in the girl’s ward. To see these girls that were around my age struggle with drugs made me feel so bad. One of the patients was a former schoolmate of mine. “Do you remember the time we were sent home from school because we had not duly paid our school fees?” Sherly asked me.

Writer Lilian Akoth saw her peers turn to drug selling and using after they couldn't afford the $920 school tuition.
Writer Lilian Akoth saw her peers turn to drug selling and using after they couldn’t afford the $920 school tuition.

At the time, she was 14 – a year older than I was though we were both in the same grade. She lived with her mother and seven siblings in a small house near mine. Her mother worked as house help and couldn’t afford the $920. Sherly was not in school the following day or any day after that. The next time I saw her was in the hospital where she ended up after becoming a drug trafficker. She was the oldest and the only one in school, so she had to fend for herself and the family of nine by selling – and eventually consuming drugs. The person who brought her into hospital found her lying on the side of the road. The continuous use of cocaine had gotten her upper hand.

Like Sherly, other girls in the hospital ended up there because of the lack of school. Due to low wages subsistence workers in Kenya receive, most girls cannot continue with their education due to inadequate salary of their parents.

Some communities in Kenya, Cushites and Nilotes and those in Northern Kenya, are ignorant of educating their girls. (Kenya is grouped into three groups: Nilotes, Cushites, and Bantus. Each composed of different languages. Bantus are the largest followed by Nilotes, and finally the Cushites.) They see it as a waste of time since they know that the girls will soon leave when they get married off. Not to the men of their age but to old men. This make them get so worried thus ending up engaging themselves in such behaviors of being drug dealers. It’s a poverty epidemic that is destroying girls in my country.

Recently, when I went back to the hospital, I found out that Sherly had won a full scholarship to university thanks to the person the person who brought her to the hospital. Sherly now helps others who have been in her situation. “I have advised some girls on the effect of drugs since I’m a witness. I’m seeing lots of change which I’m so proud of,” says Sherly.