Jumping Trains, a poem that recited at for the national school music festivals in the old day, used to be great fun. Though the poem rings happy memories of children taking the risk of getting unauthorised train rides, it was in essence talking of a stowaway.
This is a person who wants to travel on a train, plane, motor vehicle, without paying the due fare where applicable, without being detected and without making a fore declaration as is required of all other passengers.
In Kenya one often sees young men hanging onto the back of lorries away from the rear view of drivers. Though many stowaways seem to have fun, in reality it is a reckless and dangerous pursuit that can be fatal.
In July a stowaway fell off a Kenya Airways plane that was headed to Heathrow in a sad story that defies all logic. Rather than being considered in isolation, the stowaway should be used as an indication of the state of affairs for Kenyan youth. According to experts only one in four flight stowaway survive the journey, never mind that there may be many more than is documented as it is not possible to tell at what point a body will ‘fall from the sky’. It is only those bodies that get to airports or fall off the plane near airports that are documented as stowaways.
Given the complexity of the matter that usually involves civil aviation authorities, airlines, and governments across international boundaries, the incident involving our own national carrier makes us, as Kenyans, ask a number of questions.
Is it possible that there are adult Kenyans who remain completely undocumented? In an ideal situation, finger prints from the British police to the Kenyan authorities should not take four months to match to a name, parents, location all the way down to village, given that a National Identity card is not just mandatory, but the system goes to great lengths to ensure that this data is captured.
It is interesting that the Kenyan police are able to assign the artists impression – from the London police, to an incarcerated Kenyan. Any artistic impressions from such incidents all look the same, youthful, desperately cold, dark faces frozen in time. Does this mean that Kenya keeps better data and pictures on prisoners than on youth whose data is captured under the registration of persons?
What level of desperation or want would lead a young Kenyan to carrying out such a suicidal mission? More important, what other indicator is the government and society waiting for to wake up to the realization that the youth in this country are crying for help?
Every single thing in Kenya seems to generate a great debate, but not a lone young man who fell from the sky. He should not be looked at in isolation, but as a representation of many youth. How can a nation harness this daredevil energy to accrue better results?
Or are Kenyan youth so ignorant that they are not completely aware of the dangers associated with such misadventures, which ultimately end up in death or irreparable bodily harm and multiple health issues?
The one question that no government wants to be asked is how a total stranger accessed an airport without detection, up to and including getting on a plane? World travel is not the friendliest of things that one has to do. With dressing and undressing and multiple bodily and document checks all along the way. It therefore makes no sense that someone was able to get on the landing gear compartment of a KQ plane without detection, identification and still cannot be identified months later.
Given that no one can board a plane anywhere except at an airport, it begs the question of what is worse, a stowaway that can be identified or one that a country claims cannot be identified?
Many may ignore this issue, but it may be an indication of desperate times for many young people, coupled with access to information without proper guidance or the knowledge to put this information into perspective.
But most of all it remains a cry for help for the many youth living in poverty in this country. The wages mentioned for airport cleaning staff in the Sky News investigative series and the walk through Mukuru kwa Jenga seem like a death sentence even to the youth anyway.