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Riddle of pub-turned-hostel

Wednesday March 3 2010


Strange happenings are going on at a ‘government hostel’ in Nyeri town. For close to three years now, a group of athletes have been living and training at the Central Province Sports Hostel, which has no basic facilities such as water and electricity.

Strangely, the ‘hostel’ doesn’t have a caretaker to monitor its activities and the athletes have no coach to co-ordinate their training.

The hostel was previously a pub.

But for the love of sports, a group of 20 youths have been staying at the facility, which is situated a few yards from the Ruring’u Stadium, training everyday as they seek to improve on their skills.

There are currently five girls living in the hostel, two of whom have been residents for over a year. One hails from Nakuru while the rest are from around Nyeri Town.

The oldest resident of the facility is Philemon Getea, the 2006 Standard Chartered Nairobi International Half Marathon winner.


Raised red flag

The local Athletics Kenya branch raised the red flag over the strange goings-on at the facility about a fortnight ago, although they said they could not act since the facility wasn’t under their management.

While touring the hostel recently, Nyeri AK secretary Mutahi Kahiga urged the Central provincial sports officer to move swiftly and investigate the matter.

“They [hostel managers] may have done it as a positive gesture to assist our runners, but this is not the right way to do it. They [athletes] live in pathetic conditions with no basic amenities,” Mutahi lamented.

“The presence of girls in the hostel warrants special attention from the Sports department, which should have provided them with a matron or remove them [from there] altogether as they are living with men.”

The provincial sports department gets a monthly allowance of about Sh4,000 to provide for at least three coaches for various sports disciplines.

Common objective

Upcoming 400m runner Esther Wangari, who hails from Tetu, joined the group in 2009 and she is preparing for this season’s track and field meetings.

“We all have a common objective, which is to train and become professional runners. But no one notices us,” said Wangare.

Budding half marathon runner Nicholas Mwangi is about to give up as conditions worsen at the hostel.

The facility used to operate as a social centre with a lucrative pub business just a few years ago. With dry taps, the athletes fetch water from the nearby Ruring’u Police Post.

Speaking to the Nation in his office, the Central Provincial Sports Officer, James Theuri, said he was aware some athletes and several other people were staying at the hostel but had no idea how many they were.

Evict the youths

He was, however, quick to defend himself, saying he was new in the area and needed time to investigate the matter. In the meantime, Theuri said, plans were afoot to evict the youths from the facility to pave the way for its rehabilitation.

“As a matter of fact, we have even notified them to move out by next week to give us room to renovate the facility,” said Theuri.

The Nyeri municipal social affairs officer, Edith Wairimu, who is slso in charge of sports in the municipality, called on all stakeholders to join hands and find an amicable solution to the matter.