Elizabeth Njoroge with the Ghetto Classics class at Mukuru Kwa Reuben
One cannot choose where they will be born or even your parents. However, where you are born has a great impact on the options and opportunities that you have in life. When one is born in the say the disadvantaged parts of Nairobi, you quickly find out that you have very limited options on the table. In the slums, kids usually have an option of going to school, getting a job or engaging in crime. Sadly, many resort to crime due to the easy money and lack of role models. However, the Ghetto Classics program founded by Elizabeth Njoroge is trying to change this reality.
For those who may not know, Ghetto Classics is a music program that was started in the slums of Korogocho by Elizabeth Njoroge back in 2008. This was after Fr John Webootsa asked Elizabeth to teach music at the community center. This is the project which eventually became Ghetto Classics, it is basically a music education program that benefits the youth in the poor areas. The program uses music education to provide the youth with opportunities to better themselves and the community. They do this by instilling in them the life skills that come with the discipline of studying music. The program also enables the beneficiaries to earn a living by employing former students as teachers.
Last week, I had an opportunity to witness first hand the work that Ghetto Classics do in the disadvantaged areas. This was during a concert held in celebration of the first month anniversary at the Mukuru Kwa Reuben centre in the Mukuru slums. The kids had been practicing for only three times in a week during the school holidays but you couldn’t tell by hearing the play the various instruments. What I witnessed was amazing and gave credence to the fact that in Kenya we have talented kids, what lacks is opportunities to nurture this talent.
Learning and playing music instills discipline, confidence and team work for these kids, things they would not ordinarily have learnt given their environment. I managed to have a chat with one of the beneficiaries of Ghetto Classics at the Mukuru Kwa Reuben center, Susan Wanjiru a class seven pupil. Wanjiru who plays the trumpet, shared that ordinarily she would have just been at home doing house chores or have been sent upcountry if it wasn’t for Ghetto Classics. This enabled her parents to save on the money that they would have otherwise used to send her upcountry. The programme also helped keep her and her friends out of trouble by keeping them busy over the holidays. Apparently a pal of hers who refused to join the programme when it started is now pregnant. Wanjiru who has now fallen in love with music plans on taking her art to the next level and make a career out of music.
Miriam Wanjiru is another beneficiary of the Ghetto Classic program at the Mukuru Kwa Reuben Centre. Before she joined the program she was very shy but playing music has enabled her gain confidence. Also being on the program has kept her busy and away from harm. She shared that many kids in the area get caught up in crime and are either killed or jailed. According to her Ghetto Classics will go a long way in keeping kids off the streets. Miriam who plays the flute wants to become a Neuro-surgeon in the future.
What I can say is that Ghetto Classics is really changing the lives of kids in the impoverished areas of this country for the better. They do this by giving these kids the hope for a better future and using music to open other opportunities for them. Music also inspires them to be better and they even start doing better in school, become prefects and role models for their friends. In the past Ghetto Classics has even performed for the likes of President Uhuru Kenyatta and even Pope Francis. Once these kids enroll for the Ghetto Classics program, the sky is the limit.
All this would not have been possible without the support of the Safaricom Jazz Festival. This is because, all proceeds from the festival go towards funding the program. So far, the festival has donated over Ksh. 40 Million since 2014. So on Tuesday, 1st of May 2018 , come out have fun at the festival as you listen to good music at the Carnivore for a good cause.