It’s 10pm at one of the estates in Kisauni, Mombasa county, some time last month. A young girl of about seven years stands outside a house with a smartphone, watching a clip of a woman dancing.
She leans on the wall and relishes the dance. She is joined by another girl, who appears to be of the same age.
“UKIMALIZA UTANIPEA NA MIMI? (WHEN YOU FINISH WATCHING, WILL YOU ALSO GIVE ME)?” THE NEW GIRL REQUESTS.
A closer look shows the two are enjoying Azziad Nasenya’s now famous ‘Utawezana Challenge’ dance.
Nasenya’s hip-swaying dance to a raunchy song, ‘Utawezana’, took the Internet by storm and instantly became a sensation. She dances while dressed in a short-covering a quarter of her legs and a sleeveless top exposing her stomach.
At their tender age, the children are expected to be with their parents, but they are out here, watching ‘sexy’ video.
It is that time of the night when TVs are showing post-watershed programs meant for adults. But for these two, being outside their home means they can access and watch any content without the knowledge of their parents.
One wonders what they will watch next if they can watch this erotic clip now.
They can, however, just enjoy the dance and not the music in it because louder music is playing inside the house nearby.
Inside the house, high school students chat and laugh aloud as others turn the sitting room into a dance floor. There is no mask-wearing or social distancing, as required during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is as though they think they are immune.
As Tanzanian songs laced with love lyrics fill the air, a 42-inch television shows a video of a black American soul song.
Some boys chat at the doorstep, holding beer bottles concealed with newspapers. The youth call the beer ‘mzinga’.
While the house is well lit, the outside has a dim light. It’s a birthday party. But it is not easy to identify whose birthday it is as everyone is more concerned with music and group chats.
This estate has seven blocks and more than 300 units, and all youths have gathered here tonight.
Despite the coronavirus regulations banning gatherings, parties have been going on at this particular estate, a resident says.
“THE OWNER OF THE HOUSE LOVES PARTIES, SO MANY STUDENTS MEET THERE,” THE RESIDENT SAID.
“THEY EAT, DRINK AND DANCE TO MUSIC INSIDE AS OTHERS GATHER IN CROWDS OUTSIDE. NORMALLY IT’S HARD TO SLEEP WHEN THEY HOLD THE PARTIES BECAUSE WE HAVE NOISE ALL OVER.”
One could easily blame the Coast’s warm weather for the dress code of the night, but the interactions suggest a different reason.
A girl dressed in dera, a popular coast dress that gives women bodily freedom to shake, disappears into a corridor with a tall boy.
“YOU SEE THAT GIRL,” MY HOST SAID, POINTING AT A QUIET AND SEEMINGLY RESERVED ONE NEXT TO FIVE OTHER GIRLS. “SHE WAS BEATEN BY HER FATHER LAST WEEK AFTER HE DISCOVERED SHE HAD BEEN SNEAKING OUT TO HER BOYFRIEND’S PLACE AT NIGHT.”
It turns out the girl in question was in Form 2 and a pastor’s daughter. She would sneak out of her bedroom at night, through the window, and into her boyfriend’s room in a different block, then sneak back home later.
She would arrange the blanket and clothes on the bed in such a way that she seemed to be sleeping while in fact, she was away.
Her father once suspected her escapades. When he asked her, she claimed she had been at a late-night party and asked for forgiveness.
But she continued sneaking out until her father caught her one day while sneaking back.
“HE BEAT HER SO BADLY, WE ALL WOKE UP. SHE SURPRISED EVERYBODY WHEN SHE SHOUTED AT HIM THAT ALL ALONG, SHE BEEN GOING TO SPEND THE NIGHT WITH HER BOYFRIEND,” MY HOST SAID.
“She shouted, ‘He is my boyfriend and there is nothing you can do about it. I love him’.”
And here she was, like nothing had happened. The music went on for about one and a half hours, then a group of boys moved to the carpark.
Listening in to their conversation reveals how another boy in the estate was beaten up by the group for eyeing the girlfriend of one of them.
Some of the boys have curled their hair. Others have adopted complex hairstyles, while others simply have shaggy, unkempt hair.
They all have smartphones. And although they are high school students, they hang out at the spot every day.
With schools closed, many students have been having a lot of free time, and studying has not been one of the ways chosen to fill it.
Kisauni sub-county police commandant Julius Kiragu said parents should take responsibility for whatever children engage in inside the estates.
“YOU SEE, POLICE CANNOT BE EVERYWHERE. EVERYBODY SHOULD TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. WHERE ARE THE PARENTS WHEN THE CHILDREN ARE HAVING PARTIES?” HE ASKED.