Youths in Kenya are embracing unpopular but high paying sporting and art activities in a bid to create employment while tackling social economic challenges in the country
One such young person is Mike Wamaya, a dance instructor who works for Annos Africa, a UK-based charity that offers alternative arts education to vulnerable children in Kenya.
Mr Wamaya primarily works with children in Nairobi slums, teaching at Valley View School in Mathare and Spurgeon’ Child Care Kenya Academy and KAG School, both in Kibera.
Speaking to CNN insider Africa, Wamaya explained that apart from fitness, the programme seeks to give hope to schoolchildren to see the benefits of dance and performance in an area where many struggle to make ends meet.
“There are lots and lots of young people my age who’ve given their entire lives in teaching and they never get recognize. To me, I feel enriched with this program because I see a complete different society in the next 10, 15 years because these are the people who are going to invest in Kibera. These are the people who are going to make a difference.”
He added that during his childhood, one was to either play football or end up in crime. One had to struggle to get decent education and retire back to slum. No job, no role models, no hope
Wamaya followed his passion for dance and performance, but choosing such an unconventional path wasn’t without its challenges.
“I didn’t get the chance to go to high school. I wanted to be in the creative industry so I used to do a bit of dancing and a bit of singing. However, art was seen as unsustainable and a waste of time ‘’
Through auditioning for the Kenya Performing Arts Group, Wamaya was offered a full scholarship to study dance – which eventually led him to him being approached by two organisations that were looking for tutors for a new arts programme.
Now nine years on, Wamaya is a fulltime dance teacher for the charities Anno’s Africa and One Fine Day, with almost 400 students having passed through his programme.
Mike has managed to inspire several youths Nairobi slums, who are now afforded the opportunity to refine their talents at the studios of former professional ballerina, Cooper Rust, and perform around the world.
One of these dancers is 16-year-old Joel Kioko, who has been offered a full-time scholarship at the English National Ballet School in London as a result of his training at Rust’s studio.
Reflecting on how his work has helped influence the lives of schoolchildren in Nairobi, Wamaya is happy that his gamble to venture into unpopular art and sports activity is finally paying off.
He was the only teacher in Africa to be shortlisted and reach top 10 of this years Global Teacher Prize held in Dubai
The full feature of Wamaya’s art journey and its social economic implications to slum children in Nairobi will air in today’s Inside Africa programme on CNN International starting 1930 EAT