In Nairobi’s slums, many young children live in desperate conditions, walking a fragile path to an uncertain future. With an estimated 70% of families headed by unskilled single mothers working in menial jobs in the formal or more often, informal sector to support their families, children must be left in some kind of care while they are out at work. With no free state daycares available, mothers must either leave their children with neighbors, in unregulated and often neglectful informal daycare providers, or lock them up alone at home or with a sibling – usually a girl – pulled out of school to look after them. None of these situations are ideal or stable.
Many of the informal daycares are headed by single women entrepreneurs, who would like to run better and more profitable businesses than they currently are. However, while local demand and willingness to pay for this service exists, the numbers are too small to represent an attractive investment proposition to the private sector, or a viable loan opportunity for a bank. With limited business know-how and even scarcer financial resources, owners have few means to provide anything other than basic supervisory care. Meanwhile, although the Kenyan Government is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that low investment in early childhood education is resulting in children performing poorly in their later school years, they are perhaps constrained in acting by fear of the huge financial bill they would be assuming to overhaul and upgrade the informal slum system.