Disappointed Parents Suffering In The Village As ‘Educated’ Children Fail To Get Jobs in The City

The incessant pressure to provide for aging parents back in the village is slowly taking a toll on a number of Kenya’s unemployed graduates.
James Oloo graduated with a degree in Supply Chain Management in one of the local universities back in 2021 – but has been unable to get a job.

He says he has had two internship stints – each paying nothing more than Ksh20,000 a month. Oloo lives in a single room in Nairobi’s Pipeline area – where he pays Ksh5,000 rent monthly.

Apart from having to toil and moil to provide for himself in Nairobi – he has to scratch his head almost all the time to find money to support his aging parents back in the village.

“There are days when you receive a call that your dad is very sick, and needs medicine. Sometimes they just need food,” says Oloo whose father is aged over 90 years old. His mother is 65 years old.

“Sometimes the calls come when you are on your last Ksh. 100. It’s tough because you also need to survive in Nairobi,” he says.

On his part, Dick Ochola graduated with a media degree – specializing in production. He graduated over three years ago – but is yet to land a job. He too says that all he has been doing is interning, some paying meagre salaries.

Just last month, his father, a head teacher at a village in Western Kenya, sent him Ksh. 8,000 to pay his rent in Nairobi.

“I moved into my own house last year in June, as I had this paying internship job. Unfortunately, my contract expired in January 2024, and was not extended,” says Ochola.

As much as he would want to settle, and support his parents, he cannot because he has no job.

According to Oloo, his parents sold every piece of land to educate him, yet he is unable to support them in their old age — or even buy a piece of land to farm, and later build his home.

“There have been reports of young people abandoning their parents in the village, but the truth is that life in the city is not easy, and most young people don’t have jobs, and if they do, the pay is often too small,” says Oloo.

In Kenya, especially in the Western parts of the country, it is uncommon to find children sending their old folk to live their final days in care homes.

“This would be misconstrued to mean that the children have failed to take care of their old folk, and would become a laughing stock, and headline news in the villages,” says Oloo.

This is why you find old people spending their last days in their village homes, looking sad, and hundreds of kilometers away from their children and grandchildren.

Eliud Musyoka from Nairobi blames it all on the nature of modern life and the high cost of living in the cities.

“My current economic state in Nairobi cannot allow me to support my aging parents as much as I would want. There is no money,” says Musyoka who resorted to selling Mandazi after failing to land a job one year after graduating from the university.

He – agrees – that most parents invested in their children’s education as an insurance for their own life.

“That’s a mistake a parent should not do today, educating a child so they can support them in the future.

“I would rather parents today educate their children, but while at it, save money for themselves, for their old age. Your child should just only help if there is need,” says Musyoka.

Many say that households with more than a handful siblings often find it easy to take care of their aging parents because – responsibilities are shared among the children.

“I foresee a very difficult time for the future parents, modern parents who today only get one or two children,” says Musyoka – with a smile.

Some children have often accused their parents of ‘blackmailing’ them – always making unrealistic demands just because they took you to school.

That some parents are too demanding, and often demand things because they feel they deserve, others threaten children with a curse.

Age dependency ratio (% of working-age population) in Kenya was reported at 68.59 % in 2022, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.

In 2008, Kenya introduced the Social Protection programme seeking to support the neediest senior citizens to improve the life expectancy of older people – a programme run through the State Department of Social Protection.

Some of the old people holed up in the villages say all they need, sometimes, is a visit, a call from their children to show that they care about them.

That some children only come to visit during Christmas. Some say they don’t even know their grandchildren, and daughter-in-law.