Moving To Kenya Could Give Your Kids A Better Life

Moving To Kenya Could Give Your Kids A Better Life


“Why do you raise your children in Africa? “

Usually uttered in a slightly bewildered tone, this is a question never ceases to amaze me. Its inference, of course, is “Why Africa, when you have the whole world to choose from”. It’s a question I’m asked all my time, often by someone who has never touched down on African soil.

I’m indignant. “Why wouldn’t I?” My reasons for living here are manifold. My children were born here, these days I feel more African than English. At first, I’m stumped; it’s hard to understand why someone would ask such a question. It takes a few moments to remind myself that the western world has been raised on a diet of Band-Aid clips and stories of corruption and machine-gun touting kids.

Not for the first time I wish that people could look beyond their misconceptions and global stereotypes and see Africa for what it is.

Why live in Kenya?

So why do I live in Africa? Kenya to be exact, although we also spent 6 years in South Africa. It would be too easy to respond with a flippant answer of endless sunny days, turquoise sea, the greatest gathering of wildlife in the world, upscale shopping malls, and Michelin quality food. I mull over my response and when I settle upon an answer I realize that my reason for living here is the same reason that people find it so daunting. 

Because it’s a developing country.  

Kenya is still relatively free of the demands and high technology way of living of the west.  For our children, less technology means less exposure to social media.  Less exposure to fashion and celebrity. Less exposure to the latest toys and must-have items. Therefore less peer pressure.   Less angst because our kids don’t meet social standards of beauty or cool.

Without social media, our kids aren’t struggling to marry their image of themselves with the impossibly gorgeous images of plastic celebrities. Their benchmarks are their school friends. All as brown as berries and wearing clothes festooned with holes in from tag or biking accidents.

How Kenya can offer your child a better childhood

Kenya is the land of your childhood.  After school, our children swim in pools, climb trees and play British Bulldog. They play sports for fun, not to be in a squad, to be cool, to be chosen.

On the weekends and on holidays our kids make fires with Maasai warriors. They learn to string a bow and arrow and the difference between a cheetah print and a lion. They learn to track prey. They learn how to put up a tent and how to sail a boat.

They live a life that isn’t guided by rules and feels limitless. There are no warning signs or safety precautions. The boats they sail are in lakes full of hippos. To survive they learn about the hippos and how to stay away from them. Their campsites aren’t in uniformly boring squares of grass with hot water showers 100 metres away. They camp in the wild. With predators around, and they learn to stay stock still when an elephant walks through a camp, to be as quiet a mouse when a lion roars nearby and the value of fire as a means of protection.

There are no playgrounds here. No parks for them to run around in. The world is their playground. If they want to climb they climb the trees in the forest and watch out for monkeys throwing avocados at their heads. If they want to swing they string ropes from trees and sail through the air. If they want to swim they jump in icy cool streams, making sure there are no crocodiles around first.

When they get older there aren’t many pubs around. If they did manage to get into one then they’d bump into their parents or their parent’s friends. There are no nightclubs except in the centre of town and so those are out of reach.

Conversely, they learn to drive cars young. Sailing their parents beat up 4x4s over dried-up lakebeds and dusty savannah. And they learn to ride. Horses and bikes. And they learn that you often fall off those things, so they learn to get back up and dust themselves down without making a deal of it.

They learn about real life, and what they learn comes from the soul and the salt and the blood-red earth of Kenya. It doesn’t come from their phones and screens, a false image of how life is supposed to be.

Keeping childhood golden

In truth when I think about returning home I feel afraid. Both for myself and my children.

I remember how unhappy I was in my old life. As a marketing manager for a company in central London, my life revolved around what I would wear, what I looked like, where would go at night, was I cool? The weekends were for shopping.  THERE IS JUST SO MUCH CONSUMERISM. So much ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’, I’m exhausted just contemplating it. I don’t want my children to grow up in a cycle of self-criticism and unrealistic standards of beauty and achievement. I want them to be happy.  To appreciate wide-open spaces.  To care about climate change and animal conservation rather than having their ears pierced and copying the Kardashians.  

Iwant them to have the childhood I had.  The one all of us had who were born before the 90’s.   Where we were allowed to be kids.  A dream of childhood. One so faded and fragile that moving to a developing country is perhaps the only way to keep that dream alive.   This generation may be the last to grow up unencumbered by technology and the pervasive need to fit in.  And so I choose to stay here, in my beloved Africa, not because of the smiles and the sun, the frangipani and the jacaranda, but because here, in Africa, a child can grow up a truly free.

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