The word Public space feels like open space where people can use it without any permission and paying money. Open areas, parks, beaches, hills, lakes, rivers etc. The definition of public spaces seems like from intellectual people or the meaning which we read somewhere, or listen, but what about the kids? How are they defining the public spaces? Where is the purpose of it to them? How do they see the public spaces in their city? To find this fact, Aarzoo foundation and Friends of City Park thought of going to different communities and talk with the kids to know what is the meaning of public places for them.
We did some workshops in Kibera, Kasarani, Deep Sea slum and Westlands with the kids aged 7-16yrs, to understand what the kids are thinking about the public space.
We choose Kibera a community school called the star of the land education centre, with around 30 kids 7-13yrs old, during the workshop, it was surprising for us that they were very brilliant to talk about the community, politic and debate of what are the problems in their areas
According to them “toilet is a public space, and it should be free and clean” it was the big surprise to know about it, in our mind didn’t think that toilet is a public space they talked about the streets, schools, the stadium, roads are open space. They share what kind of problems they are facing and what are the conditions right now and what changes they would like to see in their place. They are mostly worried about the security and cleaning the public space; they were too worried about the mugging and drug selling in the Kibera street. They expressed the condition of Kibera street everywhere the garbage and flooding sewage water. A kid mentioned in his drawing how the sewage water is overflowing and the dirty water is entering the houses. They talked and drew how drugs sold in the streets even the police are also buying the drugs; they also said how the roads are very insecure during the election period and violence. They drew how politicians are doing protesting and later shake hands after the skirmishes. It’s a heart touching talk with the kids.
At Kasarani we worked with around 17 kids 6-12 yrs old. The condition is a little bit good than Kibera. According to them, the public space is the field where they are going to play most of the time and parks. They talked mostly about the environment, dirty river and violence in their area. They drew about this all.
The third workshop was in Deep-Sea slum which is on ring road parklands, this time we choose 15 teenagers 12-16yrs old. The teenagers had different thoughts than younger kids. According to them playing pool, playing station, football grounds, swimming pools, parks is public spaces. They live near the city park, so most of them have visited there. They like to sit there watch butterflies moving from one to another plant, the trees and monkies. They would like to have a swimming pool, fish ponds, benches and swinging points, playing instruments, skating and riding in future in the City Park. One kid drew that she doesn’t want monkeys in the park. Some boys drew about the football grounds and Uhuru parks.
In our experience, the public place has a different meaning for different age and class of kids. For some kids, public space is their neighborhood where they spent most of their time. They would like to be facilitated to make life better and peaceful. Some who can go out they want more spaces in the city where they can spend their time with friends without interruption.
-By Tanvi Shah and Sulekha Ali