Simiyu the night guard:why I started

Posted: September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Simiyu is a night guard at Ngumo estate. His shift begins at dusk, after a long day of hard labour in the city, digging up pits for the installation of fibre optic cables.

Simiyu is forced to split his energy between his job as a Security guard which pays him a meagre 8000 kenya shillings and supplementary side hustles that can help offset the overbearing burden of bills and expectations from his dependants. Simiyu is adamant on working during the night shift. He gets to his post on his bicycle,aching bones and muscles after a long day of hard labour at the day’s odd job.

Ending his side hustle late he doesn’t get to shower and freshen up, forced to stew in the scent of the day’s hard work, and boy does he stew. He changes into his uniform, a badge of servitude ready to work…but work turns into sleep. What is to be expected after a long day of duress? Sometimes he is forced to report to duty on an empty stomach, his hard work and sweat an offering at the altar of responsibility to his dependants and a sacrifice and denial of himself.

Simiyu shouldn’t be sleeping on the job, if he is discovered he is likely to be sacked. But that is not the worst that could happen, Simiyu could be killed on duty if on this day he is asleep, thugs happen to roll by; his work is dangerous yet he has little to guard himself with. Worst off, plagued by the frustration of poor working conditions and inadequate pay, Simiyu could easily exit into a world of crime.

The private security industry is among the largest source of employment both in Kenya and in Africa.According to the KNSPWU, the industry employs up to 300,000 security guards, in comparison to the police force which has 60,000 police countrywide. That makes 300,000 cases of Simiyu. According to the uni global movement, an international union of labour organisations, jobs in the security sector are “highly sought after”, with a company like Securex having weekly recruitment drives in which 500 people including University graduates show up.

Out of these 500 hopefuls, only 50 people make the cut. To put the story into greater perspective, the Security industry supports up to 1.2 million Kenyans from an income of 10,000 Kenya shillings ( Murunga, 2011), less than the minimum wage which stands at 10,912 Kenya shillings. What picture does such a statistic paint of the state of dignity for 1.2 million Kenyans?

Dignity is essential to human beings. It manifests itself in the ability to feed yourself and those that are dependent on you and in your capacity to protect yourself and your kin from the elements and external dangers. More importantly, it manifests itself as basic human contact, in being able to be acknowledged and respected as a member of the human fraternity, in a smile, eye contact, kindness and empathy.

What does dignity have to do with Simiyu’s struggles? Where is the dignity when Simiyu is paid 8000 shillings and is expected to feed himself and his family, put his children through school all while protecting us from the night’s possible dangers? Where is the dignity in our day to day treatment of security guards like Simiyu,whose struggles we fail to acknowledge; grumbling when we have to be frisked or vetted, while these individuals are only fulfilling their mandates?

After obsessing on the plight of Security guards for a few months ( in addition to many other hair brained schemes, as I tend to think about too many projects all at once), I came up with an idea that has the potential to help Security guards, around Nairobi and eventually the whole of Kenya.

This idea was inspired by a spat in house hunting. The reality of basic house hunting for most young Nairobians is the exhausting leg work characterized by walks through potential neighbourhoods, knocks on gates and enquiries posed to Security guards at the gates of estates.” Hapa kunaeza kuwa na vacancy?”(Is there a vacancy here?)The alternative route wouldn’t be all that different, a process commandeered by housing agents who get a commission off houses that successfully secure a tenant. The information that provides these agents a killing is often times provided by security guards at the gate, who get nothing out of this information.

“Why can’t Security guards earn some extra money out of the information they provide? They are well informed, stationed on the ground and more importantly in actual need of an extra revenue stream.” The solution? The creation of a platform with real time information fielded by security guards on the ground about vacancies within their post. This solution is multi pronged; providing an unconventional alternative revenue stream for Security guards who would get a commission and finder’s fee of successful matches; an up to date database of real estate vacancies around the country; and savings on time and energy for real estate companies and potential landlords.

Over and above these practical solutions, at the core of this initiative is the hope to inspire unconventional solutions, and to stimulate creative means of adding additional income to blue collar job workers.

One hopes that a person who becomes a security guard need not be one for the rest of his life, to innovate the capacity to chart a brighter future for themselves and their kin. All honest work is dignified, and need not be looked down upon, and all honest hard work needs to be honoured with honest and dignified pay.

To make this idea a success I need your help,in raising awareness on the existence of the platform and by posting your request for housing on the website or any other side hustle you might have.

Go ahead and post a side hustle for Simiyu at


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