Are you a mom who frequently travels by matatu alone with your children? Here’s how to ride a matatu like a boss.
Moms who travel in matatus alone seldom get the respect they deserve. Especially in Kenya and Nairobi to be precise, mothers face a hard time boarding matatus. They have been cases where mothers have lost their luggage or even children while being harassed by matatu conductors and touts before or while looking for the right matatu to take home.
For mothers with more than one child, the risks are even worse. Either the matatu conductor seeks to take advantage of them by hiking fares or not giving our balance. Or the passengers themselves make it hard for mothers to travel safely and in comfort.
Granted, you can’t expect comfort while using matatus as a means of transport. What with the constant hassling, pushing and shoving that is involved as well as chances of getting robbed? What about the conductor asking you to approach the door while the matatu is being driven over 80 KM/HR?
The tiny spaces inside matatus that are crammed with seats for maximum profits in itself is a safety hazard and security risk for nursing moms. However, there are things you can do to ensure you and your children are safe.
This article will share how to ride a matatu like a boss.
How to ride a matatu like a boss
As a mom, traveling by matatu requires proper planning and remaining extra vigilant inside the matatu itself. Not only will you be taking care of your children, you will also ensure you alight at the right bus stop. Know where you are supposed to pick your matatu and where to alight. Proper planning calls for doing the right things such as knowing what you need to do while inside a matatu.
This is not a guarantee that using matatus as a means of transport won’t come with disappointment. But the tips will enable you to ensure the safety of your children and yourself.
Tip #1. Leave home early
When you leave home early, you will avoid getting into a matatu that is already full. We all know the risks that comes with boarding a matatu that is full. Apart from breaking the law, it is safety risk for your child and children. On the other hand, you risk becoming a victim of theft. You also risk losing touch with your other children.
Avoid travelling late in order to avoid the traffic jam as well as the darkness.
The other thing that you should avoid is picking a matatu where there is no bus stage. The fact that you can pick a matatu at any point doesn’t mean you should throw caution into the wind. Especially if the bus stop is a walking distance where you can easily walk. Avoid boarding the matatu midway because chances of getting into a full matatu are high.
Getting into a full matatu will mean you don’t have full control over your luggage and children. You may end up standing and lose touch with your older children. Chances of getting robbed of your valuables is also extra high.
Picking a matatu at the right stage will enable you to get on board while the matatu is stationary. Let your older children get into the matatu before you follow them. If you get on board before they do, chances of them being left behind by the matatu are high. Always inform the conductor and driver that your are accompanied by children and need special treatment.
Tip #2. Carry only what you need
In this day and age, the tendency to carry extra baggage is real. Much as you may want to carry stuff, such as, your phone and purse in your hand, doing so is wrong. Carrying stuff in your hands may prevent from getting a firm grip on the matatu’s seat as your get on board.
Have a check list of what is vital for your children and stick to that. Ensure you have a carry-on bag that has enough compartments and pockets to enable you carry what your baby needs. Have the things you need to easily access within easy reach and ensure the side pockets have zips that are working.
A typical lit of what to carry may includes:-
- an extra set of clothes
- wet wipes
- water, milk and food
- Vaseline Jelly Baby
Tip #3. Carry loose change
Matatu conductors are notorious when it comes to charging fare and not returning the correct balance. Sometimes, they insist you haven’t paid fare and embarrass you into paying again! This being so, you need to have loose money with you. An assortments of 100, 50, 20 and 10 denominations will go along way in ensuring you travel with a peace of mind.
Handing the conductor 1,000 shillings when bus fare is 40 bob, will give them an excuse to overcharge you. Or, they may decide to claim you haven’t paid them. You don’t need this kind of frustration. Have the money where it is easily accessible without you digging and fishing into your bag for coins.
Tip #4. Pay additional fare for an older child
Most moms usually prefer not to pay bus fare for an older child thinking they are saving money. This compels the older child to remain standing throughout the journey. Since your full attention will be on your baby, it may be difficult to closely monitor your older child.
If you’re lucky, a stranger may offer help by having the child sit on their laps or stand between their legs. This may expose your child to sexual abuse as a result of inappropriate touching. Furthermore, it will become difficult when it is time to alight and you have to look for your child, especially when there is a crowd standing in the middle aisle of the moving matatu.
Not paying for an older child may save you a few coins. However, having your child stray, sit or stand between the legs of a stranger, is a security threat. Someone may alight with your child without your knowledge or you may find it difficult to locate.
Paying bus fare for an older will ensure you are in full control of your child’s environment. What’s more, they will also help carry extra baggage as well as help with changing diapers or handing the stuff you need such as bottles, e.t.c. By doing so, you will also end up teaching them how to be responsible over their siblings.
The extra seat where your older child is sitting will also come in handy when you need to change diapers or breastfeed your baby. Not only will it be convenient, you will be more comfortable without having to inconvenience other passengers. If you are travelling with just your baby alone, you can still pay for the extra seat and use it to hold the bag carrying your baby’s stuff. You can also use the extra seat to change diapers or other activities aimed at making your baby comfortable.
Tip #5. Avoid unnecessary distractions and ask for help
Using matatus as a means of transport isn’t for the fainthearted. For a mom with children, the risks are even higher. This being so, unnecessary distractions needs to be avoided.
Avoid carrying or using your phone. You don’t need to keep checking your smartphone for emails or notifications from your Chamaa Whatsapp group. The same applies to asking for directions about where to alight from over the phone.
You can avoid this by asking for directions in advance and writing them down on a piece of paper. You may make a call that may alert a criminal to get off the matatu with you and rob you later on.
Matatus are known for being in constant motion which isn’t safe for moms and children. While getting on board, let the driver and conductor know you have children and need the matatu to completely come to a standstill. The same applies to when you are getting off the matatu.
Most moms traveling with children alone seldom ask for help or assistance. People you can ask for assistance and help include the matatu conductor, driver and even other passengers. You will be surprised at how helpful people can be when you request for help.
It all starts and stops with proper planning. Proper planning calls for doing the right things such as knowing what you need to carry and do while inside a matatu. Ask for help and assistance and make sure you don’t use the fact that you have a baby to gain unfair advantage over other passengers.
Do not get into a full matatu on purpose and expect to be given preferential treatment. Avoid using Nissan matatus because they don’t enough space for nursing moms. Instead, use buses that aren’t driven recklessly and don’t have obscene graffiti or play loud music.
Carry loose money and pay for an extra seat even if you don’t have an older child with you. By following these tips and doing much more, you will have mastered how to ride a matatu like a boss.
Feel free to share extra tips of how to ride a matatu like a boss in the comment section. You can also send an email or just say hi, I look forward to hearing from you.
James Ouma is a CTI Clarity Coach, Cyclist and Writer. He is passionate about positive masculinity and helping incarcerated male teens to reconcile with their families and their communities. He loves staring at his bicycle, flipping through movies without watching them, and playing ‘tap out’ with his wife.