The announcement by 17-year-old musician Trio Mio that he will be performing at ODM leader Raila Odinga’s event at Kasarani on Friday, December 10, has drawn mixed reactions.
Trio, whose real name is Mario Kasela, said in a video-taped announcement posted on Odinga’s Facebook and Twitter pages on Tuesday that he will be one of the key acts to entertain delegates at the political function.
Trio, a Form Three student, is expected to perform in front of a fifty-thousand gathering.
Debate mounted online as to whether Trio’s involvement in political messaging was appropriate, given the teenager is still a minor, and in school.
The musician’s mother, Irma Sakwa, told The Standard in an exclusive interview that Odinga’s handlers approached her, seeking to have Trio perform at the former prime minister’s event.
“My son’s music appeals to the young generation. Raila Odinga’s representatives told me that they’d like to leverage on his influence to reach out to the youthful voters,” Sakwa, who manages the rapper, said.
“I agreed to allow my son to entertain guests at the function,” she added, saying that Trio’s appeal group lies in the 18 to 24 age bracket.
The teenager’s mum says online users are reading too much into the boy’s announcement on Tuesday.
“In the video [posted on Odinga’s pages], Trio was only promoting the [Azimio la Umoja] event; he did not ask anyone to vote for a certain presidential candidate. The boy only asked his fans to grace the event so as to see him perform, and that’s what artists do when they’ve been called for concerts,” she said.
In the comments section, Raila Odinga was faulted for using an underage person to “promote his politics”.
Wanjiku Mukuru posed on Facebook: “[Raila Odinga], have you started using school-going children to campaign for you?”
Mukuru’s sentiments were echoed by hundreds of other online users, who questioned whether the musician was still pursuing his education actively, given the academic calendar is active.
“My son is currently homeschooling. I withdrew him from the high school in Machakos when it became difficult for him to balance education and talent. The people who teach him at home offer flexible timetables, which allow him to pursue music, even as he studies,” said the artiste’s mother.
Child development specialists, however, say talent tends to subject minors to undue pressure when it is not properly managed amid education demands.
Stella Mbugua, a child development expert, told The Standard that even as talent is being managed, directing children to politics shouldn’t be allowed.
“The teenage brain does not fully mature until one is 24 or 25 years old. A teenager’s component of the brain responsible for executive function (thinking before acting, like adults would) are still tender and sensitive to adversity,” she said, observing that children shouldn’t be exposed to politics, given its emotive nature.
“Teenagers have a tendency to act quickly before they can think through. Some term it ‘the raging hormones’ or ‘times of stress and storm’,” Mbugua said.
The specialist, however, says that it’s possible for Trio to manage education and music so long as a proper framework is put in place.
“His parents or guardian have a responsibility to ensure that he is protected from possible stress-triggering situations that his young career could expose him to. Remember, the music industry in Kenya, just like in other parts of the world, is highly competitive. There are cases where young talents were pushed into drug abuse, depression or suicide. Before it gets to that, a proper framework should be put in place.”
Sociologist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Dr Karamu Kiemo, is in agreement with Stella Mbugua – that politics, for now, should be a no-go-zone for Trio.
“The political space is not structured. Chaos often erupts, threats are issued and vulgar language sometimes dominates the space. That is not a safe area for a mind that is still growing,” he said.
Kiemo said, even as Trio is being homeschooled, his guardian should ensure that the environment provided to him allows the teenager to interact with his peers.
“The structure is needed, one that allows him to transit through the stages of growth; childhood, puberty, youth, middle-age and the elderly stage,” said the sociologist.
On child labour, the Kenyan law says children must be protected from exploitation, including economic in nature.
Section 56 of the Employment Act makes it illegal to employ children under the age of 13. Children between the ages of 13 to 16 can be employed in “light work” while those between the 16 and 18 age bracket, where Trio Mio falls under, are considered employable.
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