Michael Otieno, 20, completed his secondary education in 2019. He has found a way of keeping busy while earning an income from skating. Residing in Lang’ata, Nairobi, Michael has big dreams to use his skills to impact even more youths within the coming years to be independent individuals in society.

How did skating come about?

Skating came as a way of passing time while in primary school. Having a lot of time to spare at that age my neighbours introduced me to it and though I didn’t take it seriously then it still became part of me. I fully immersed myself into it in form two now earning.

Where do you usually teach?

I started at the skate park in Aga Khan walk where it became more of networking since I got different clients from there. Some wanted immediate lessons, others wanted private ones while some connected me to schools and people wanting to learn. At the moment am teaching two schools: Pinnacle in Rongai and Brair Rose in Langata. I still go to the skatepark every Sunday for the lessons.

How do you charge for your lessons?

The charges vary from different individuals. When we go to Skate Park we normally charge Sh300 per hour. Private lessons would tend to be a bit costly but we agree with the client. Charging for the lessons will also depend on whether the client has their skating gadgets or not.

 What do you do apart from being an instructor?

I am still a student at Panesar Training Institute doing Woodwork and Carpentry. This is a passion I’ve always had coming up with different carpentry designs and trying them out at home. At the moment am about to go for an internship after which I’ll still go back to continue with my studies. Apart from that I also do sell shoes in my spare time.

 How do you juggle through studies and your skating work?

Most times it’s easy since my classes are just three hours twice a week. For the remaining hours after my classes, I can schedule to do skating with one client a day and still fix a time for the same at the two schools I teach. And I sell my shoes in any given free time.

What impact has this had on your life?

For the better part, it has kept me from being idle, and living in this informal settlement is not easy for a young person to reach just the age of twenty. Most young people are vulnerable and most likely get involved in many social evils around our community and it ends up messing up their lives. So skating did save me and it’s a sport that enables you to have a calm and quiet way of getting your thoughts clear apart from just being a fun recreational activity and earning from it.

What are some of the challenges of your work?

First, it’s the injuries gotten from the training. They can be severe since the protective gear doesn’t cover every part. Another challenge would still be on time, the clients’ schedule sometimes coincides with my schedule. Also, the location for the lessons becomes a challenge especially in areas where we have to practise on an open road. We had a secure skating area but it was demolished and we were left to find an alternative in that place. There’s also that issue of not everyone being able to afford. So as a teacher trying to get everyone at least to participate in the sport needs adjustments the pricing where necessary.

What’s your view on self employment?

Am not in any way against employment but  I’d say I love the concept of being self-employed being your boss and getting to understand in-depth what a good business entails. My employment view would be that in some way it does limit the mindset of a person because if someone had a white-collar job or is employed and something happens and they get fired most of them will sit and wait for that same job instead of doing something productive with their skills. So as much as being employed is not bad I will still prefer to have my own business.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?

I believe nothing is impossible so in the next 3 years, the 5 years are way too much, I do see myself having established my skating school fully equipped with the necessary equipment. I also want to do more furniture work maybe a shop too, God willing since I do have the skills to do so. The agenda for that is to get to impact my fellow youths to have a stand on their own.

What advice would you have for the youths like yourself?

Well, I’ll let them know that they should not be too focused on someone else progresses but, just strive to be independent persons in society.

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