When Gladwell Gaceri sent her third-born son to the university a few days ago, she had a simple advice for him: “Go forth my boy and make good use of this chance.”
As she walked out of the school’s gate after dropping him in the institution that would be his new home for the next four years, she asked divine powers to protect him and make his dream of becoming a pilot a reality.
Every time Gaceri talks about her son Michael Mirara, her face beams with pride. “He’s my last born son and has always dreamt of being a pilot, his academic performance speaks well of his ambition and I know he will one day cruise though the skies,” Gaceri told Xinhua during a recent interview.
She harbors big dreams for Mirara whom she hopes won’t fall into the same trap that crushed his elder brother’s dream of being an aeronautical engineer.
“My first-born son bet away his career and his dream. I don’t recognize him anymore. We have tried counselling and therapy, we tried sending him out of the country but nothing will stop him from betting. He is a soccer fanatic and that’s all he spends his life on,” said Gaceri.
She said that her son ventured into sports betting during his second year at university and by third year, he was deep into it, he was expelled from the institution after his academic score plummeted.
The young man was chased together with three other students whom Gaceri blames for her son’s predicament. “He picked this habit in college and hid it for quite some time, by the time I got to know what he was into, the addiction was at an advanced stage. I haven’t lost hope though, I know he will soon come back into his senses and concentrate on studies,” said Gaceri.
Bernard Njoya whose son was also expelled from school recently for sneaking in a phone to aid his sports betting addiction, regrets having introduced him to watching soccer.
“I played a big role in nurturing my son’s love for soccer but I never thought we would get to where we are now. I have been forced to enroll him into a day school, he’s also undergoing counselling and I hope this will help him out of the dark hole,” said Njoya.
A recent report shows betting and sports-related sites dominated the top internet search questions in Kenya in 2018.
Already, people like Gaceri and Nyoya have come face to face with the negative consequences of the craze, painting a picture on how deep betting could be affecting families.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kenya is the third largest gambling market in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria in terms of revenues. However, in terms of participants, Kenya could be ahead of its peers in the region.
The report noted that while in other countries, the frequency of betting was once a month, in Kenya it’s once a week, a sign that young people could be becoming gambling addicts.
Silas Kiriinya, a consultant psychologist, cited the desire to become rich without working hard as one of the reasons behind the betting craze among the youth in Kenya.
“Most millennials want to take the shortest route to wealth and betting seems to be the safest one. When their attempts fail to yield the results they expected, they get frustrated and the only way to redeem themselves is to bet some more which eventually leads to an addiction,” said Kiriinya.
He cautioned that when gambling becomes an addiction, it goes beyond the individual to affecting the society negatively.
“Such a society begins to have members who are not motivated to work since work is not value to them when they can get rich just by clicking a button on one’s phone, laptop or gambling device,” said Kiriinya.
The psychologist noted that betting addiction could lead to depression as those affected in most cases lock out loved ones from their lives as they spend much of their time on gadgets they use to bet.
Over 70 percent of bets placed in Kenya are on football games. Majority of these bets are placed on English Premier League games, owing to its popularity in Kenya.
“From experience and history of addictions, if no effective interventions are put in place, we are staring into a time bomb whose effects will be devastating. Parents should look out of cues and act as soon as they realize their children are into betting since there’s a high probability of getting hooked after the first attempt,” said Kiriinya.
The rise of sports betting in Kenya is fueled by increased internet penetration and use of smartphones.
According to a report by We Are Social, Kenya has an 84 percent internet penetration with about 43.33 million users online, higher than the East Africa Community average of 32 percent. Enditem