She wears her little blue gingham dress, white knee socks and black shoes with pride. She spends ages polishing her shoes every morning and has to look spotless. Unfortunately, when she comes back home, her socks are never white, but stained red by the dust of the school yard.
One day, she was getting ready for school, but could not find clean socks. This was a total disaster for her. She could not got school in grubby socks, nor could she go without socks. She may be an OVC* living in an orphanage, but going to school without socks just was not an option!
Eventually, we had to let he wear clean but still damp socks to go to school. Luckily, it was a warm day, and they would soon be dry.
Benta is not alone.
Contrary to popular belief by those who don't have a clue, African children do not go around in grubby, smelly, ragged clothes (or Heaven forbid, naked) through choice**. Most have a "Sunday Best" set and are proud of them. They like to look smart, well dressed. But family circumstances are often such that kids cannot have smart new clothes.
My significant-other-half's little boy, Ian, will not go out in public without a top on. He lives in an area where the temperature never drops below 22°C and daytime temperatures are usually well above 30°C.
He will happily run around the house naked after his shower, but he will not go outside in just shorts. He insists on wearing a top, even if it is 60 sizes too big for him!
Mind you, he did choose my "army colour" T-shirt over all the other, more colourful ones. He wants to be a soldier when he grows up!
So, what am I trying to say?
Just because a kid is scruffy, it doesn't make him a little savage.
It just makes him poor by the standards of the civilised world.
But it also makes him rich, far richer than most kids in the developed world. An African kid does not need a computer, Wii, X-Box, iPod, etc., etc., to amuse himself. He has friends and they react with each other, they amuse each other.
Give the average UK/European/USA kid a new toothbrush. They won't even say thank you.
Give the same toothbrush to an average Kenyan kid, and watch the delight on his face. He has something new, something that belongs only to him.
Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
* OVC = orphaned or vulnerable child
**There are, of course, exceptions. In certain rural areas, kids never wear clothes