Teenager marshals town’s fight against COVID-19

Steve Biko, the owner of Konzer FM, speaks to CGTN Africa crew inside his station located in Mbita, Kenya. /CGTN

The world’s fight against COVID-19 is still well underway, with governments, the private sector and other agencies teaming up to stop the spread of the virus.

By Thursday, the number of global infections had surpassed the 64.57 million mark with a death toll exceeding 1.49 million, according to data from the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

In Kenya, a teenager has joined in his country’s fight against the virus despite still being a secondary school student.

17-year-old Steve Biko of Mbita town in Kenya’s Nyanza Province has built his own radio station from scratch, majorly using electronic waste, and is using it to spread awareness against the virus.

The form three student at Fr. Tillen Secondary School says broadcasting information about the pandemic is his way of keeping his community safe.

Biko’s Bikonzer FM transmits frequencies across a 26-kilometer radius, reaching thousands of people around Mbita.

“You know, when we came back for this COVID-19 holiday, people were not going to churches, so I said instead of going there and gathering, I could build a radio station,” said Biko. “I started by transmitting up to 500 meters, but now I can transmit up to 26 kilometers.”

The teenager used just about anything he could lay his hands on to build the station in an unused community water station.

“First stage is a modulation stage. This is where frequency is being set and again transmitted to another stage which is preamplification stage. This is where modulated signal is again being boosted and transmitted again to another stage which is the driver stage, and lastly the power stage. That is the power stage where you can set the impendence matching using the trimmer because I have used dipole antenna,” he said.

Biko has put together a team of friends with a passion for journalism to help him run the station.

The team of three now use the platform to ensure Mbita residents are furnished with information about the COVID-19 pandemic, and ways of ensuring they keep themselves safe.

“I have two employees,” said Biko. “They have been creating awareness on how to wear a face mask, they are telling listeners not to gather at one place, and also no greeting somebody.”

“I have found that a lot of talk here surrounds COVID-19. We have markets here, we have churches and we have bars. You find that right now, if you check keenly, COVID-19 spreads mostly where a lot of people are gathered,” said Griffin Odiwuor Akumu, a presenter at Konzer FM.

Griffin Odiwuor Akumu presents a show at Konzer FM in Mbita, Kenya. /CGTN

But COVID-19 information is not the only topic that Konzer FM talks about throughout their daily shows.

Other programs put together by Biko and his team include educative programs to keep children learning, entertainment programs and a program on cultural and family affairs.

“I have a program on Saturday where I sit with children and they interact with other children and they learn because for now, they can’t go to schools,” said Stephen Ouma Ojwang, a presenter at Konzer FM.

Kozer FM operates daily from 5AM until 11PM, and everything seems to be moving well. But it was not an easy ask for Biko.

The teenager started exploring his talents as a child. His mother recalls a rather worrying time in her son’s childhood, when she was unable to own electronics due to his constant explorations.

“As a child, he liked to explore with wires and electronics. Even if you gave him a radio, he would dismantle it and break it. You would quarrel with him and even spank him, but he would not care much. He would come back and laugh with you then take another. That made it impossible for me to own a radio,” said Esther Aoko, Steve Biko’s mother.

Esther Aoko, Steve Biko’s mother, speaks to CGTN Africa crew during a visit to her home in Mbita, Kenya. /CGTN

Now, Bikonzer FM has become the pride of Mbita residents and leaders, all of whom are eager to see it grow beyond its current limits.

Communication authorities have also taken note of Bikonzer FM and are open to helping Biko take station to the next level.

“The (Communications Authority of Kenya) CAK people came here and they came here to check whether we are disturbing any frequency and to check the power we are using to transmit the waves. They told me the machine is working good and we are not disturbing any frequency and they said they will try to register it,” said Biko.

For now, Biko has pledged to continue making his contribution in Kenya’s fight against COVID-19 and also adding value to his community through other informative programs on Bikonzer FM.