Sunday, April 22nd, 2018
Ms Nancy Kerubo says she first suspected something was wrong with her daughter Natasha Wangari when, at the age of 15 months, she could not babble like a typical toddler.
“That worried me, because I had a friend whose child was Natasha’s age-mate. Her baby was doing certain things that mine wasn’t,” recalls Kerubo.
So she and her husband sought medical attention for her. But upon examination, Natasha was given a clean bill of health.
The doctor said she wasn’t sick, but recommended a CT scan to see whether her brain was fine. The results showed no abnormality.
Ms Kerubo and her husband, then first-time parents, were perplexed. They had a feeling that something was wrong.
But it was not until the head teacher at her first school in Kahawa Wendani, also concerned after noticing Natasha’s limited social skills and failure to interact with other children, suggested that they take her to an ENT specialist, that they confirmed a fear Ms Kerubo had been harbouring for some time.
“You know, you can easily assume that an autistic child is deaf because when you call them, they normally don’t respond. Besides, she was still not talking properly at three-and-half years. So we thought she had a hearing problem,” she recalls.
But a visit to an ENT specialist confirmed that Natasha could hear.
Natasha Wangari plays at the swings at Feruzi Charter School in Nairobi. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO
Still, after playing with Natasha for 30 minutes, the doctor sat Ms Kerubo down.
“She asked whether I knew about autism,” she recalls, “I was taken aback, even though I had started searching the Internet for a possible explanation to her developmental delays and one of the results that had come up was autism. I think I was just in denial.”
When she wanted to communicate, Natasha would flap her hands. This behaviour, a repetition of physical movements and sounds common among autistic people, is called stimming. She would also walk on her toes.
The diagnosis was a relief because it enabled Ms Kerubo and her husband to find out more about the condition and also adjust their lives to accommodate their daughter’s needs.
“It is not a disease, so it is not something you treat. You just manage it,” she says.
“People associate disability with the blind, deaf, or physically disabled. But even these guys, can’t really handle themselves a hundred per cent like the rest of us.
“For instance, I wouldn’t leave Natasha to cross the road alone because I know she can’t do it by herself while children her age can do that by themselves,” Ms Kerubo adds.
Natasha, who started eating solid foods at the age of five and called Ms Kerubo “mummy” when she was eight, still has problems communicating. A conversation with her can be unpredictable – she is loud and repetitive.
“Pauline! Pauline! Pauline!” she repeats in a high-pitched voice when I offer my hand and introduce myself. Then I ask what her name is and she says, “Pauline.”
There is something obviously different about her eye contact, which Ms Kerubo is quick to explain as one of the receptive language issues they are trying to deal with.
She is yet to undergo therapy. Ms Kerubo says that finding a speech therapist in Kenya is difficult, and the few available are very expensive.
LOVE FOR MUSIC
For Natasha, linguistic ability is a skill best learnt through song.
“Listening to music is her favourite pastime. And once she hears a song, she never forgets it, and will even search for trivia on it on the Internet,” says Ms Kerubo.
At some point during our visit, Natasha retreats to the curb on the driveway to listen to a song on her instructor’s phone. She is absorbed in the song, with her face just inches from the screen.
Natasha Wangari plays the piano. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO
Ms Kerubo explains that she gets totally immersed in whatever activity she engages, adding that those around Natasha realised that she was intrigued by music and rhythm at a very young age, and seemed to have an especially remarkable ability to memorise songs.
“She repeats a song over and over flawlessly from start to finish after hearing it once,” Ms Kerubo offers.
“She tries to pronounce words the way she hears them in songs. So her teacher is letting her listen to songs on YouTube with the lyrics. She tries to sing along to the words,” says Natasha’s therapist, Aileen Mukiri.
And so along with therapy, her parents have introduced her to music.
“We are encouraging her to play the piano in line with this love for music. But we are trying other things as well,” offers Ms Kerubo.
“My Internet research told me that autistic individuals, if supported, do very well,” says Ms Kerubo.
It is with this awareness that Natasha’s family decided to support her musical interest.
“Natasha is sharp,” Ms Kerubo remarks at some point. “With good therapy, kids like her can do anything. Natasha is also an excellent swimmer.”
As a way of reinforcing this gift, her parents have bought her a piano and started her on lessons.
Her skills have improved since she started playing at her former school, Kaizora, a school in Karen for kids with special needs.
Ms Kerubo says she sets simple goals for Natasha when imparting new life skills.
“We have learnt not to make plans for her, but to accompany her progress instead of mapping out her life,” she says.
She thinks of her daughter as “differently abled” and doesn’t like her being called disabled.
Ms Kerubo says Natasha’s younger siblings, a set of twins, have helped her developmental milestones.
“I was worried when I gave birth to my second-borns because I thought she would bully them. But she has been very good with them. If she finds them doing anything she doesn’t approve of, she brings them to me,” she says, “The twins have helped her in terms of developing her social skills because of their interaction.”
Ms Kerubo believes that support and open-mindedness are the ultimate contributions those around autistic people can give them.
For instance, when Natasha gets troublesome for being held for the photo shoot we have to do for the story, Ms Kerubo says, “She’s probably tired. She has been having her pictures taken since early afternoon. She doesn’t take interruptions too kindly. She is intolerant of people interfering with her personal space and gets frustrated like this when her routine is interrupted for too long.”
Feruzi Charter School founder Nancy Kerubo talks about autism, her daughter and starting a school for special needs children. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO
“I talk openly about Natasha’s condition wherever I go with her…to improve people’s understanding of her behaviour. You can imagine being with her and then she flings herself to the ground.
People often give her an odd look when she throws a tantrum. Sometimes I, too, get disapproving looks since people wonder why I can’t control her.
“I always make an effort to explain and people are usually very understanding. Talking openly about it has helped me accept it further. I feel this also helps create awareness,” she says.
But it took a while to get to this point. There are times when she would just pick her daughter up and retreat to the comfort of their house after sensing rejection from others.
“I tried to help her by taking her outside to play with her age-mates to see if her social skills would develop…but then I realised that every time I took her to a group of kids, their parents would come and pick them up one by one, as if she wasn’t supposed to be there. It really demoralised me,” she recalls.
Natasha, now 10, might have some trouble writing full sentences, but she is good in maths.
Ms Kerubo says she and her husband have had to put up with all sorts of negative comments, including from close relatives.
“This isn’t from our side of the family…you need to visit a certain witchdoctor. But my hubby and I stood by each other through it all,” she reveals.
“Today, as a family, we have fully accepted Natasha and do what we can to improve her life. And because we realise what a struggle it is finding support and institutions that are suitable for kids like her, in April 2017, we started Feruzi Charter School,” she says.
Natasha Wangari, instructor Aileen Mukiri and Feruzi Charter School founder Nancy Kerubo at the school. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO
Based in Lang’ata, the school offers the British curriculum together with applied behaviour analysis (ABA). It admits 40 children.
The ABA therapy is the use of special techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive behavioural change in young children with autism and related disorders.
“You know, these special kids need one-on-one intervention so we can’t handle more than 12 in a class,” Ms Kerubo offers.
The school charges between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000, depending on the number of therapies the child is undergoing.
She explains the high fees: “For me to practise, I must be supervised by a BCBA (board certified behaviour analyst), and I cannot find one in Kenya, so I have to outsource from the US. We skype, followed by regular visits. It is an expensive venture. But it is worth it.”
“There are few schools dealing specifically with this condition, and that is my worry because we are not helping these kids develop their full potential,” she notes.
The ones that are there are beyond the means of many families. For instance, Kaizora charges Sh300,000 per term.
It is the desire to make learning more affordable that prompted them to start a school for autistic kids.
The search for a school that would accommodate Natasha’s special need became an important aspect of her parents’ lives. They took her to Kestrel Manor School in Westlands, then to Kaizora, which proved too expensive.
“That is why I thought, why not have another school offering ABA in Kenya if it can help other kids who can’t afford a very expensive school?” offers Ms Kerubo.
DIFFERENTLY ABLED INDIVIDUALS
Autism is a poorly-understood neurological disorder that manifests as an individual’s inability to engage in various social interactions.
According to Dr Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin, US, psychiatrist who has studied autistic individuals since 1962 and is a worldwide authority on the subject, many people with autism are highly talented.
Their skills typically occur in five general areas: music, art, calendar calculating, mathematics and mechanical/visual-spatial skills. Some are multitalented.
About one in a hundred children develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and of those, about one in 10 have a talent that sharply contrasts their level of functioning.
Their skills tend to fall within a narrow range of subjects, notably art, music and maths. Most are referred to as “splinter savants” – those with a very specific skill, such as the ability to memorise maps, historical facts or sports trivia.
A few are “talented savants”, with an outstanding expertise in playing a musical instrument, or say, painting. There is even an art gallery dedicated to their work. The exhibition is called Don’t Dis The Ability.
About 100 savants of those he has been able to follow in the world are classed as “prodigious savants”, so talented their skills would ordinarily be considered to be at prodigy or genius level.
And, just as with the other savants, family encouragement, unconditional love, patience and belief are vital ingredients to the growth and progress of these extraordinary people, says Dr Treffert.
He credits this to their excellent attention to detail and extreme memory, especially in contrast with non-impaired individuals.
“The power of love, faith, patience, belief, pride and optimism in the families of these special persons who not only care for them, but care about them as well. They are stories of acceptance and inclusion and minimising disabilities and celebrating abilities,” he says in various reports.
In fact, he tries to expunge the perception of autism as being an impairment, while the strengths, such as the ability to systemise or to pay close attention to detail, are often overlooked.
“Autistic individuals have extraordinary ability that stands in stark contrast to their overall handicap,” he says.
ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups, but are almost five times more common among boys than among girls.
Gor Mahia’s return to the apex of continental football should be lauded.
The Kenyan champions defeated South Africa’s Supersport United last week to progress to the money-spinning group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup.
This is the first time in two decades that a Kenyan club will feature at this stage of the competition, where fixtures against Algeria’s USM Algiers, Yanga (Tanzania) and Rayon Sport (Rwanda) are lined up.
Gor’s feat comes with a Sh27.5 million cheque in prize money from the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
K’Ogalo also stand to earn up to Sh125 million if they go all the way and win the title.
With Kenya’s football standards arguably among the lowest in Africa, Gor Mahia’s resurgence is timely.
Competing at this stage will hand the popular club a chance to not only make some money, but also market the local sport and players — most of whom are Kenyans.
The government should fully support this team since it will be flying the national flag high.
It should speed up the ongoing renovation of stadiums so that Gor can hold their matches across the country.
Also, other Kenyan clubs should work hard and aim for continental outings so as to benefit financially and ease their cash burdens since the money can be used to improve their training facilities and players’ lives.
The introduction of the devolved system of governance by the 2010 Constitution heralded a great beginning for the country; there is no question that the future of development lies in devolution.
The primary objective of decentralisation was to devolve power, resources and representation down to the grassroots.
Five years since embracing the new dispensation, remarkable economic progress has been achieved in various parts of the country.
These successes have, however, not been without challenges, which have been extensively covered in the media.
A keener scrutiny of the media coverage, however, is likely to reveal that most of it tends to focus on the challenges at the expense of the success stories.
While striking a balance in the coverage of all aspects of devolution is important, it is unfortunate that the negatives of this form of governance have been told the most.
The media have a critical role in promoting the devolution agenda — hence an urgent need to have increased and in-depth coverage of the county governments if Kenyans are to hold them accountable for services.
Likewise, other institutions directly or indirectly related to devolution in Kenya — including the Senate, Controller of Budget, Auditor-General and the Commission on Revenue Allocation — must be interrogated as well.
In fact, a 2013 media monitoring report on the coverage of devolution by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) showed that media were yet to embrace development journalism and did not do well in showcasing success stories in the counties.
It said the frequency of articles and clips that reported on successes from various counties was very “minimal”.
From the sampled material, the MCK study concluded that the media performed well in highlighting challenges and managing the expectations of citizens.
It, however, went ahead to recommend that that should not only be the focus, but also be extended to reporting on success stories and comparison of progress between the regions.
This is so because every region has its own share of the national cake and has no right to blame marginalisation for its lack of progress.
But even as the Fourth Estate — as the media are commonly referred to — remains vigilant in monitoring the implementation of devolution, there is a need for the county governments to “devolve” information.
Governors and their directors of communication should give space for journalists to operate by interviewing county officials.
That will, in turn, help to reduce emphasis on individuals and personalities as reported in most outlets and strengthen reportage on issues that really matter.
Also, the County Governments Act 2012 requires that regional governments use the media to create awareness on devolution and governance; promote citizens’ understanding for peace and national cohesion; undertake advocacy on core development issues such as agriculture, education, health, security, economics and sustainable environment; and promote press freedom.
Nevertheless, journalists should also adhere to the code of conduct for the practice of journalism, which states that all sides of the story should be reported where possible.
For print and digital media, headlines must be quantified by the content below them, and so forth.
That said, newspapers and radio, television stations, as well as digital outlets, should allocate more time and space to topical issues that will improve county editions in their respective enterprises as they are platforms that can effectively reach the audiences in the devolved units.
We must set the real agenda of devolution by creating awareness to the public and remain focused on the relevant issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Kenyans.
Those covering development journalism should also be well-versed with the various laws on counties and devolution.
These include the County Governments Act 2012; Intergovernmental Relations Act 2012; Urban Area and Cities Act 2011; Public Finance Management Act 2014; Public Finance Management Act 2012; and National Government Co-ordination 2013.
The story of devolution should, therefore, be told differently to avoid all the negativity and suspicion, while the media and county governments should have a closer partnership for devolution to be a success.
Mr Kimanthi, a reporter with the Daily Nation, who is based in Nairobi, has worked in Meru and Nyeri regional bureaus. [email protected]
A story is told of a fresh graduate who was shocked by the higher tax deductions on his first payslip compared to those of his colleagues with a similar salary.
He protested to his employer, only to be told that since he resided at the staff quarters the house was considered a benefit, hence subject to additional tax. He was crestfallen.
This heartbreak could have been avoided had the young man been exposed to adequate tax education.
But this was, probably, not the case because the society views tax authorities with apprehension.
Since the biblical times, enforcement has been used as a primary tool for compliance in most tax administrations.
This probably explains why tax collectors are never the favourite public officers within their jurisdictions.
According to a research study conducted by Griffith University in 2008 titled Enforcing Tax Compliance: To Punish or Persuade?’, adoption of the enforcement over the facilitation model as a compliance driver has several serious shortcomings, the major one being the risk of undermining the relationship between tax authorities and the taxpayers.
In the long-run, trust between the two parties dissipates and, gradually, their relationship borders that of adversaries.
Closer home, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has for a long time been an enforcement agency in the eyes of the taxpayers.
However, in a bid to establish a better working relationship with the taxpayers anchored on trust, the tax agency has resorted to exploring other measures that promote voluntary compliance among the taxpayers.
Taxpayer education is one such measure.
An old African adage has it that, if you want the best from a tree, tend it while it’s a sapling.
It is for this reason that it is important to also look at the potential future taxpayers.
Through the Schools Outreach and Tax Club programmes established in 2012, KRA has reached out to more than 700 schools across 43 counties.
The idea is to inculcate the right attitude and a positive perception of tax and taxation in the youth.
If this is consistently done and accorded the necessary support, then the future taxpayer will be adequately prepared to fulfil their civil obligation of contributing to the national kitty through taxes when they become of age.
In 2016, KRA took taxpayer education to the next level.
The University Tax Societies programme — otherwise known as UTax — became an instant success in both public and private universities.
So far, students from 27 universities have been sensitised and proficiently trained to have basic operational knowledge on tax matters through societies run by student membership with minimum support from their institutions.
During the 2016 and 2017 annual tax return filing season, members of the societies were at hand to assist taxpayers file their returns.
This has created ambassadors and promoters while a few, after college, have found a niche in assisting others at a fee.
They are also key ambassadors in delivering the tax message to those at the grassroots level.
If one remains a hoarder of information, chances of it effectively reaching the target audience are very slim.
Taking the information to the doorstep of the students also has the potential to shape their career aspirations.
This widens the horizon of students who aspire to become tax experts.
Better knowledge of tax issues can be a better platform of inculcating a tax compliance culture at an early age.
Ms Wandera is the deputy commissioner in charge of marketing and communication at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). [email protected]
The Raila Odinga-led Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) clashed with Deputy President William Ruto over calls to amend the constitution in order to expand the executive.
ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the push for changes is unstoppable while Mr Ruto said the campaign is premature and unnecessary.
Speaking in Nakuru, the Deputy President said it is unfair to put Kenyans in a campaign mood just a few months after they had gone through a lengthy electioneering period.
He said the Jubilee administration is keen on focusing on its election pledges and would not entertain “politics of power games” being introduced by some individuals.
“Having given us an opportunity to serve you, I want you to know that our objective is to complete the development projects that we promised you and will have no time to engage in politics of power sharing,” he said at a funds drive in aid of PCEA Tabuga church in Bahati, Nakuru.
“You did your part in electing us and what is remaining is for us to work for you.
“Talking of amending [the] constitution right now in order to create other political positions is to lack respect for the electorate,” he told the congregation.
In Nairobi, Mr Sifuna described those against the call for the changes as selfish individuals without the interest of Kenyans at heart.
“If Kenyans decide that the solution to their problem is through a change of the Constitution, nobody will deter us,” Mr Sifuna said.
“Nothing will deter our quest to discuss our issues as Kenyans.”
He said the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had given the much-needed dialogue on electoral injustices a chance that the party is ready to exploit.
“As ODM, we want to assure you that every solution to our problem will be discussed on the table,” he said during a church service in Makadara.
The Deputy President has been critical of calls to amend the Constitution despite leading the camp that campaigned against it in 2010 on the basis that it contained laws that needed to be changed.
The tension that followed the annulment of the August 8 presidential election, Mr Odinga’s withdrawal from the October 26 repeat poll on and his mock inauguration as “the people’s president” on January 30 before he struck an agreement with President Kenyatta have all combined to trigger conversations about changing the Constitution.
Mr Odinga was among those who campaigned for the Constitution in 2010 and who continuously promised that the 20 per cent that needed changing would be worked on in the future.
On the political front, Mr Ruto has been working to consolidate his support as he seeks to succeed Uhuru Kenyatta as President in 2022 and a referendum comes with the risk of building an opponent’s profile.
Earlier yesterday, he was reassured of support from the Mt Kenya region by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.
“Contrary to misleading media reports, Mount Kenya has vowed to back the DP in his bid to be next president.
“Some people may have other plans but we will stand with you in this journey. Let no one sway you otherwise,” Ms Waiguru said.
Ms Waiguru was among governors who attended the Eldoret City Marathon, which was flagged off by Mr Ruto.
Meanwhile, Mr Odinga has vowed to ensure all independent institutions are repaired before 2022 General Election to avoid a repeat of electoral injustices that has rocked the country for years.
He indicated that by reforming institutions such as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, it would be a step in ensuring that the country no longer holds a divisive election.
Mr Odinga asked his critics to unite with him in healing Kenya and stop asking many questions on why he did not consult his opposition colleagues ahead of famous deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta to ‘build bridges’.
“We have too many commissions yet they are not as effective as they should be.
“We cannot be talking about 2022 yet we are still sorting out issues that led to the mismanagement of the 2017 elections,” Mr Odinga said during Sunday service at St Peter’s ACK.
Reports by Wycliffe Kipsang, Joseph Openda, Silas Apollo and Rushdie Oudia
The annual devolution conference starts in Kakamega today to discuss progress that counties have made over the last five years amid the push and pull with the national government.
While governors have maintained full political control of their counties, the four-day meeting is likely to discuss their partial financial and administrative control.
This is because of the recurrent complaints by governors over delays of cash disbursements and interference in devolved functions.
Counties have consistently suffered due to the National Treasury’s delay in disbursing funds.
The county bosses have also decried insufficient funds. As a result, they say the cash-starved counties cannot pay debts, staff salaries or rollout crucial development projects.
By law, the counties are entitled to at least 15 per cent of the government’s audited revenues.
The Public Finance Act 2012 mandates the National Treasury to disburse monies to the devolved units at the beginning of every month and in any event, not later than the 15th day from the commencement of the quarter.
The act further emphasises that the disbursement shall be done in accordance with a schedule prepared by Treasury in consultation with the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council.
Already, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich indicated that he intends to reduce county allocations by between Sh15 billion and Sh18 billion in the next financial year.
Last week, governors lamented that counties were yet to receive full allocations of development funds for this financial year as the national government grapples with a cash crisis.
County operations have been affected, with procurement and supplies being the worst hit.
To beat the crunch, Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki proposed fiscal consolidation measures including stopping all international travel and other avoidable costs in order to pay salaries.
His Bungoma counterpart Wycliffe Wangamati complained that counties in the region have not received any allocation since October last year, derailing service delivery.
Nevertheless, devolution has in the past four years delivered encouraging results in many counties.
They include provision of better healthcare, upgrade of rural roads and renovation of hospitals.
But despite these achievements, there are concerns about inequality within counties brought about by the inability to handle some functions.
The Fourth Schedule of the Constitution, pertaining the distribution of functions, states that the national government retains 35 functions among them security, foreign affairs, immigration and citizenship and national economic planning.
Counties are to handle 14 functions like agriculture, county health services, and pre-primary education, among others.
Most of these functions were previously the responsibility of local authorities.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the functions will form one of the key areas of discussions in the conference.
“Focus of the fifth Devolution Conference is to take stock of the accomplishments made in the implementation of devolved functions, share experiences on emerging issues, best practices, establish pending work and make recommendations by both levels of government,” he said.
“Counties cannot succeed on their own. The national government will continue supporting devolution not just through resources but also capacity building,” he said in an interview on a local TV station.
‘BIG FOUR’ AGENDA
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said county bosses will use the conference to realign their development programme with the national government’s ‘Big Four’ pillars — food security, affordable housing, universal healthcare and manufacturing.
Key opposition leaders will share a podium with President Kenyatta and address the conference at Kakamega High School.
A draft programme of the event released by the Council of Governors (CoG) shows that ODM leader Raila Odinga, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, Kakamega Senator Cleopas Malala and Governor Wycliffe Oparanya will make keynote speeches.
Mr Malala, who was elected on Amani National Congress ticket, has been one of the fiercest critics of the Jubilee government until Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta shook hands.
The senator will deliver his speech immediately after the arrival of President Kenyatta.
Governor Oparanya will follow. The two will make their remarks as the host leaders.
The draft says President Kenyatta will officially open the meeting and later be part of a panellist’s discussion on Intergovernmental Relations.
Other panellists will be Chief Justice David Maraga, CoG chairperson Josphat Nanok and Senate and National Assembly speakers.
County Commissioner Mr Abdinuzak Jaldesa said the venue and other facilities to be used by guests will be accorded 24-hour security.
According to the official, about 640 police officers will be dispatched to the region and 60 vehicles deployed for patrol.
Before the advent of devolution, residents of Busia County could only tell bad tales when it came to water supply.
Walking for long distances, dirty river water and constant diarrhoea all defined their quest to access potable water.
The most affected areas were Samia and Budalang’i constituencies, which ironically border the world’s third largest water mass – Lake Victoria.
Locals had to walk long distances in search of water with the most affected being women and children.
Five years into devolution, the situation has greatly improved.
The Busia County government has drilled over 100 solar-powered boreholes, one of the flagship projects rolled out by Governor Sospeter Ojaamong in 2014.
Governor Ojaamong told the Nation that the project has changed lives by improving water supply in all the seven sub-counties.
“Our water is clean and safe for drinking and in the near future Busia residents might not see the need to buy bottled water.
“It is in our target that in 2018 our people will not walk more than half a kilometre to get water.
“We also intend to extend piped water systems in rural and urban areas and also develop the sewerage systems in all our major towns,” he said.
The governor added that the county is targeting to supply 65 per cent of Busia residents with clean, reliable and affordable water by the end of this year.
“Before the introduction of solar-powered boreholes, the 100 boreholes’ water pumps were running on the main national electricity grid or (were) manually initiated. This was an economical blow due to high electricity bills but now things have changed,” Mr Ojaamong said, adding that about Sh30 million was being spent on bills yearly.
The solar project has seen over 50 per cent of locals access clean and affordable water.
Private universities will be required to provide annual financial statements to the regulator in a new proposal that seeks to bring order in the institutions that are facing financial and management crisis.
The proposal before the Commission for University Education (CUE) board for adoption will also require the private universities to state their owners so that in case of collapse, it is clear who takes responsibility.
The move is aimed at bringing financial and governance order in more than 37 private universities across the country, which have been facing several challenges.
The universities were once considered models of better management compared to public institutions.
The institutions are also facing possible closure or retrenchment of staff due to lack of students. This has been occasioned by the reduction of the number of students qualified to join universities in the last two years. Most of the universities have since turned to certificate courses in order to fill available spaces after they failed to attract students.
The crisis persists despite the government having agreed to sponsor students in the private institutions.
According to data from the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central placement Service, private universities admitted 10,487 students this year compared to last year’s 17,368.
Public and private universities had invested heavily with the hope of getting private-sponsored students, but the heavy investment could now go to waste as the number of students to be admitted is low.
Both private and public universities had declared a capacity of 143,000, but it was revised to 93,000 by CUE after validation of degree programmes.
Last year, more than 5,000 government -sponsored students who were placed in private universities in September failed to take up their slots. Only 12,000 students took up their slots.
University Funding Board Chief Executive Milton Njuki said the board used Sh1.5 billion to place the students in the private universities.
In 2016, only 6,318 out 12,096 government-sponsored students joined the private universities that they had been selected to join.
The number of qualified students who attained C+ and above from 2017 KCSE examination was 69,151.
But the Kenya Private Universities Association chairman Mumo Kisau said there is no cause for alarm as the institutions will navigate through the challenges they are facing.
Prof Kisau said universities that are facing challenges have been guided by CUE, and some of them are already implementing the recommendations made.
“Private universities will do their best. We are affected by lack of students and hope that the issue will be a short term crisis,” said Prof Kisau.
He also ruled out job cuts, saying the current staff will still need to serve third- and fourth-year students in the institutions.
CUE chairman Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha said there is need to re-look at licensing of private institutions as well as the setting up of university colleges.
“Some of these institutions will still fail to attract students even in future. Students want institutions that are established and have necessary human resources,” said Prof Chacha.
But as Prof Kisau put on a brave face, Daystar University is the latest institution to be hit by financial crisis and poor management.
The institution has since been closed following protests by students over allegations of financial mismanagement.
Some universities have also been struggling to pay lectures, with some disappearing with students’ answer scripts in order to make the institutions to honour their obligations.
The issue of lack of qualified human resources has also been a challenge as some of the institutions have been unable to hire and retain the best lecturers.
“We have a problem in private universities, and also new universities that are coming up yet they cannot attract students,” said Prof Chacha.
“The challenge we are facing is that when awarding charters, there are various players listed such as trustees, council, church or individuals, but we do not get to identify the sponsor who is supposed to take responsibility when things do not work out,” he added.
However, some private universities are now blaming courses offered in those institutions for failing to attract students.
“Some of the courses that private universities offer are very specific and that is what many students do not like,” said a chairman of a private university.
Kenya Private Universities Workers Union secretary-general Peter Owiti said poor management is to blame for the woes affecting the institutions.
“There is need to separate running of church and managing a university. We also need the right people at the helm,” said Mr Owiti.
Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba was a humble and honest family man.
He was a pioneer in many fields, including sports and business. And most of all, he was a giant of democracy.
It is evident that Mr Matiba was created for leadership.
In his 30s, he served as a Permanent Secretary before establishing flourishing businesses in tourism and education sectors.
He had earlier served as Chairman of the Kenya Football Federation before resigning to join active politics through Kanu.
An astute politician, he fought aggressively for Kenya’s second liberation, paying dearly with his health and businesses.
He was detained without trial where he suffered a stroke due to negligence by State officials.
This weakened him physically and psychologically. The once vibrant politician retreated into an immobile world where he stayed until his death.
This was an unbelievable transformation for an agile man who had climbed mountains and played active football.
His business empire began crumbling, with some being put under receivership and others facing closure.
He lost friends and associates, many of whom are now trickling in to condole the bereaved family.
Although he was recently granted compensation of over half a billion shillings for the illegal detention, the damage was already done.
An apology to his family and other detainees from the concerned State agents would be a good send-off gesture.
Matiba’s liberal thinking extended to his household, where he supported his daughter’s singing career at a time when such vocations were unacceptable to well-off families who moulded their children to be doctors, engineers and other coveted professions.
Matiba also reached out to the less fortunate. As a memento, in 2016 the Murang’a County Government honoured him by establishing the Kenneth Matiba Eye and Dental Hospital for affordable and specialised treatment to the public.
During the second liberation, Matiba worked with the church and clergy to fight for democracy.
In the 90s when the call for multiparty democracy was gaining momentum, the church found its voice in advocating for human rights and democracy.
Many members of the clergy who opposed the political system were branded as tyrants, with some facing imminent arrest.
Others were bludgeoned in public and yet others paid with their lives.
Father Ndikaru wa Teresia, Archbishop Emeritus, Ndingi Mwana’ a Nzeki, Reverend Timothy Njoya, and Rt Reverend Alexander Muge were among these protagonists.
Today, the church is relatively mute despite blatant excesses by State agents.
The face and character of the current political and religious class is cloaked in a mutually benefiting relationship where the church has opened its altars to politicians to insult perceived opponents and their respective communities.
The media does not shy away from broadcasting this unhealthy union.
Lately, the Matiba household has been a hive of activity, receiving high profile political and business figures.
Many of these people fought by his side for democracy, but others supported the brutality meted out by the State.
This coming together of political friends and foes to grieve a fallen hero is an enriching experience, one that should bring healing and reconciliation to victims of State brutality.
For now, the family is in need of comfort.
The writer is a chaplain and lecturer, Technical University of Kenya
The National Assembly’s Public Investments Committee has asked the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa) to review its contract with a law firm it hired to help it get title deeds for prime land it owns across the country.
This was after Kemsa acting chief executive officer Fredrick Wanyonyi informed the committee that in 2013 it hired a law firm, KTK Advocates, to help it get title deeds for its prime plots, but the firm had managed to get only two: one for its depot in Embakasi, Nairobi, and the other for a parcel of land in Nakuru.
He said that the company had been paid Sh2 million.
The committee accused the agency of laxity, noting that it had been awarded leases 10 years ago.
Wajir West MP Ahmed Kolosh blamed Kemsa for hiring a law firm that has not delivered to the expectation.
“The challenge of acquiring title deeds facing Kemsa is due to the lawyer it hired. We need to know the duration this law firm was given the contract because it cannot be an open-ended contract,” Mr Kolosh said.
Members expressed concern that the missing title deeds could be in the wrong hands and might be used as collateral to get loans.
“We need all the documents on how this law firm was hired and the amount of money it has been paid.
“It is not possible that since 2013 only two title deeds have been delivered,” committee Chairman Abdulswamad Nassir said.
Mr Wanyonyi blamed the manual system of issuing title deeds at the Ministry of Lands for the delay in getting the documents.
In his 2012/13 audit report, Auditor General Edward Ouko pointed out that Kemsa had no title deeds for its depots in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kakamega, Nyeri, Garissa and Meru.
“We want this committee to step up and help us on this issue. This problem of title deeds is not only faced by Kemsa but also other parastatals as well public universities,” Mr Wanyonyi said.
“It is frustrating as today you get a file containing your documents, the next day the file is missing,” Mr Wanyonyi added.
Mr Nassir also blamed the medical agency for failing to engage the Ministry of Health on the difficulties it’s facing in getting the titles.
The CEO promised to appraise the contract with law firm based on the issues raised.