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Friday, July 20th, 2018

 

Croatia’s president is one woman to emulate

By NJOKI CHEGE
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I never pass an opportunity to write about a powerful woman I admire. As an ambitious young woman with bigger ambitions than writing about ‘pink topics’, I try to soak in as much inspiration as I can from the pioneers and trailblazers who went before us. So as I was watching the World Cup finals in between studying for exams, I could not help but wonder about the woman dressed in a red-and-white Croatian jersey and white pants in the VIP section cheering the Croatian team.

Who is she?

LITTLE WRITTEN

Her name is Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the President of Croatia. When she run against the incumbent Ivo Josipovic in 2015, she was nicknamed “Barbie” and pundits projected that she would lose to Josipovic until she pulled a stunner and won by a whisker, with 50.5 per cent of the vote. When she came to power, Kolinda was not only the first female president of Croatia but also the youngest to hold that office in the country, at the age of 46.

As critics downplay her achievements with silly nicknames like “Barbie” and even as media try to shift our focus to her apparent closeness with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Word Cup finals, I feel that the light-hearted media reports denied young women in this part of the world an educational moment from this woman who has surprisingly not attracted much coverage. While tomes have been written on Macron and other world leaders, there is remarkably little written about this outstanding woman, so I will take it upon myself to tell us a little more about President Grabar.

MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE

Kolinda is not your average pretty girl. She is, in the words of many men who think they are doing women a favour by telling them this, “a rare combination of beauty and brains.” (By the way, beauty and brains should not be made to look like they are mutually exclusive. And no, we don’t take it as a complement when it is suggested that one has both!) Kolinda is what in Croatia, they would call “foreign-educated” having received fellowships from Ivy-League universities such as Harvard and attended George Washington University as a Fulbright Scholar. At the moment, she is pursuing a PhD in international relations at the University of Zagreb. Prior to becoming president, Kolinda held several high profile jobs in Croatia, including Minister for European Affairs (2003-2005), Minister for Foreign Affairs (2005-2008) and a senior Nato official (2011-2014). If young women are looking for an icon to emulate and inspire them, then Kolinda should be first on the list.

MOTHERLY SUPPORT

However, Kolinda’s greatest achievement to us should not be the mere fact that she is a woman of many firsts, but the fact that she – as other women such as Angela Merkel, Theresa May — has shown that it is possible to be whatever you want to be in life, the obstacles, opposition and frustrations not withstanding. It may have taken her exemplary show of support for the national football team at the World Cup for the world to finally notice her, but I have a feeling that this is not the last we have seen of her. Her motherly support of the football team—with the tight hugs and words of encouragement—showed us why we need more women leaders. They are compassionate and empathetic, they naturally assume the motherly role, they are understanding and considerate, just see how Russian President Vladmir. V. Putin treated the players! Her enthusiasm on the football stands and the fact that she made sure she attended every match her team was playing, except for the one that clashed with a Nato meeting, was impressive and it demonstrated to us that the world needs more female leaders.

In other equally interesting news, I have realized that there is a wave of young folks who are taking over the world and nothing could be more encouraging. Whether it is newly elected 41-year-old Ethiopian PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed who, together with his Eritrean counterpart brokered peace between the countries, or Kylian Mbappe, the sensational 19-year-old footballer who impressed all of us during the World Cup, or the 40-year-old French president Emmanuel Macron, there are a lot of young people making history today and this could probably serve as a learning curve to many that young people have the energy, expertise and intelligence to do great things.

I can only end today’s column with a word to young people; now is our time!


Handshake will benefit us all – Raila

By RUTH MBULA
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Opposition leader Raila Odinga has criticised people opposed to his ongoing political camaraderie with President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying that it was for the benefit of all Kenyans.

Speaking in Nyamira County, Mr Odinga said he was receiving all manner of accusations from those who were uncomfortable with his decision to reconcile with President Kenyatta but insisted that there was no turning back.

He spoke at Kijauri grounds where he had joined Chief Justice David Maraga and dozens of political leaders from across the country to bury Nyamira Governor John Nyagarama’s son, George Ndemo.

COOPORATION

The late George Ndemo died about a month ago after a long illness and the burial was only arranged after his father returned from the US on Monday where he had been on sick leave.

But the occasion offered Mr Odinga a chance to respond to questions surrounding his “handshake” with the president. He was referring to a decision of mutual cooperation between the two erstwhile political antagonists that culminated in a handshake at the President’s Harambee House office.

Mr Odinga told mourners that the handshake had already been hailed the world over and castigated some leaders for opposing it.

“I have received congratulatory messages from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former US President Barack Obama, who toured the country early this week, and from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who yesterday said we had made the best decision with President Kenyatta of uniting the country and showing a good example,” he said.

The latest accusations came on Thursday when some politicians from the Jubilee Party claimed Mr Odinga had used his closeness to the President to instigate the ongoing evictions of squatters from the Mau forest.

The decision to evict the people was taken by the Jubilee government to protect water towers, after it emerged people had illegally encroached on forest land.

A similar decision in 2009 came at a huge political cost to none other than Mr Odinga himself, who, as Prime Minister at the time, lost the populous Rift Valley vote that had voted for him almost to a man in the 2007 General Election. Recent efforts to deflect blame from Deputy President William Ruto’s wing of the ruling party, Jubilee, could be read from that perspective of similar fears.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga revealed that every development in the country since the handshake took place was a clear indication of the direction the country has chosen to take, referring to the Building Bridges initiative that is in the process of discussing critical reforms for the country.

The Building Bridges taskforce is organising, in a move aimed at actualising the handshake, its first conference slated for next month, which will major on corruption. Other conferences on devolution, elections and other issues mentioned in the handshake will follow.

CORRUPTION

“The conference will bring together Kenyans, asking them to give their views on the ongoing war on corruption and what they think about it. Also, they will suggest on how best to fight it. It will be a bottom-to-top kind of approach contrary to what has been witnessed in the past,” he said.

He said that, after the handshake, a lot had taken place in the country including the war on corruption, which was among the issues in their MoU with the president.


I will sue State over Ruaraka land saga, businessman says

By STELLA CHERONO
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The businessman at the centre of the Ruaraka land saga, Mr Francis Mburu, on Friday said he would sue the government for Sh30 billion for taking his land and implicating him in a “non-existent scam”.

He said he would take the matter to the Dubai International Arbitration Centre.

Mr Mburu, 65, who spoke to the media minutes after leaving the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices at the Integrity Centre where he had been grilled for more than 14 hours, accused Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko of lying to Kenyans and the government.

SINCE 1981

He accused Mr Sonko and others of illegally allocating over 800 plots that are on his property, adding that he would seek Sh30 billion compensation from the government.

“My companies Afrison Imports Limited and Huelands Limited have never surrendered the land. That land has been my property since 1981. I now want Sh30 billion from the Nairobi County government because they took the property and they have built highrise buildings on it and now they are talking about surrender,” Mr Mburu said.

The visibly agitated businessman said the government had allocated over 13 acres to the public and then claimed that the land was surrendered.

“I have never surrendered any land; my companies have never surrendered any land and on this one, I am going to win,” Mr Mburu said.

PAID RATES

He said there was no scam in the whole issue, accusing the government of creating a non-existent saga over his property.

“This land is not on the 99 years government allocation. Of course if they want me to refund Sh1.5 billion, I will,” Mr Mburu said.

He reiterated that he had paid all the land rates

He said apart from the “small business” that is under contention now, he was doing other businesses with the government yet he was not showing off.

“I am a down to earth person and they are hurting me for nothing. I am not a billionaire. I am just a rich man but not so rich,” he said. He recommended that the powers of the president be restored to save Kenya, adding that several people are enjoying power deviously.

DICTATORSHIP

“People in Kenya don’t care about their reputation. We need dictatorship back. Everyone has powers. We need to restore powers of the president,” he said.

He claimed that he had shown enough goodwill by giving 13 acres to the public yet the law requires that he gives only 10 per cent which is about 9.6 acres of the entire acreage that belongs to him.

Mr Mburu told the media outside the Integrity Centre that he acquired the land legally, adding that he had worked hard for it, but the government was creating a publicity stunt out of it while victimising him.

“I can stay elsewhere, I can move to Zimbabwe. This is a small business and they have soiled it,” Mr Mburu said.

SH1.5 BILLION

Mr Mburu and his two sons Justin Sam and Mark were picked from their house in Karen by officers from the EACC on Thursday. They then took them to the Integrity Centre for grilling.

Businessman John Mutwiri was also arrested and interrogated. Mr Mutwiri is the director of Champions Kenya Limited, through which the money was distributed to other people and businesses.

The officers raided the homes of Mr Mburu and Mr Mutwiri at dawn, confiscating documents and computers. EACC said they had also recovered cash in millions of shillings.

The National Land Commission paid Sh1.5 billion to Whispering Palms Estate’s account at Barclays Bank, which in turn paid Champions Kenya Limited owned by Mr Mutwiri a total of Sh930 million.

50 COMPANIES

Within three days, Champions Kenya Limited had paid a total of Sh649 million to 16 entities, among them a forex bureau, insurance companies, law firms and logistics companies.

But Mr Mburu on Thursday night claimed that all the companies paid the money belong to him, saying, “Those are my companies. I have over 50 companies. They blocked my funds after that and I could not withdraw any money.”

EACC sources said about 30 people who include lawyers, bankers, government officials and family members of those involved in the saga are being investigated over their role .

Detectives are seeking to unearth the dubious payment of Sh1.5 billion in the Ruaraka land transactions, although Mr Mburu maintains that the land belongs to him.

The commission and the Asset Recovery Agency, it is said, have seized properties belonging to the people suspected to have been involved. It also revealed that bank accounts belonging to them were frozen as investigations continue.

Investigators are seeking to establish whether Afrison Import Export Ltd and Huelands Ltd believed to be the owners of the land and officials from the National Treasury and Ministry of Education colluded to defraud taxpayers.

Governor Mike Sonko on Wednesday told a Senate committee that the land belongs to the public. If this is the case, then it means that the government through the NLC, bought its own land.


We spared the rod, we are now paying the price with school fires

When the government outlawed caning in schools, what it did not realise is that it was creating a new generation of teenagers in our schools. It should have provided for an alternative disciplining method to help deal with cases of misbehaviour.

Now the children who were overprotected and had no one to discipline them are being treated by the same government as criminals. Arraigning the teenagers in courts and sending them to prison will not help.

Also, giving them punitive bonds will only punish their parents, most of whom are poor.

Such moves, meant to instil discipline, should be directed at the offenders right away in school. The government should not pass on the burden to innocent parents. Mentorship for all our children is the right way to go.

A strong life skill programme should be implemented in schools and parents should be taught their role in raising disciplined children.

Furthermore, teachers should not be the victims. They should work closely with parents to raise a generation of confident children.

PETER KARURI, Nairobi.


CUTTING EDGE

FREEBIES: Following former US President Barack Obama’s visit to his father’s Kogelo Village home in Siaya County, the locals are mad that their famous son did not address them, Boniface Akong’o reports. Instead of thanking him for opening Dr Auma Obama’s Sauti Kuu training centre, Boniface is disappointed that the locals have been sulking and accusing him of not caring about their problems. According to him, it all boils down to Africans always expecting free things.” Obama may have Kenyans roots, but he is not a Kenyan.” His contact is [email protected]

ALLOWANCE: A decision by the Teachers Service Commission to scrap a special allowance for teachers in special schools has alarmed Roberts Njunukha. This, he warns, ”will really demoralise the teachers of students with disabilities. They have not been promoted to a new grade.” He is appealing to the TSC to reverse the decision to avoid paralysing learning in the special schools. This, he adds, is confirmation of TSC’s negative attitude towards special education teachers. His contact is [email protected]

ILLICIT BREW: The people of Kapkeroncho Village in Konoin, Bomet County, Bonny Mutai reports, are alarmed about the rampant sale of illicit brews in the area. The most notorious spots, they say, are Savahia and Kapsigirio. Bonny’s says “the business has been going on for years, with the full knowledge of the local authorities.’ The patrons include some of the people who should be fighting it. “The rate at which the liquor is consumed is shocking. Nacada should act soon.” His contact is [email protected]

POWER CONNECTION: For over three years since he applied for electricity connection to his rural house in Kitui Nzambani, behind the new police post, Lawrence Mwangangi is disappointed that nothing has happened, though he paid fully for it. He was slapped with a shocking quotation of Sh149,931 (Ref E28112015120399). While his ageing mother has to contend with pitch darkness at night, her neighbours, the police officers have electricity. ”I am willing and able to pay the Sh35,000 connection fee,” declares Lawrence, whose contact is [email protected]

BLAME PARENTS: As the authorities continue to give all manner of explanations for the unrest in schools, the racket continues year after year, says L. Wandati. But he is also pointing the at parents. Says he: “In my view, the main problem is at home. If you fix the home, you’ll have solved the problem in schools and everywhere else. Parents have abdicated their primary responsibility of bringing up their children and left it to schools and churches. And by the time the kids are in secondary schools, they are already spoilt, making it quite daunting for teachers to correct the situation.” Wandati’s contact is [email protected]

Have a parental day, won’t you!


Plan our urban areas in a sustainable way

By WANJOHI GITHAE
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It is projected that 68 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050.

If the trends are anything to go by, being able to bask in the sun will be considered a human right in the future.

Historically, urbanisation was a sign of economic prosperity and those who lived in the cities had “made it”.

The poor were huddled largely in rural areas and worked very hard to leave that life behind. Unfortunately, times have since changed.

CONGESTION

Today, the relationship between economic prosperity and urbanisation has been broken down.

Cities are now overwhelmed with people, pollution and poverty leading to a decrease in the quality of life.

Urbanisation challenges facing Kenya are many and public knowledge.

There has never been a time where Sustainable Urban Development (SUD) has been more necessary than today.

Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

URBANISATION

SUD implies a process where cities can be sustainable, emphasising improvement, progress and positive change, which incorporates both environmental, cultural and social dimensions. The fact is urbanisation is inescapable.

This urbanisation impacts several spheres of society, and this impact must be acknowledged.

Sustainability is important in urban areas because by getting it right, urbanisation offers a chance to bring about socio-economic benefits that can spur development, eradicate poverty and protect the environment.

SUD must begin with a sustainable planning and management vision.

What kind of urban cities do we want to have in Kenya? What should the ratio of green, blue and grey spaces be?

The National Urban Development Policy in Kenya envisions secure, well governed, competitive and sustainable urban areas that contribute to the broader national development goals.

The vision should promptly be followed with a plan of how we will attain it.

Planning comprises policymaking and policy implementation to minimise the negative effects of urbanisation and maximise the quality of life.

Previous urban planning legal and governance frameworks had a top-to-bottom approach, were inflexible and hard to implement.

Proper urban planning and governance must be inclusive, participatory involving the government, local authorities, public and private companies and the citizens, durable to meet present and future generations’ needs, must have an element of forcibility and be binding in nature.

IMPLEMENTATION

The challenge here is to ensure the policies developed are clear, specific, and long-term and can be implemented.

This could be the problem in Kenya. We seem to have good policies but modest implementation rates.

The truth is, if we have a problem in policy implementation, then we might have a problem in policy development.

Strong institutional capacity, coordination of all stakeholders and proper implementation tools should be provided.

Planning should also take a human-based approach. We must ask ourselves, “who are we building these urban areas for”?

Because application of these urban plans has an impact on human rights and freedoms. Positive or negative.

SUSTAINABILITY

A good example is on pedestrian crossing. We may put up a pedestrian crossing at a location that is not meeting pedestrians’ needs.

It will therefore not be used. The plans must also make economic sense.

How will we finance this sustainable urban agenda? How much debt are we willing to acquire?

What incentives will be given to the private sector to secure their investment but still ensure that they don’t become cartels?

The result? A policy document that is “alive”, transforming it into an opportunity for growth. If we build the correct cities, citizens will be willing to pay for it.


Guard public reserves to stop all these inhumane evictions

By IBRAHIM MWATHANE
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As I write, the government has given notice to Kibera residents occupying the 600 metre long by 60 metre wide link road reserve between Lang’ata and Ngong Roads to vacate.

This is a public reserve. Unless ongoing interventions between the residents, human rights groups, the land commission and Kura bear fruit, the residents may be forcefully evicted.

That would pump several homeless children and adults into the already hyper saturated Kibera ecosystem, with the attendant socio-economic consequences.

We have also witnessed recent evictions from road reserves in parts of Nairobi, with the usual chatter and destruction.

We witnessed residents evicted from the JKIA flight path a while back.

Mombasa is also currently experiencing all manner of evictions as road construction and expansion within and beyond Mombasa proceeds.

In almost all the cases, the main offenders are citizens in search of space for residential or commercial use, little wonder evictions go hand in hand with high pitch politics.

Politicians will usually want to be seen to be against evictions, hoping to capitalise on the voting power of the affected some day.

And they are also known to assume pretentious allocation powers for land they do not own or have power to allocate.

It is easy to appreciate that most evictions occur on forest, road and airport reserves or unallocated public land in urban areas.

POLITICIANS

The irony is that all such reserves or land can or will have been at one time defined and pointed out by some surveyor.

Their spatial extents are therefore specific and known.

Where there’s uncertainty or loss of memory, owners can easily bring back surveyors to re-establish.

So the question begs why the entrusted State agencies allow people to suddenly or gradually enter, construct and begin to live or trade thereon.

It certainly looks callous for someone entrusted with the authority to police such reserves to stand watch as temporary, semi-permanent and sometimes permanent structures are erected on such bands of land, only for them to later authorise demolitions and evictions.

CORRUPTION

It is needless affliction of loss and suffering. It paints the State in bad light. It comes out as professional negligence of those concerned.

One of the things that I have come to appreciate over time is that most Kenyans can and do obey authority where applied justifiably and consistently.

I am sure they would not dare breach the limits of public land if this was well pointed out and policed.

Have you, for instance, ever seen citizens try and breach any of the military reserves?

The enforcement officers responsible have the mind and commitment not to cut deals with anyone or even sleep on the job. The disciplinary consequences would be dire.

Challenges arise when those entrusted secretly trade irregular favours with citizens interested in using public reserves, then turn a blind eye.

RESPONSIBILITY

Then politicians have been known to influence enforcement officials to go slow on violators of road reserves.

But they all know it is irregular and wrong. It is raw impunity. Then there are those officers who are outrightly negligent.

They guard critical infrastructure agencies yet don’t bother to take an inventory of their landed assets.

Even after completion of allocation or land acquisition tasks, they never take time to walk, understand and protect the pointed out boundaries of the land reserved to them.

This is inexcusable, particularly knowing they live with us and should know that citizens will ultimately encroach, leading to nasty confrontations later.

So the chief executives and enforcement officers in all agencies charged with the custodian of public land at national and county level should be obliged with policing such reserves routinely to avert unnecessary forced evictions at later dates.

Citizens as well should play their part. Clearly, many move into such reserves deliberately.

Indeed, there are some who openly confess that they move in to make a quick buck while the luck lasts.

But there are the desperate ones who take cue from such cunning ones and end up setting camp on public reserves believing they have some right.

Much as we truly have challenges with residential and business space in urban areas, we cannot have anything constructed anywhere.

So such people are also guilty of pushing their luck with State agencies too far.

No civilised society ever grew out of such wanton disorder where people take up space and construct anything wherever and whenever they want.

While the State should play its part in policing, citizens must, too, understand and respect their limits with such public land.


Do not mistake a language error for malice

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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As an agent of the European “givers” of “development aid” to Africa, Mr Ralf Henker, the Swiss ambassador in Nairobi, will just have to understand that poor mastery of certain Western European languages is an essential part of the extreme poverty of knowledge that besets the “educated” ruling classes of all of Europe’s former colonies, especially in Africa.

Upon their alleged departure, our European colonisers had already, through the classroom, imposed on our educated classes a certain very elitist mode of thinking.

That is why our “aid givers” must understand that the language of Kenya’s print and other news media is not the media’s own.

In other words, English just is not natural to Kenya’s educated elite.

That is why the language of England gives that elite — including the Press — such a costly deal of problems.

Take the picture caption on the back page of the Daily Nation of Tuesday, July 10: “Switzerland President Alain Berset … and President Uhuru Kenyatta witness the signing of an agreement for return of stolen assets by Swiss Ambassador to Kenya Ralf Henker … and Attorney-General … Paul Kihara … at State House yesterday…”

That statement makes Ambassador Henker and Kenya’s own Attorney-General the chief central culprits in the implied misdeed against official Kenya.

Hopefully, however, being educated men, the envoy and the AG will readily have understood that the newspaper meant absolutely no malice against them or against anybody else.

Happily, the envoy might have understood, too, that a loose mastery of a European language related to the envoy’s own mother tongue was the problem.

Being a former central newspaper editor, I know and can reaffirm that all of Kenya’s Press editors fully understand the problem involved.

Yet libellous material often passes through all of them and, through our print media, finds its way into the street.

Being formerly a central member of Nairobi’s print establishment, what I can affirm is that it is never because of any malice on the part of any newsman or woman at any level.

It is practically always merely because of a weak mastery of the language in which a newspaper is produced, namely, in Kenya, English.

All levels of editors are so conscious of the problem of libel that it is their hourly singsong in newsrooms.

We can only hope that both the President and the Ambassador will have understood that the newspaper concerned meant no malice whatsoever against them and that a loose mastery of a Euro-colonial language called English was the only problem involved.

Even a small statement like the above contained about a million of problems that could have proved extremely dangerous to the newspaper.

Nevertheless, as a mere apology, mine simply will not suffice. It just cannot serve for always.

As I have pointed out here on many occasions, it devolves upon the newspaper establishments themselves to invest many more resources in the training and polishing of their editorial employees.


Universities should help students make right career choices

By MOHAMED ABDULLAHI ADAN
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Globalisation, the knowledge economy and changing technology and consumer needs mean that the future into which students enter upon completion of their university education is dynamic.

During and after admission to the university, the child meets other students who are torn over career choices and discussions and informal consultations take place.

The student’s passion and choice starts to reveal themselves as he/she shares with peers.

The senior peers chip in, giving their advice with regard to the future job prospects and performance trends in various academic programme courses.

Shaping career choices is by no means an easy task because the future is ever-changing.

Fears over whether the students have made the right choices tear apart the ambitions of the student while at the university. As the struggle continues, the student continues fighting the inner self while seeking to please the parties involved in his/her life. The challenge continues until the most difficult moment; the exam result of the first semester or first year. Only those who are aggressive survive.

Universities release exam results after one academic year, but it is important to give the students a provisional pass or fail of first semester exams, especially to the First Years who are internally fighting to listen to these different career choice voices.

These results will help them to reconsider their position academically.

If the above is not done, the students will find themselves having either supplementary exams or a repeat year or discontinuation from the university on academic grounds.

The challenge comes when the child is either repeating or is discontinued from the university on academic grounds.

Unfortunately, many parents and guardians are ignorant of this possibility.

How to disclose this reality to parents, relatives, neighbours and friends becomes a nightmare to the student.

This is when the few who are courageous enough camp at the Dean of Student’s office to either meet the dean or the students counsellor for help.

The rest will seclude themselves, never to share with their parents and friends due to the guilt and shame that comes with a repeated year or discontinuation.

CAREER ADVICE

That is why we, as the deans of students associations, appreciate and support the move the Ministry of Education has taken as a remedy to this problem.

The ministry has given a directive to all universities and tertiary institutions to set up Career Services Offices by the end of 2018.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed also unveiled a handbook that will guide universities, technical and vocational education institutions to operationalise these offices.

I appeal to all stakeholders to support this move to assist our youth in time.

Similarly, parents are advised to sit with their youngsters, get their views and build concurrence on their career choices instead of forcing their children to take a course that the child is not interested in.

TRANSITION

While some universities already have career offices, it is now necessary for all the universities to embrace the directive by the CS and establish, equip and operationalise the Career Services Office.

This should be a priority because our current crop of students are directly from high school, where there are strict rules, and they find themselves crossing over to the university life where they are treated like adults with some degree of freedom.

Because of this, their ability to comprehend, adjust and adopt to the new environment and challenges by using the appropriate and acceptable coping mechanisms are compromised, hence the opportunity of applying some unacceptable, unethical means of dealing with the problem of choice when it presents itself.

These may include but are not limited to getting into drugs, recruitment into violent extremist groups, suicidal tendencies and other vices.

Adan is the Dean of Students, Karatina University, and chairman of the Kenya Universities Deans of Students (KUDSA). [email protected]


Mass transfer of teachers could cause more pain than it’s worth

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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There is no doubt about it; teachers are not only angry, they are apprehensive, disoriented and demoralised because they believe their employer is punishing them.

Indeed, judging from the reaction of a number of them, there are strong indications that what now looks like a looming squall between them and the Teachers Service Commission may eventually metamorphose into a veritable tornado that will sweep aside everything in its path. Or maybe not, depending on how the matter is handled.

UNTOLD HARDSHIP

I never thought there could come a time when I agreed with Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Wilson Sossion on any issue, but this time, I believe he has a genuine grievance, though his method of rectifying it — threatening to stage yet another strike in the next one week — is still too predictably knee-jerk. The teachers are this time round agitated about being forcibly appraised on their performance, claiming they waste too much time and undergo untold hardships filling forms.

On this one, the gripe simply won’t wash. Appraisals are common and universal, and though oftentimes annoying, no other way of assessing the performance of an employee has been found to be as effective. At one time or the other, every employee, especially in the private sector, has to undergo an appraisal of some kind, for this is the only way an employer can know whether or not the employee is delivering. Indeed, on this issue, only the sluggards, the drunkards, and other habitual underperformers need be afraid.

NATIONAL INTEGRATION

However, the other issue that is making many in the fraternity tremble is the looming transfer of all senior teachers, head teachers and their deputies, principals and their deputies who have worked in one station for more than nine years. They are to be transferred from schools in their own counties to others where their administrative skills are supposed to help the historically disadvantaged institutions.

The other aim, which of course sounds definitely trite and platitudinous, is to inculcate “national integration and improve the quality of education”.

Needless to say, you don’t promote national integration by moving a valuable workforce all over the country like so many pieces on a checkerboard. This is the easiest way to demotivate even those teachers who regard their profession as a vocation. In short, if teachers are being transferred with the aim of fostering a sense of nationhood, the whole exercise may turn out to be futile.

During the first phase of mass transfers in January this year, newly-deployed principals were rejected by both parents and learners in western Kenya, Nyanza and other regions, and the TSC had to beat a hasty retreat when it became clear that nobody can really perform in such an atmosphere. There is no saying what will happen during the ongoing second phase, which is expected to affect 4,000 heads in county and sub-county schools.

LUCRATIVE TENDERS

On the other hand, the TSC is correct in one respect. If a head teacher stays in one school for too long, it is possible for him or her to forge an unsavoury symbiotic relationship with school boards. Principals, board members and prominent citizens in a locality have been known to collude to ensure all the lucrative tenders go their way. The best-placed people to destroy such practices should be education directors at county and sub-county levels, and if they do their work well, they ought to succeed in uprooting such rent-seekers from their comfort zones, but of course, this being Kenya, such a thing is easier said than done.

There is no doubt the TSC bosses mean well, but perhaps it is time they heeded the cry of teachers. It is clear the Knut and Kuppet leadership placed their heads in a noose. While negotiating for the CBA after the 2015 strike, they failed to notice a clause in the Code of Regulations which stated: “In undertaking deployment [of teachers] the commission shall delocalise the administration of public institutions”.

HIGHER SALARIES

Apparently, the unionists did not read the clause and now that oversight has come to haunt them. There is no use for Mr Sossion to argue that “mass transfers are in contravention of international norms”. He and his colleagues should have been more diligent, but apparently they were fixated on higher salaries to the exclusion of everything else.  Perhaps, instead of threatening a strike, Mr Sossion should try to persuade the TSC to go easy on the transfers. Many teachers are hurting. Can you imagine an elderly male principal who has never lived alone in 30 years being forced to fend for himself?

Sadly, the majority to be affected are elderly people who are settled in life and cannot muster enough energy to start all over again. There truly ain’t no justice in this world.