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Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

 

Big hurdles thwart Jubilee’s laptops plan

By OUMA WANZALA
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By FAITH NYAMAI
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When President Uhuru Kenyatta announced in 2013 that all the 1.2 million Class One pupils would get laptops, educationists proposed instead that the government consider building computer laboratories.

Being an election year, however, the politics of expediency held sway.

The one-laptop-per-child idea in Jubilee’s Digital Learning Programme was meant, ostensibly, to entrench information and communication technology (ICT) in the teaching and learning process in primary schools.

During roll-out in May 2016, however, the policy shifted from laptops to tablets due to the cost implications.

Five years and billions of shillings later, rather than transforming into a reality, this grand idea has become rather moot.

Not all the pupils in primary schools have received the tablets and those that have got some are no longer using them. Others have also been stolen.

The initial target was to equip all Standard One learners in all the 23,951 public primary schools with laptops by December 2016, but as of July this year, only about 19,000 public primary schools countrywide had received the tablets.

Apart from allocating funds to the project, little seems to be going on in training of teachers as only about 70,000 had been trained by 2016.

And this financial year, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich allocated Sh11.9 billion to the programme despite a recent government report pouring cold water on the project.

A report by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) revealed that, despite the fact that public schools had ICT facilities supplied through the digital literacy programme, only a few use the tools in enhancing teaching and learning.

“This was interpreted as either unwillingness by teachers to integrate ICT in the learning process or a lack of capacity to do it,” the report dated May 2018 reads.

EDUCATION REFORMS

Teachers were expected to use ICT as a tool to enhance teaching and learning across all learning areas to enhance learning outcomes:

“This is one of the core competences in the reformed curriculum and one that gives learners an edge in the dynamic global labour market. It is also a skill that helps them become life-long learners.”

The report indicates that less than half of teachers, at 39 per cent, were using ICT to enhance learning despite having the facilities and reliable power.

According to acting ICT Authority chief executive officer John Sergon, over a million devices have been distributed to over 19,000 public primary schools countrywide.

He disclosed that the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (Jkuat) manufacturing plant rolls out 600 devices daily, while the Moi University factory makes 1,250 also daily:

“So far, over 100,000 learning devices have been assembled locally.”

“Kenya has taken off as far as digital schooling is concerned. ICT has now been integrated in the new curriculum, the training of teachers from colleges on ICT courses is ongoing.

“In addition, ICT has been infused into the ongoing piloting of new content in Kenya. Lastly, there are plans to build resource learning centres in each school to sort out other classes,” he explained.

TEACHER-TRAINING

Auditor-General Edward Ouko said his office was yet to start an audit of the tablet project, which started to receive funding as early as 2013, with Sh17 billion being the initial funding for the project.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) also indicates, in its latest report, that more than 80 per cent of teachers have knowledge gaps on ICT.

The country is changing the education system from 8.4.4 to 2.6.3.3.3 with the segments of ECDE — two years, Primary — six years, Junior Secondary — three years, University — three years, requiring teachers’ new orientation.

“The new curriculum completely changes the approaches to teaching and learning,” TSC Chief Executive Nancy Macharia explained while addressing head teachers in Mombasa recently.

Despite the ICT authority putting on a brave face over the project, the schools have had different experiences.

According to teachers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the Education ministry rolled out a programme that only trained them for a few weeks.

“We received the tablets but we are not using them yet in class because we are not very conversant with the technology,” a teacher in a Machakos County school said.

Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association (Kepsha) boss Shem Ndolo however said he had not received any complaints.

In Kisii County, a number of primary school head teachers said they didn’t know where to take the tablets for repairs and maintenance.

A spot check by the Nation in select schools showed that there had been little effort by the government to make technical corrections on the hundreds of gadgets that have developed problems across the country.

At Kisii Primary School for instance, there are seven tablets that are not working and have been dumped in a store.

Head teacher Grace Nyamweya said no technical officer from the ministry or the supplier had been sent to mend them.

And owing to shortage of the tablets, teachers handling the pupils are also forced to conduct up to three learning sessions so that all the learners can be accommodated.

The school has more than 200 pupils in Standard One alone, Ms Nyamweya said.

There was a similar situation at Getembe Primary School in Kitutu Chache South.

The head teacher, Mr Evans Onsembe, said the tablets programme caused a rise in transfer of pupils from private schools that could not afford ICT learning.

“Enrolments have always been on the increase since the tablets programme came into effect and, being a public school, it obviously becomes difficult to turn away children seeking vacancies here,” he said.

In Nyandarua County, teachers have reverted to old methods of teaching due to shortage of the laptops.

Though they were meant for Class One studies, the schools have developed a programme to ensure all pupils benefit by acquiring basic computer lessons.

At St Joseph Primary School in Ol Kalou Township, the teacher-in-charge of the project, Ms Rachael Njenga, said the introduction of the tablets was a motivation to the children but complained that they are too few to adequately serve them.

“We received 48 laptops which are now shared by all pupils. Most them can easily work and operate the machine. We have no maintenance challenges because the county education office has the capacity to handle them,” Ms Njenga said.

In the North Rift, lack of electricity and poor internet connectivity has been a major drawback.


School managers faulted the government for rushing to introduce the project without putting in place proper infrastructure.

“It seems this tablet project will not succeed. We’ve resorted to normal teaching as the tablets are not effective. We only make use of them during computer lessons,” Eldoret Premier School principal Geoffrey Mbugua said.

He decried the lesson content on the tablets as shallow as it does not cover most of the aspects in the syllabus.

“Teachers waste a lot of time managing these tablets at the expense of teaching coupled with poor network. We feel this project was rushed; it could have been introduced gradually as computer lessons first,” Mr Mbugua said.

It also emerged that poor internet connectivity and electricity were a major challenge.

At Hill School Eldoret, learners are using the tablets but low connectivity is a major problem.

“We are having a few problems here and there including internet connectivity and content but we are coping with it well,” Principal Nelson Sitienei said.

The situation is not any different at the neighbouring Uasin Gishu and Central primary schools.

In West Pokot County, pupils and parents termed the project as misplaced priority.

They argued that the county was grappling with other burning issues hence no need for the project.

Many schools in the region lacks more important facilities than the tablets for pupils.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Pupils of Lopelekwa Primary School in Chepareria ward, Pokot South Sub-County, for instance are forced to learn under very squalid conditions because of dilapidated classrooms.

The head teacher, Mr Mathew Chumil Karuya, said that the school received 36 tablets but they have not used them.

“We have been forced to lock the gadgets in a cupboard since we cannot work with them in the dust,” Mr Karuya said.

He said that the school, which is up to Standard Seven level, has only three classrooms that are incomplete and they are too dusty.

“I have been trained together with my deputy but we cannot use the laptops since we lack a conducive environment for teaching,” he said.

In Baringo County, many schools which had been chosen to pilot the project are stuck due to rampant cases of insecurity coupled with poor internet connectivity.

A Nation survey in the area revealed that many schools lack proper infrastructure with pupils forced to sit on stones in the open.

At Chewara Primary School for instance, the laptops are not being used after power supply to the generated by the solar panels was disconnected following strong winds.

It also emerged that the laptop project had boosted enrolment at the school with the enrolment hitting 100 but most of the pupils have since dropped out.

In Trans Nzoia County, teachers are finding it hard to use the devices.

They say they find them overburdening and a source of confusion as a teaching method.

A spot check at various schools in the region revealed that teachers are now facing challenges of engaging learners and that the devices are dragging syllabus coverage.

Some of the schools have already given up using them and only use them on rare occasions.

Those that do use them are still struggling to master the new gadgets.

CHALLENGES

Kitale School in Trans Nzoia West is among the schools which have managed to put the devices into use. The school received 119 devices.

The head teacher, Mr Hesborn Ngaira, said that when the devices were received, curiosity among the pupils was high, and as a result it attracted more learners leading to increased enrolment.

“We anticipated that with the devices effectively used, learning would become easier; but with time challenges in using the devices are becoming more apparent than is their usefulness to learners,” he says.

Mr Ngaira noted that both learners and teachers were confused as to whether to continue with lessons using the devices or to leave them and proceed with the usual method of teaching.

He cited the challenges of high consumption of power, sharing of tablets among Class One and Class Two pupils, shortage of ICT teachers, time consumption and breakages as some of the difficulties that the programme faces making it difficult for it to be effective.

ENTERTAINMENT

Kitale School’s DLP programme coordinator Alice Masinde said a lesson could take more than an hour since the pupils don’t understand the use of the devices.

“It takes time to arrange a class and to ensure a child understands and when you come back the next day you have to repeat several times,” she observed.

She added that instead of becoming a learning tool, the devices seem to be a source of entertainment for the pupils.

The programme’s coordinator in Ngonyek Primary School, Ms Alice Chebyego, said that the time allocated for lessons should be increased.

She said much of their time is consumed in arranging the devices and powering them on before a lesson starts.

“We take about 20 minutes in arranging the class and some of the devices fail to power on giving us a hard time in putting a class to order before we continue with the lesson,” she noted.

ELECTRICITY

She said they sometimes share the tablets with Class One pupils, which is also becoming challenging to strike a balance of how to use them effectively.

National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo called on the government to speed up electricity connection to all schools.

“All schools should have electricity. The high cost of electricity should also be addressed as it is overburdening to the schools,” Mr Maiyo said.

Some parents also complained that some schools are yet to receive the laptops.

“My child, who is in Class One, has been pestering me that he has not received the laptop promised by the government,” Mr Joseph Limo, a parent from Tot in Elgeyo Marakwet County, said.


Breastfeeding helps fend off breast, ovarian cancers

By ANGELA OKETCH
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Failing to breastfeed is a risk factor for breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

Dr Geoffrey Mutuma, the head of oncology and pathology research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), said women who give birth over the age of 30 are more susceptible to breast cancer.

According to Dr Mutuma, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer primarily through two mechanisms.

One way is that the human milk scientifically known as hamlet induces the death of tumour cells found in the breasts.

He says clinical research has proven that the complex components of human milk secretion lower the risk of breast cancer in women who breastfeed their babies exclusively for a certain period of time.

OVULATORY CYCLES

As a result, the hamlet provides protection against the development of breast cancer.

Breastfeeding also offers protection against ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and type two diabetes.

Another way in which breastfeeding reduces chances of getting cancer, according to Dr Mutuma, is because of the differentiation of breast tissues and reduction of lifetime number of ovulatory cycles.

“I would urge women, especially working mothers, to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months.

“This will not only be beneficial to the baby, but also to the mother as it lowers the chances of getting breast cancer,” Dr Mutuma, who is a former chief government pathologist and founder of Nairobi Cancer Registry, said.

Many women fear that if they breastfeed, they would have sagging breasts.

However, researchers confirm that breastfeeding doesn’t make breasts wilt more.

In a 2007 study of 132 women, breastfeeding did not have a significant effect on breast ptosis, the medical term for sagging breasts.

But age, smoking and the number of pregnancies a woman had contributed to the shape of their breasts.

According to University of Kentucky’s plastic surgeon and researcher Brian Rinker, the older a woman is and the more pregnancies she’s had the more her breasts are likely to shrink.

“Women may be reluctant to breastfeed because of this unfounded myth that doing so means the end of youthful breasts,” Rinker said.

“Now, expectant mothers can relax knowing breastfeeding does not sacrifice the appearance of their breasts, but helps in preventing breast cancer.

FATALITIES

Dr Mutuma said breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

“In every nine women in Kenya, one will have breast cancer. Hormonal changes are the major cause of different cases affecting a woman.

“I would urge every woman in the childbearing age to go for cancer screening and vaccination,” he said.

Breast and cervical are the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women. Breast cancer affects 34 out of 100,000 people while cervical cancer affects 25 out of 100,000 people.


Activists protest death penalty verdict for Kamande

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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The sentencing of 24-year-old Ruth Kamande to death has once again rekindled the debate on capital punishment.

On one hand, there are those who have called for the commuting of the sentence to life imprisonment, which allows for the rehabilitation of offender.

Others laud the sentence as appropriate given the nature of Kamande’s crime.

Kamande committed a grisly murder. Transcripts from the judgment hearing state that she stabbed her boyfriend Farid Mohamed 25 times, leading to his death.

She ignored his cries for help and deliberately blocked his exit from the house, even as neighbours gathered and urged her to stop and open the door.

“The accused inflicted each stab, not in a frenzy as she alleged in her defence, but deliberately and intermittently.

“Her action was calculated to inflict pain and cause death slowly but assuredly. That is clear proof of malice, of spite, callousness and hatred,” Justice Jessie Lessit said in her judgement.

DETERRENCE

She said that the nature of Kamande’s crime, and her perceived lack of remorse, contributed to her death sentencing.

But human rights group Amnesty International on Friday asked that Kamande’s death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment.

AI Executive Director Irungu Houghton said in a statement that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime any better than other lawful punishments, and asked the court to call for Kamande’s rehabilitation instead.

Amnesty International is not alone in this position.

In 2007 the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNHCR) wrote a paper on the abolition of the death sentence, terming it “the ultimate violation of human rights”.

“It is a violation of the fundamental right to life, which the Government has pledged to protect under the Constitution and other international human rights instruments that it has ratified. Similarly, the death penalty amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” KNHCR stated.

QUALITY OF LIFE

The death penalty, the commission argued, is irreversible and disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged Kenyans who cannot afford good lawyers.

In addition, upholding it bucks a worldwide trend that has seen over two thirds of the countries in the world abolish the death penalty in favour of life imprisonment.

Prisoners on death row have the same quality of life as other prisoners and are able to take part in work and study programmes, the only difference being that they are not deployed for work outside the prison.

RIGHT TO LIFE

The mandatory death sentence was declared unconstitutional in the supreme court in December last year when two convicts on death row, Karioko Muruatetu and Wilson Thirimbu Mwangi argued that it impugned their right to life.

This means that judges still retain the discretion to hand down the death penalty, but that there is room to sentence convicts to a lesser punishment instead.

Crimes for which one can be sentenced to death include murder, robbery with violence, attempted robbery with violence and treason.

In light of the Supreme Court ruling, the government was ordered to review all current death sentence cases, meaning that convicts on death row will get another day in court.

The last execution was conducted in 1987 and Kenya currently has no active hangman.


MPs indict Rotich and Adan over ‘poisonous’ sugar

By DAVID MWERE
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Members of Parliament have resolved to indict two Cabinet secretaries and a number of parastatal heads for endangering the lives of Kenyans by allowing ‘poisonous’ sugar into the market.

Members of the National Assembly Committees on Agriculture and Livestock and that of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives want Cabinet secretaries Henry Rotich (Treasury) and Adan Mohamed (Industrialisation, recently moved to East African Community) held culpable for their actions that saw the entry into the market of the sugar, feared to be laced with elements of heavy metals — mercury, lead and copper.

The 38-member committee, currently in Mombasa for report writing, was initially split in the middle on who should carry the cross, with some defending the Cabinet secretaries and instead putting the blame on parastatal heads.

However, threats of a dissenting report forced the other members of the joint committee, co-chaired by Mandera South MP Adan Ali and his Kieni colleague Kanini Kega, to endorse the recommendation.

“We have agreed to indict the CSs and the parastatal heads as well as recommend that they be investigated further by the responsible government agencies for failing to perform their duties,” a member of the committee said.

CONCLUSION

The committee also wants the management of Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Sony Sugar Company Ltd and sugar directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) to take individual responsibility for failing to perform their roles effectively.

The probe was in response to Samburu West MP Naisula Lesuuda’s request for a ministerial statement on whether sugar in the market is safe following claims by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that it contained traces of heavy metals.

This came as it emerged that Kenyans will wait longer to know the results of whether the sugar is safe or not after Mr Kega said the committee will file its report without conclusive findings from the Ministry of Health, Kebs and the government chemist.

“The 10 days that the Speaker gave us are now over. We have also concluded our investigations but the challenge we have is that the government agencies have been unable to provide us with their final results on the suitability of the sugar,” Mr Kega said.

GAZETTE NOTICE

Mr Rotich is on the spot over the three suspicious gazette notices he issued in the importation of duty-free sugar last year.

In the gazette notice number 4536 of between May 12 to August 31, 2017, Mr Rotich did not specify the quality and quantity of sugar to be imported despite his Agriculture colleague, Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri, advising so.

The notice also permitted everyone, including those not licensed, to import the commodity thereby compromising quality and standards.

Mr Adan Mohamed has been accused of failing to ensure the sugar importation policies are implemented.

Kebs on the other hand failed to ensure that quality standards are adhered to.

KRA has been accused of failing to implement the report of the 11th Parliament.

The report recommended that KRA forms a multiagency with AFA and DCI to check the porous border points where contraband sugar was entering the Kenyan market.

The committee is expected to finalise its findings and recommendations this morning before presenting the report in the House tomorrow when MPs resume sittings after a short recess.

The CS also intervened and issued a gazette notice to allow 14 companies that had imported outside the duty waiver period to have their consignments cleared by KRA without paying the import duty.

The notice number 9801 had extended the duty waiver period from August 31 to December 31 but would later be amended by another issue of notice number 10149, which reduced the December date to October 13.

But still, the private firms would still have their consignments delivered in December duty-free.

The CS is also on the spot for failing stop companies that had been blacklisted by the 11th Parliament.

KRA was also required to punish its staff who aided in sugar smuggling business but KRA Commissioner General John Njiraini defended them, saying they did nothing wrong.

AFA is accused of failing to ensure that quality and quantity measures were adhered to when the sugar was imported.

Sony sugar has been indicted for being used by private entities to import the ‘poisonous’ sugar as well as a conduit to evade import duty.

The recommendations will put the multiagency team from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on high alert.

COMPROMISED SUGAR

In its preliminary findings of sugar seized by the joint team and that in the market, the Ministry of Health told the committee that it had not found traces of heavy metals as claimed but high moisture content, moulds and yeast in the 174 samples tested in selected parts of the country.

It was a similar case for Kebs as its acting managing director Moses Ikiara said that also traces of copper and lead had been discovered in two samples of the commodity seized in Eastleigh and Ruiru, currently detained at the DCI, Nairobi.

The committee members will be seeking to clear their names after their July 5 preliminary report was dismissed by Speaker Justin Muturi, Majority Leader Aden Duale and Minority Leader John Mbadi as being inconclusive.


Over 50,000 students to get Helb loans

By OUMA WANZALA
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A total of 59,500 new students joining universities this year will get loans from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

Chief executive officer Charles Ringera said so far the agency has received applications from 23,200 students.

First time loan applications were opened from June 1 and will be closed on August 30.

“To date 23,200 applicants have applied and printed the forms; and out of the 23,200 printed forms, 2,345 have been submitted for processing,” Mr Ringera said.

Out of the 615,773 candidates who sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) last year, only 70,000 made the cut-off grade of C plus to join university.

PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES

This year the government allocated Sh9.6 billion to Helb to support students. It was cut from the previous budget of Sh10.1 billion, making it the first cut in recent years.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows university enrolment declined to 520,893 this year from 564,507 a year ago — making it the first drop since the government stated making public student numbers in the 1990s.

Admission to public universities of students who scored C+ and above over the past two years has reduced the pool of learners available for private varsities and parallel degrees.

The falling student enrolment looks set to ease pressure on Helb, which has struggled in recent years to cater for the needs of the students, many of whom are from poor families.

DEFAULTERS

The allocation of Sh9.6 billion includes cash recovered from past loanees, meaning that the actual allocation from the Treasury is much lower.

Already Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed has extended defaulters waiver for one month after the agency raised Sh500 million by end of June.

Ms Mohamed said the waiver was extended because past beneficiaries were willing to repay their loans.

“Based on enthusiasm that most loanees have shown its imperative that we extend the repayment period so that we give them an opportunity to repay,” she said.

Mr Ringera said Helb had recovered Sh508 million from 9,112 loanees who had paid within the amnesty period which started on May 3 and ended on June 30.

“A total of 5,881 loanees are holding Sh971 million and have expressed willingness to repay in lump sum but they have been unsuccessful in their quest to beat the set deadline,” Mr Ringera said in a letter to Ms Mohamed dated June 29.

LOAN MATURITY

According to Helb, it cannot trace 17, 000 defaulters while by last year 85,000 beneficiaries were owing the agency Sh9.6 billion.

A total of 169,909 graduates had fully repaid their loans worth Sh13.2 billion by September 2017, while some 136,783 beneficiaries were servicing loans worth Sh20.7 billion.

Since 1974, the loan scheme has supported over 645,000 Kenyans at a total cost of Sh72billion.

Since 1974, 396,680 loan accounts worth Sh47.5 billion have matured for repayment; while 264,000 loanees holding Sh24.5 billion have not.

Of the 396,680 loan accounts, a total of 175,003 loanees have completed their loan repayment valued at Sh16.7 billion.

In 2016/2017 alone, the Board recovered Sh4.1 billion which accounted for 40 per cent of the Helb student financing budget of Sh10.2 billion for the year.


Trump’s politics spreading fear and resentment across the world

United States President Donald Trump is living up to what many people said about him during his campaigns: He is unpredictable whenever he opens his mouth.

If there are people living uncomfortably whenever Trump is in the glare of TV cameras, it is his handlers. His recent goof on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has put US intelligence agencies in a dilemma over the 2015 presidential polls, which the latter is accused of interfering with.

This and so many others — like the removal of the US in the climate change campaigns — has cast doubt on whether he is up to the task of projecting the US as a global leader in many issues.

Delivering the Mandela Annual Lecture recently in South Africa, his predecessor Barack Obama made comments that seemed to indirectly criticise Trump.

UNCERTAIN TIMES

Obama said we live in uncertain times as he hit out at climate change deniers, race-based migration policies, unbridled capitalism and strongman politics. These, without doubt, were veiled attacks on Trump.

I agree with Obama that there are times when one needs to step back and get some perspective. Trump and his theatrics has reached such a stage.

Trump is popular in the West, especially when it comes to immigration issues, but it is time he listens to his advisers. Though he has taken an about-turn on the Putin remark, he should reflect on what Obama has said about his presidency: It is perpetuating the politics of fear and resentment across the world

DAVID M. KIGO, Nairobi.


Enhance reading culture by embracing library services

Many Kenyans, especially the youth, find it difficult to search for information from books and other printed materials. The internet culture, though good, is not helping the situation much as information “over-crowd” makes it difficult for authentic information access.

I have visited the Kenya National Library, Nairobi Area, numerous times. Situated in Community, about one and a half kilometres from the city centre, the library has ultra-modern facilities, a quiet ambience and a lot of materials. It is housed in a clean, modern, well-aerated three-storey building that is easily accessible by private and public means. It provides free parking and a bus stop is just metres away on Ngong Road. It is a walking distance from the CBD.

The library charges Sh20 per day and offers free membership to adults and children. For Sh20, one can access all its publications, free internet, local dailies and e-books.

The library is equipped with relevant and fairly updated reading materials. The catalogue is computerised and shelves are well arranged and labelled, making it easy to locate reading materials. It has very helpful (by Kenyan public service standards) employees.

The library has a child-friendly reading section on its first floor complete with children’s games, reading materials and attendants. It is a perfect place to have your schoolgoing child babysat as they read and learn over the weekends and during school holidays. The library is open up to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am to 5pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.

One would, ideally, expect that the library staff is overwhelmed with work. With all these facilities, however, it baffles me that Kenyans do not take full advantage of the library. It actually bothers me that more schools do not bring students to the library to study.

Silima Muchai, Nairobi.

Reading many of former US President Barack Obama’s books, watching his speeches on YouTube and analysing his public lectures, I have concluded that he is the embodiment of eclectic literature.

It is noteworthy that a main factor that contributed to his ascent to the presidency was his writing — as depicted by the success of his novel, The Audacity of Hope. He is also respected for his impeccable articles in academic journals.

Reading the book, Dreams from My Father, you will identify Obama as a zealous gentleman who never takes chances with opportunity.

As a pursuer of education, Obama gets to live the philosophy of his political mentor, Nelson Mandela, who once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

In a class project, one of my students presented clips of Obama delivering a speech and taking pupils through children’s stories.

With his impeccable writing and oratorial skills, it is, therefore, deducible and conclusive that Obama built his legacy by embracing the flame of literature.

In our African orientations, grandparents are the epitomes of oral traditions. Therefore, the fruition of the literary skills in Obama can be attached to his occasional visits and evident attachment to his grandmother in Kogelo Village.

The glamour and splendor with which Barack Obama was received with on arrival in Kenya and his reception at south Africa over the week greeted with me with awe. Even after retirement as American president, his legacy accords him unrivalled respect and recognition.

Obama is identified as an all-round character; a personality whose legacy is multidisciplinary. In his biography, The Audacity of Hope, he portrays himself as a shrewd skimmer.

He has on several occasions launched and officiated economic forums, meaning he is zealously interested in transformation of the world economy. He has initiated and executed missions to combat criminal and terror groups. This illustrates his concern on global security. On several occasions, he interacts and shares with the clergy, denoting his sense of spirituality.

I once told my students to collect and assemble teaching and learning materials for demonstration of a lesson on managing stage fright and qualities of a good narrator, of which a student with the most ideal items would get a reward. To my surprise, one student came with a flash disk, and therein were two clips of Barack Obama: one delivering a speech and another taking pupils through children stories. I didn’t see any apparent reason of not doubling the reward for the student because his research and material collection was a perfect march for the lesson.

Wornicks Gisemba, Kajiado.


Executive, Legislature read form different scripts on CS summons

By WANJOHI GITHAE
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The relationship between the Executive and Parliament is headed for a collision after senior government officials expressed reservations about the number of times ministers are summoned by MPs.

A senior member of the Executive said Cabinet secretaries spend a lot of time seeking answers and appearing in Parliament.

The issue is compounded by the fact that the Senate and the National Assembly seem to be working at cross purposes as they at times could be investigating the same issue and send invites to a minister to appear before their committees at same time.

DAM TRAGEDY

The two Houses are investigating the Ruaraka land saga, Solai dam tragedy, Kenya Airways and several others.

The chairman of the Senate ad hoc committee on the dam tragedy, Mutula Kilonzo Jr, said the issue can be sorted administratively by the two Speakers agreeing on what each House should look into.

He, however said Parliament will not shy away from summoning ministers on matters that are of national importance.

“Cabinet secretaries are not just asked to appear before the committees. They are given a seven-day notice,” Mr Kilonzo said.

NO MANDATE

“The reason they are asked to come is because Parliament is a House of Hansard. Written answers cannot be put in a Hansard. Ministers should strive to manage their time.”

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi last week dismissed an attempt by senators to investigate the Solai tragedy that killed more than 40 people.

He said the committee was wasting its time since the Senate has no mandate over government organs.

Most summons have been issued to the ministries of National Treasury, Interior and Agriculture.

A minister was recently summoned to appear before different committees more than 20 times in a month.

There was a standoff in Parliament on Tuesday last week when a Senate committee demanded that Interior CS Fred Matiang’i appears before it in person to answer queries relating to the dam tragedy.

This is despite having provided answers presented by Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick Ntutu.

State officials who spoke to the Nation said some MPs seek questions from a minister then leave immediately before an answer is delivered.

THREE QUESTIONS

“Recently, a Cabinet secretary was asked nine questions. The MPs who had asked them did not turn up. Only three questions were answered. This is despite the CS having arrived in time and waited for the lawmakers for 30 minutes,” an official who requested anonymity said.

The 2010 Constitution was supposed to cure the problem but Cabinet members are now in Parliament for up to three days a week.

In the last Constitution, Cabinet ministers were drawn from the House. Many of them spent more time Parliament than in their offices.


Open up golf to grow sport in the country

By EDITORIAL
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The Kenya Commercial Bank Karen Masters Golf tournament that ended yesterday produced thrills and good scores. The event, in its second edition, attracted top-quality players after it was incorporated into the South Africa Sunshine Tour, which saw the top prize rise to Sh2.4 million.

Some of the top players came from Africa’s golfing powerhouse.

The partnership will improve the quality of competition, and the sport in East Africa. Already, Kenya has been given five slots in the Sunshine Tour with the five players who made the cut at the Karen event, gaining automatic entry into the South African Series.

LOCAL PLAYERS

It is good news that Sunshine Tour plans to have more events in Mombasa and Uganda. This should be supported and encouraged. More sponsors should come on board.

The Kenya Open is set to be transformed into a main European Tour event — meaning that few Kenyan players will be invited to the tournament. That is why the Sunshine Tour events will come in handy for local professionals.

Implementation of the proposal to start the Kenya Open Safari Tour should also be hastened. The Safari Tour will help to refine local players, besides keeping them busy.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

From the look of things, none of the current crop of Kenyan professionals can win the Kenya Open or a Sunshine Tour event since most are in their sunset years. That is why the Kenya Golf Union (KGU) must up its game in helping clubs to nurture players from a young age.

It goes without saying that golf in Kenya is still an elitist sport. Access to clubs is still expensive. The KGU needs to come up with affirmative action to grow the game. A public golf course will be essential to give talented but less privileged Kenyans a chance to play.


Alarm as children miss vaccines due to health workers’ strikes

By WAIKWA MAINA
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A prolonged health workers strike last year has cost the country its gains in immunisation coverage, exposing children under one year to polio, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that the gains made in improving immunisation uptake have sharply declined in many counties in the past three years.

The ministry said that by last year, out of 864,619 recorded births countrywide, only 65 per cent of the children underwent full immunisation, with 76 per cent recorded for a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis, BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin).

DISEASE OUTBREAKS

According to the Economic Survey 2018, the coverage dropped from 1,101,279 (69 per cent) immunised children in 2016 to 1,014,894 (63 per cent) in 2017.

The 2017 figure is the lowest coverage since 2005, when it stood at the same level.

According to the Nyandarua Director of Health Services, Kariuki Gichuki, the number of unimmunised children in the county and the country as a whole had continued to increase every year.

“This predisposes the county and country to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s easier and cheaper to immunise children than to treat them of the diseases,” Dr Kariuki said.

He gave the example of measles treatment, saying the budget was enough to vaccinate about 100 children.

According to the data, the worst immunisation rate was recorded in June last year, when the nurses’ strike began, recording a 46 per cent coverage. This forced the ministry to offer crash vaccine services after the four-month strike.

Healthcare services in all the public facilities ground to a halt last year when nurses went on strike between June and November for 152 days. The industrial action came hot on the heels of the doctors’ strike, which began on December 5, 2016, and ended on March 14, 2017.

Consequently, nearly 500,000 children were not vaccinated against some of the world’s most debilitating diseases such as polio, pneumonia, meningitis, measles, influenza and hepatitis.

LIFE-THREATENING

In an overall analysis, 21 counties registered above the projected 10 per cent dropout rate in the immunisation coverage last year.

Data from the Division of Vaccines and Immunisation and The District Health Information System indicate that by last year, a majority of counties did not meet their target coverage in the provision of the Penta 1 and Penta 3 (Pentavalent) immunisations, which are given to children to protect them against multiple diseases.

Pentavalent is a mandatory vaccine introduced in 2002 for all children. It is given in three doses to protect a child from five life-threatening diseases: Diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae type b. Mandera County trailed at 30 and 35 per cent coverage in Penta 1 and Penta 3 coverage, respectively. Kiambu led in Penta-3 at 100 per cent.

CREATE AWARENESS

Other routine vaccines introduced afterwards include PCV 10 in 2011, measles second dose in 2013, Rota Virus in 2014, Immunised Polio Vaccine in 2015, while in 2016, the ministry switched from measles only to measles-rubella, which are all performing dismally.

In Nyandarua County, the measles vaccine coverage reduced from 15, 429 in 2014 to 12, 248 in 2017.

According to Dr Kariuki, the statistics are a wakeup call to all to vigorously create awareness and reach out to immunisable children.

“The body has its own immune system; the importance of routine immunisation is that it helps the body to produce antibodies, which prepare it to fight preventable diseases,” he said.

To mitigate the challenge in the county, the Department of Health is using mobile phone alerts sent to mothers a day before the immunisation date.

PERMANENT DISABILITIES

“What we are doing is to document the mothers’ mobile phone numbers at delivery then computerise the due dates for an automatically generated alert,” said Dr Kariuki.

Ms Jane Njeri, a community health educator, says some of the immunisable diseases have no cure while others cause permanent disabilities, or studded growth.

“Some of the preventable diseases such as tuberculosis are expensive and time consuming to treat. Diarrhoea is also a big challenge for our children, yet it is also immunisable,” said the health educator. She advised parents to adhere to the Mother-Child booklet, which contains information on pregnancy, delivery and post-partum course, immunisation, nutrition and other data to monitor the child.