Main Menu

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

 

Panic as city flats set to be pulled down

By HILLARY KIMUYU
More by this Author

Owners of a building that was launched by then Housing Minister Soita Shitanda in 2013 have been served with a notice to bring it down in the next two weeks.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) and the Water Resources Management Authority on Friday issued a 14-day notice to occupants of Seefar Apartments at Nyayo Highrise estate.

The notice said the building was built on riparian land and that the management should present itself at Nema offices tomorrow.

However, Seefar management doubts the authenticity of the letter asking tenants to vacate the building as it does not have an official stamp from Nema.

SH6 MILLION

If the notice is genuine, it means that more than 300 families will be rendered homeless. Some families started moving out yesterday.

Documents seen by the Sunday Nation showed that a two-bedroom house costs Sh6 million while a three-bedroom house goes for Sh8 million.

Tenants pay between Sh38,000 and Sh45,000 per month.

The building is owned by Edermann Property and was constructed by Chinese professionals. The firm has many other properties across the country.

Three years ago, the Water Management Authority and Nema had, in a letter to the Seefar management, said they were satisfied with how the building had been put up.

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

“The repairs were carried out as per the designs earlier submitted to us to a satisfactory level. We recommend that a film of red soil be overlaid on the rehabilitated section completely covering the gabion boxes,” read the WRMA letter to the firm’s management.

On its side, Nema issued the management with an environmental impact assessment licence that approved the construction of the building. According to the management, construction of the apartment, which cost Sh950 million, started in 2012. Mr John Rajwayi, who is the manager of the property, said they were issued with all the documentation before they started construction.

“We had all the documents with us before we started construction,” he said.


So you’ve built a successful business? Now leave it alone

By SUNNY BINDRA
More by this Author

You’ve done the hard work. You’ve put in the long hours and sleepless nights. You secured the loans and serviced them. Your payroll no longer gives you higher blood pressure as the end of the month approaches. Your business is established; it’s secure; it’s viable; and it’s throwing up positive cash flow.

So you’ve built a successful business? Now leave it alone.

Now, please learn to leave your business alone.

BIG SACRIFICES

Having gone through the myriad trials and multiple tribulations of starting a business, many founders are unable to delink it from their lives. It swallows everything else up, and becomes the beginning and end of their existence.

Therein danger lies.

A great business is indeed a great endeavour. It is something worth working for, worth making big sacrifices for. When done well, it is a noble enterprise — one that bestows good careers on its employees, does a useful job in the life of its customers, and earns handsome returns for its founder and other shareholders. That happens very rarely, truth be told, so why would I be asking you to detach yourself from your precious achievement?

DANGEROUS STIMULANT

Because, truth continue to be told, no one thing needs to become the whole of your life. And business is a powerful drug, a dangerous stimulant where deal-making and continuous growth become addictions that can’t be shaken off and must be continued at all costs.

I have watched too many business founders become so utterly engrossed in their enterprises that everything else in life fades to become background noise. Family is just part of the decor. Children are just a funding need. The world is seen only during business trips. Bigger thoughts about life and meaning are just vapid snippets exchanged over dinner with customers or financiers. The business is literally everything. Nothing else matters. If spouses don’t like it, they can leave. Offspring get their education paid for — what more do they want?

SELF-IMPOSED CEILING

The business also becomes indistinguishable from the founder’s personal finances. School fees and wedding costs are drawn from the business; personal properties are thrown in as securities without a moment’s hesitation; guarantees are signed without a murmur.

The danger now becomes very real. To make your business (or your professional practice) the whole of your life is to expose yourself to many pitfalls. For one thing, you will become an extremely one-dimensional person, interesting only to yourself.

For another, your continuing obsessive involvement may preclude any real growth and positive change in the business — it will always be about you and your plan A. Plan B will never materialise. And you will find it very difficult to attract fresh capital and grow beyond a certain self-imposed ceiling, because financiers see great risks in one-man shows.

WHISTLING CHEERFULLY

You may also suffer a rather lonely and empty end-of-life. Your business may pay your hospital bill, but it won’t give you the deep relationships that sustain people in their old age. If the only meaning you found in your life was in clocking the sales and pulling off the deals, that won’t give you much succour when you can’t hack it any more.

Our businesses and our professions are just vehicles in which we traverse our lives. The vehicle itself is not interesting — the journey is. We must, of course, maintain a roadworthy vehicle, but only because it allows us to travel comfortably and have multiple rich experiences. We must not end up hogging the steering wheel manically and refusing to disembark. Someday we need to hand over the controls with grace and dignity, or lock the door and walk away whistling cheerfully, ready for fresh challenges and experiences.

PERSONAL ENGAGEMENT

Confusing your business for your life is a severe delusion. A business should of course be a key feature in your life, that goes without saying. No one builds a great business without great personal engagement. But keep that engagement healthy. Draw some lines early, and respect them. Depersonalise the enterprise, involve and empower others as you go. Evolve.

Be ready to step away from any one business if your work there is done and others will now do it better. Create many options for your life, things that you can do at different stages to earn both income and respect, and add meaning to your life.

There are many relationships that matter, not just those that involve personal achievement and financial growth. Life is a multiplicity. It is rich and complex and full of different flavours. Experience it in its fullness.

Sunny Bindra’s new book, ‘The Bigger Deal’, is now on sale.

www.sunwords.com


Without human touch, Information Technology is nothing

By SAM WAMBUGU
More by this Author

By default, many parents prepare their kids for science-oriented courses. The bias towards science and vocational courses writ large.

Humanities — studies about human culture, such as literature, philosophy, and history — don’t seem to have the appeal like their sciences. For some parents, taking humanities is taking an uncertain road to the future — never mind that not everyone has the aptitude for the sciences.

But even in a world powered by technology, the notion that graduates in humanities are inferior has no legs to stand on. Here is why.

MEMORISING FACTS

Google has a colossal collection of knowledge. In the days gone by, one would show their mental mettle by memorising facts. With Google’s stupendous servers teeming with information, it’s pointless to burn brain cells committing massive amounts of data and facts to memory as this information is just clicks away. So, rote learning and recall is now of little value. Instead, students need skills for lifelong learning; skills on how to think and to spur creativity. Tools to help them express themselves clearly and cleanly.

SOCIAL LADDER

Even if one masters math, technology and sciences, but cannot lucidly express themselves, they would find it rough to thrive, leave alone climbing to the pinnacle of social, political and economic ladder. Look at it this way: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, requires his senior management to write memos for meetings. PowerPoints and bullet points are banished from his meetings. Meeting presentations are in the form of pages of well-articulated prose.

Bezos gets it: Writing jargon-free concepts takes more than vocational training. It takes critical and creative thinking; the type of skills one would acquire at the feet of a professor of humanities, coupled with years of practice.

PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, is another proof that vocational skills go hand in hand with humanities. While launching a new generation of iPad he said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”

Keep in mind that another tech titan, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, was himself a psychology major while at school. Zuckerberg is never shy of explain that he wasn’t driven by technology while forming Facebook.

DISSECT INFORMATION

His motivation was to connect people and make them comfortable sharing their identities and their lives online. He brought psychology into technology to hatch Facebook.

Skills in humanities are now needed more than ever before. They prepare learners on how to read, analyse and dissect information. They teach them to be adaptable. The computer coding language taught in the past is of no use now.

Discounting humanities is denying our society ingenuity, creativity and the skills needed to sell products produced by graduates of vocational training.


Travel tips for first-time visitors to New York

By BOB OKELLO
More by this Author

A now forgotten cartoon published in The New Yorker magazine in 1975 that sought to portray every place on earth as a suburb of New York City remains enduring for students of global geopolitics. The Manhattan skyline is still imposingly enviable but it does not dwarf every city anymore. Clearly, President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy is a throwback to that era.

I had been to the US a couple of times before but not to New York. On a recent trip through a number of states, I decided to pay particular attention to New York, even spending a few days in Manhattan. In fairness, few cities can compare. It is simply mesmerising. It is a “look at me” or “I am and you are not” kind of place!

DIRECT FLIGHT

The big news is that Kenya Airways will start flying to John F. Kennedy International Airport non-stop from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) later this month. With this direct flight, many Kenyans will find a trip to the US faster — though not jet lag-free. It should take about four hours less (give or take) compared with connecting through Europe. Providing for layovers, fatigue and sleep disturbance, one will save almost a full day.

Those who intend to hop onto this flight need to reckon with some New York realities — from the viewpoint of a first-time visitor.

VERY POLITE

Brace for very rigorous security screenings: Now that there’s no stopover in Europe, expect more rigorous security searches at Nairobi’s JKIA and worse at JFK. Stay very polite when picked for the screening and, as expected, most travellers of non-European extraction will be highlighted. Like it or not, that’s just the way things are.

New York is bustling and frenetic: I took a random walk down Wall Street to take a selfie with the raging bull and the little girl daring it to charge at her. There are just so many people from all walks of life bumping into you from every angle.

Try not to act new to the city and avoid stopping people to ask them for directions or to snap your photo. Relying on Google is good enough. Most of those you stop will ignore you thinking you are needy. New Yorkers just want to get on with their lives.

ADVANCE BOOKING

The smart money is prudent money: The cost of accommodation in New York is over the top, if you can find one. I suggest travellers make their bookings in advance online via Booking.com or Expedia.com. If possible, avoid Airbnb because of the registration issues, but worse, most of those renting out will take a look at your photo and swipe next. Nothing bruises the ego more than knowing you can pay but for some reason your race makes you disposable instantly with the swipe of a finger. Pretty much everywhere is accessible with the metro; just be aware that anything less than Sh15,000 a night would give you very few luxuries if you are lucky.

Uber is reliable but maximise on the subway: If you normally pay your Uber by cash or via M-Pesa, add a credit card option. You will need it. But the subway/public bus is probably your best bet. The tickets are interchangeable, reliable and cheaper. For $32 (Sh3,200), for example, you can get a one-week ticket that takes you everywhere within the city. Don’t forget that New York is a walking city. Wear comfortable shoes to pound the pavement, more so after those mostly unhealthy meals.

TAKING PHOTOS

Switch off your data roaming, camp in Starbucks instead: You will see that the city professes free Wi-Fi, but it mostly does not work for foreign numbers. If you are using a Safaricom line like I did, set your phone to roam on AT&T, whose charges are hundreds of times cheaper than T-Mobile. Make a habit of sneaking into a Starbucks (it has hundreds of outlets) or shopping malls like Macy’s that provide very good Wi-Fi.

Besides, if you need it, taking photos is not frowned upon, so you can snap away and send photos of what you want to buy real-time back home for the beneficiary to choose and select.

Shop in the outlets not the gleaming malls: Be warned that shopping in New York is prohibitive unlike in other states or Europe. Things are roughly 50-70 per cent more expensive. Again, the smart money is in looking for deals in retailer outlets and not in the malls. You will get the same brands at nearly 50 per cent knock-down on the prices in the malls.

TIPPING CULTURE

The currency is the greenback: Unlike in Washington, DC, where your value is in your network, New York, like much of the US, is purely business. The economy is booming and anyone doing any kind of work is making gobs of cash. People are up and down chasing the greenback to be diverted with stories about hating on President Trump. Leave behind the Twitter diversion in Kenya and elsewhere. There is really serious stuff happening in real life.

Embrace the tipping culture: Most Kenyans don’t like to tip, for whatever reason. Be warned that not tipping could cause a serious disagreement. The rule of thumb is to leave between 18-20 per cent if unprompted. If you don’t leave a tip, leave a reason.

HIGH PRODUCTIVITY

Limitation is a gift: New York will help you appreciate the gift of minimalism in the face of the glaring excesses typified by Wall Street or tech billions in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. There’s just so much innovation in optimising small spaces to deliver high productivity.

If your visit is gloomy for shortage of the greenback, just do yourself a favour: Ignore the tall towers, the SUVs, the glorious malls, the beautiful people on the street or the gleaming skyline and learn from the melting pot of immigrants stewing the American dream in those hidden gems.


Elephant in the room: Why Raila is rooting for a referendum

By PETER KAGWANJA
More by this Author

Certainly, Kenya is headed for a third referendum, possibly within the next three years. With the strategies of leading presidential contenders pivoting towards a referendum, the post-2022 order becomes hazier.

Since the blissful ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018, calls for a plebiscite have become louder and bolder. Mr Odinga is categorical that “a referendum vote before 2022 is unstoppable”.

On October 6, 2018, Deputy President William Ruto tactically backed constitutional reforms through direct democracy.

POLARISING ISSUE

Kenya is not new to referendums designed to hew a new political arrangement. A popular clamour for constitutional change to remove Section 2A of the Constitution that converted Kenya into a one-party state returned the country to a multi-party system, paving the way for the 1992 election.

Despite the opposition’s electoral triumph in 2002, constitutional reform has remained a polarising issue. A proposed new constitution was defeated by 58 per cent of voters during the November 21, 2005 referendum, badly splitting the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) and setting the stage for the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

The August 4, 2010 constitutional referendum endorsed the new document by 68.6 per cent of voters, but the new law is now the target of review.

PRESIDENTIAL BID

A referendum has become to Raila Odinga what the Holy Grail is to the Church. Before 2013, he backed a pure presidential system as necessary to enforce “reforms.” But on July 7, 2014, in the wake of the abortive Saba Saba “Kenyan Spring”, he launched the Okoa Kenya movement to amend the constitution ahead of the 2017 election. The referendum initiative collapsed, but laid the ground for the fierce power tussles that marred the 2017 elections.

The former Premier is pushing for the referendum close to the 2022 election to serve as a dry run for his fifth presidential bid — or a chance to reshape a post-Jubilee arrangement, if he opts to be a kingmaker.

Despite the spirited push for a parliamentary system, Odinga’s approach to referendums has been pragmatic. His game plan is to create an inclusive post-Uhuru arrangement as a ‘coat-of-many-colours’ comprising of the Big-five — Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, and Kamba — as well as influential minorities.

CEREMONIAL FIGUREHEAD

ODM wonks are toying with a watered-down president as titular figurehead aided by two vice-presidents, an executive premier and two deputy premiers. This arrangement, however, is poised to run against serious headwinds.

Kenyans are unlikely to readily cede the power to directly elect their chief executive to a parliament that has lost public trust as a non-corruptible representative of the people. Moreover, Kenya’s ethnic constituencies may not accept a ceremonial figurehead.

But the big question remains: Is Raila ready to settle for a weakened presidency? Aged and his health declining, he may accept being a ceremonial president.

BUILDING BRIDGES

Although in the recent past Deputy President Ruto has argued against a referendum, he fully recognises the power of the direct vote in shaping the future of power. His support for the victorious “No” vote in the November 2005 referendum enabled him to ride the ODM wave, eclipse ‘dynasticism’, and to rise to the helm of Kalenjin power in the post-Moi Rift Valley.

Moreover, although the “No” vote lost in the 2010 referendum, Ruto’s leadership of the campaign enabled him to exorcise the Odinga ghost in Kalenjin politics and to rally the community behind him ahead of the 2013 election.

However, the Ruto camp sees eerie parallels between the push for referendum and the “Change the Constitution Movement” to block Moi from automatically succeeding Jomo Kenyatta in the 1970s. The “Building Bridges Committee” is seen as Odinga’s ploy to block Ruto from succeeding Uhuru.

CORRIDORS OF POWER

Therefore, Ruto’s public support for a referendum is merely tactical. Although it may be a game changer, he has remained mute about the end-state of the plebiscite.

With America and other Western capitals reportedly backing constitutional reform, Ruto needed to avoid possible political isolation.

He has aggressively mobilised Jubilee Party MPs to neutralise the politics of the handshake and hope to use the increased executive seats to enhance his power base across the country.

On his part, President Kenyatta — who has presided over the implementation of the 2010 constitution and paid a heavy political cost for it — has kept a magisterial neutrality in the referendum debate.

But in the corridors of power, three positions on his possible role in the post-2022 order are discernible. On the one extreme are his more moderate strategists who are working to strengthen the Jubilee Party as his post-2022 power base to enable him secure his legacy.

TERM LIMITS

On the extreme are pundits who believe that the push for the referendum should go the whole hog and abolish the presidential term limits, thus allowing Kenyatta to seek a third and perhaps a fourth term.

A group of “centrists” is pushing for a hybrid system with a corporate touch: an executive President as Chairman of Kenya Inc. assisted by two deputy presidents; a Prime Minister as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kenya Inc. nominated by the President but confirmed by a joint house of Parliament (Senate and Lower House) and assisted by two deputy Prime Ministers, one in charge of Public Service affairs and the other of Cabinet and Parliamentary affairs.

Added to these is the more eclectic “punda amechoka” populist crowd backing a referendum as necessary to reduce the tax burden on ordinary Kenyans (Wanjiku). Referendums are here to stay, but we should guard against the referendum becoming an invitation to chaos and anarchy.

Prof Kagwanja, a former government adviser, is the Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute.


‘Slay queens’ and the new youth culture of showy material excess

By GITAU WARIGI
More by this Author

Recently I took off to some away place where my hosts were all over my visit because of the morbid news they were getting from Kenya about grisly murders of young beauties, spiced with stories of love triangles involving dashing Bad Boys with murky backgrounds, and well-heeled and powerful older men, one being a rich South Sudanese general. It is the kind of melodrama that a Nollywood movie director would kill for — no pun intended.

For one, I was rather flattered that goings-on in my country were being followed so avidly beyond our borders. Back home, the stream of updates on TV, print and social media had reached fever pitch. Everybody was tuned in: Housewives, market traders, office workers, politicians, even priests and gangsters. And everybody had become a detective with multiple theories to spin on who was guilty, and who was sleeping with whom.

SEX AND MYSTERY

The storyline, locally and where I was visiting, was that Kenya had become a dark hell where girl killers were roaming everywhere like an evil wind. The clincher, which never fails to drive people into a frenzy, was the angle of love and sex and mystery in the stories. Throw into the mix a celebrity, and the frenzy becomes a collective intoxication.

Personally, I am fairly cynical about these things. Love is what you make it. Puppy love is one thing; those who indulge in it don’t know where they are going. Men more mature will, too, profess to love, but are not always sincere. They often have other designs, not least control. As for women, they will get smitten hard and differently, but subconsciously they are driven by other impulses. Relationships have always been transactional. We used to talk of mistresses, where there was a give-and-take between a married man and a mature lady not his wife. The youth generation have their own equivalent “outlier” relationships and have created catchy phrases like slay queens and “sponsors” and Ben 10s, or toy boys.

TRANSACTIONAL AFFAIRS

The slay queens and Ben 10s are addicted to life on the fast lane, of non-stop clubbing at upmarket joints, and of fancy gadgets and gifts they can’t really afford if it weren’t for their “sponsors”. It’s all fake and make-believe lives, which can leave the young swingers in a psychologically insecure state, especially when the sponsors inevitably disappear. Nasty things can result from these situations, where a craving for validation is key.

Indeed, marriages are also transactional affairs. It could be for money, emotional security, class or social compatibility — whatever. True, pure love can occasionally grow, but this is as rare as a Mother Teresa found keeping a Ben 10 in a convent.

APOCALYPTIC SIGNS

Preachers like to frighten us with sermons about “End of Times”, citing apocalyptic “signs” like the multiplicity of wars and conflicts everywhere, pestilences like Aids, or the abundance of false messiahs, both political and otherwise. But there is nothing new here. Wars have been waged from before our ancestors migrated from the Congo. They have only become more deadly today because technology has made weapons more lethal. Aids? Forget it. Humanity has gone through worse scourges that in their time had no cure like leprosy and bubonic plague, which once wiped off a whole third of Europe’s population. (Jesus, in fact, had a nice sideline of healing lepers, which helped his otherworldly ministry to take off big-time).

Modern communications and newspapers have only contributed to make such calamities look like they are everywhere, prompting alarmists to scare everybody that the world is coming to an end. The internet has multiplied this torrent of good and bad information to crazy levels.

STRINGS ATTACHED

The youth phenomenon of slay queens and Ben 10s has a vocabulary of its own that defines romance in aspirational terms, first as a desire for material well-being, even if this comes with strings attached from a well-off benefactor of the opposite sex. But above all it is a search for status and peer recognition.

The frequent turbulence — even violence — in these relationships is nothing unique. Worse things happen every day in our urban slums and rural villages where poverty has caused different kinds of relational dysfunction. When these catch national media attention, it is because there is a compelling link like, say, to an influential figure like a governor who is being followed around by a desperate female student pregnant with his child.

STARRY-EYED VISION

So-called blind love and its associated heartbreak is something that has inspired poets and musicians since time immemorial.

One of my favourite singers, the immortal American-born Tina Turner, subtly downplayed this starry-eyed vision of love in her classic song “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Love, she sang, “is a second-hand emotion.” The name of the song became the title of an autobiographical film about the abusive relationship between Tina and her first husband.


Reforms we need to make education system effective

By KIPKIRUI KAP TELWA
More by this Author

The current spat between the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is not good for learners preparing to sit their national examinations in two weeks’ time. Negotiations between TSC and the union should be guided by the principle of win-win for the student.

Knut has tabled a number of issues that it feels should be resolved by the teachers’ employer. These include halting and even reversing the controversial delocalisation programme and promotion of thousands of teachers who have attained higher education. TSC, often abuses its constitutional autonomy leading to its “showmanship”.

STOP BRINKMANSHIP

But it should now stop its brinkmanship, listen to and respect the voice of the teacher. Mr Wilson Sossion and his team should also be guided by their inner conscience as they seek better pay and working conditions for their members. It is unconscionable to stage a work boycott at a time when the very clients they claim to serve are set to write their final examinations.

A teachers’ strike at this time undermines the very values such as respect for the vulnerable, hard work, patience and tolerance which education seeks to inculcate in learners. It also undermines the place of the learner in the education sector. In fact, it makes it appear like basic education in this country is only about TSC and Knut.

LEARNER UNFRIENDLY

I don’t know if Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed and Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang are aware that most public primary schools in rural and urban areas are learner unfriendly. Many primary schools are dusty, classrooms do not have windows or window panes and the playing fields are poorly kept with overgrown grass. These conditions expose learners to the vagaries of nature and their attendant risks. Instead of working to frustrate teachers’ unions, as alleged by the union, TSC should employ more teachers and pay them well.

It is time Parliament amended both the Basic Education and TSC Acts to provide for appointment of school headship on periodical terms. Such appointments must factor in the principle of public participation. This will reduce unfair competition, nepotism and corruption, as many are known to buy their promotions or bribe to remain in the same school even when they have nothing to offer. It is also not enough for the national government to buy books and subsidise learning in primary and secondary schools in Kenya. It should build more schools in rural and arid areas to accelerate literacy ratio in Kenya. More quality assurance officers should be employed and deployed to continuously monitor learning in the country.

SKELETON PERSONNEL

The turf wars between the ministry and TSC staff can be cleared by amending both TSC and Basic Education Acts in a way that the Ministry of Education has an upper hand in management of schools. The autonomy of TSC is not helping to improve quality of education.

While other statutory bodies such as the Law Society of Kenya, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Board or even the Council for Legal Education, among others, are involved in curriculum development and training and monitoring of institutions, TSC simply sets up desks and skeleton personnel at the sub-county level to manage paper work for hundreds of staff.

How does TSC intend to appraise teachers when quality assurance personnel are employees of the Ministry of Education? Can teachers also appraise TSC unit staff on their performance?

Mr Kap Telwa is journalism and media law lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Nairobi; [email protected]


Why more bipartisan reactions will soon be the norm in Kenya

By ISAAC OTIDI AMUKE
More by this Author

In her acclaimed novel We Need New Names — with the pre-teen narrator Darling and her friends Godknows and Bastard living in Paradise, a shanty town — Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo deploys large-scale satire in exploring the prevailing conditions of struggle and deprivation for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Amid the squalor in Paradise, Bulawayo positions Darling to juxtapose the dire circumstances residents of the slum endure vis-à-vis their sense of eternal optimism, as portrayed through the eyes of children, who are at once aware and unaware of their misery.

BASE CONCERNS

Forgetting their grim predicament, Darling and her friends exist inside their own make-believe world, where as children do, they see endless possibilities. As their country grapples with an election, all the children care about is how to fill their stomachs with stolen guavas, and similar base concerns.

To Darling and her friends, at present, it is only the little things that matter. For the future, all they hope for — and as happens for Darling when she relocates to America — is that one day they will leave Paradise for somewhere else — America, Europe, Dubai or South Africa.

PURELY PEDESTRIAN

Yet when Darling gets to America, she realises it is not the bed of roses she imagined it to be. As things stand today, Kenya — like Bulawayo’s Paradise — may or may not be sliding down a slope leading into an economic deep hole, mainly for the less fortunate of our lot.

Like Bulawayo’s Darling, Kenyans have been known for their resilience, such that even if aware of their continuously dire situation, they may persist as if being nonchalant about it all, taking care of the basics even if on a hand to mouth rotation.

Yet as they say in Parliamentary parlance — and if one were to assume the role of Speaker and thereby make a determination — the mood of the country, itself a purely pedestrian and perceptive indicator, heavily suggests that even if Kenya isn’t at its worst, it could certainly do better.

STRONGLY WORDED

Nothing illustrates this more succinctly than the poignant sentiments of maize farmers in the Rift Valley, who recently poured their hearts out to the Senate sitting in Uasin Gishu County. One old man particularly stood out, lamenting in front of dumbfounded Senators that for him, it was better to die than to be alive in Kenya today, where money meant for known maize farmers has been diverted by State agencies for the benefit of a few well connected brokers.

It was a moment of truth for the rest of the country to hear such strongly worded sentiments coming from elders at a public forum in what is considered the ruling party’s stronghold, an un-ignorable revelation that when the country begins to go south, party affiliation becomes secondary.

DOOM AND GLOOM

Yet amid all this doom and gloom as articulated by the maize farmers — being a microcosm of the everyday Kenyan living through hardship — the two questions that must not escape us is how we got here, and how to get rid of the dark cloud hanging over our heads.

The answer to both questions, surprisingly or not, is politics. We got here due to bad political choices and decisions at various times and levels, and we can only get ourselves out of here through politics, by reversing those bad choices and decisions.

As they say, politically instigated problems can only be resolved politically. This is because whatever has gone wrong thus far isn’t permanent yet, much as it might take longer to be reversed once we have our act together as a country.

This means the more we delay in doing political housekeeping, the more difficult getting back on course might get.

HERD MENTALITY

This shift can only happen once the citizenry demand better from the political class — which through deeds and misdeeds emanating from a lack of ideological coherence to put Wanjiku first — has continued to operate on autopilot, perpetuating politics of ethnicity and deal making.

Of course the citizenry cannot escape blame, since it takes two to tango. Therefore, as a way out, the level of politics must be elevated two-fold.

First, the electorate must denounce bribery and the blindly-moving-together herd mentality in support of ethnic kingpins, opting instead to interrogate proposed policy programmes.

On the other hand, the country’s leadership — which should know and do better — must rise to a higher calling beyond primitive accumulation and building imaginary dynasties on quick sand.

Like Bulawayo’s Darling, Kenyans may be getting into a progressively miserable situation, but may not be wallowing in misery yet.

However, if they refuse to act in their self interest in demanding better of themselves and their leadership, then that misery might just hang around longer, and get worse.


Confront the menace of exam cheating

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

In the countdown to the start of national examinations, the question that keeps cropping up is the level of preparedness to administer honest tests. Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and top officials at the Kenya National Examinations Council led by chairman George Magoha have consistently given the assurance that they have sealed all the loopholes that cheats may exploit to get the papers beforehand and get an unfair advantage over others. This is quite welcome. As we have said before, we must strive to administer leakage-free examinations as that is the only way to restore credibility to our education system.

Even so, it is bad that we are frightened every year about examination cheating. It is a demonstration of a society that has lost values and a system that has prized theft and deceit at the expense of honesty. Critically worrying is the fact that students, teachers and parents have institutionalised cheating. A generation of learners has thrived through cheating and subjecting them to honest learning environment, where they have to study and master concepts and use their brains to answer questions, is tantamount to torture, hence must be resisted at all costs.

So a trend has emerged where students make devious demands on teachers to aid them to cheat. They want teachers to steal examination papers, failing which they resort to strikes and destroying school property. Worse, they beat up teachers as we have reported in recent times. This practice must end, which is why we encourage Ms Mohamed and the examination officials not only to plug all the loopholes but to move boldly and ruthlessly to deal with groups that organise themselves to steal examinations.

At the school level, headteachers and their staff have the obligation to forestall the problem by preparing students well for the papers and instilling in them the sense that success can come through honest work. Second, they must resist and repulse all attempts by students and parents who seek to influence or push them to abet the vice. We acknowledge this is fraught with perils with students resorting to violence, but that is what it means to stand for what is right. What it also means is that the government must provide adequate security to schools to guard against violence being meted out on teachers or other unruly behaviour by students.

Nationally, the minister and her team must intensify surveillance to thwart cheating and those caught must be severely punished. At least the revised exams law provides enhanced penalties for the fraudsters, which should give the authorities the confidence to confront the menace.

With the challenges clearly mapped out, the ministry must go all out to deliver credible examinations. Cheating must be completely eradicated in national exams.


Cheer Stars to victory

By EDITORIAL
More by this Author

Kenyans hold their breath today as the national soccer team Harambee Stars take on Ethiopia in the Group “F” return leg of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match at Kasarani. It has all the billings of a thriller.

Harambee Stars, who drew 0-0 with Ethiopia away on Wednesday, only need a victory to see the country return to Africa’s top soccer showpiece after a 14-year absence. The Stars and Ethiopia tie on four points each while Ghana is third with three points. Sierra Leone, which has been banned by world football governing body Fifa, trails with three points.

SH50 MILLION

We want to call on Kenyans to turn out in numbers and cheer Harambee Stars to victory. The move by the government to waive the entry fee for the game with Deputy President William Ruto promising Sh50 million for the team if it qualifies is commendable in the short term but raises fundamental questions about sports governance.

It is a tragedy that the government and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) have woken up to the reality that the team is on the verge of qualifying just this late. All along, the team was being treated to all sorts of promises that were never honoured.

UNPAID SALARIES

Just before travelling to Ethiopia, Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne had threatened to quit over unpaid salaries. Earlier, players had turned down call up to the team over lack of motivation. It is awkward that Harambee Stars do not even have an official team bus to ferry them to matches.

One would have expected the government to have pumped the said Sh50 million into the team’s preparations instead of giving the promise at this late hour. As a country, we treat our national teams badly. They deserve better.

DEMORALISED

As usual, the challenge is always cash and when it is provided, officials often steal it and leave players stranded, starving and demoralised. Yet with the outpouring of support now, there is evidence that the government can fully support the sport.

FKF must seek multiple sources of funding while the government ought to establish a predictable system of supporting sports.

We wish Harambee Stars all the best.