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Friday, January 4th, 2019

 

Dear readers this is why I had to change

By NJOKI CHEGE
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Change is a life process and avoiding it is simply running away from reality

You would think after an entire year of thinking about this particular column and allowing it to stew in my mind that it would be easy to write. But here I am, struggling to find the right words. So I will approach this like I approach any task, I start simple.

This column is for my readers, fans, foes, critics and friends. It is perhaps the most open and honest I have ever been in my nearly five years of being a columnist, so pay attention.

As some of you might have already realised, I have gradually changed the tone of my column from a tough-talking, abrasive City Girl to a significantly mellowed columnist—now kinder with a shade of empathy.

Readers have written expressing how they miss the old City Girl. I have news for you, the old City Girl is not coming back. She served her time well, ruffled enough feathers and took the criticism with the stoicism of a monk, and now I am not afraid to tell my readers—yes, I have changed. Many may wonder why. One friend over dinner a couple of months ago suggested in our first meeting that I had perhaps changed because of “someone”, purporting that I altered the course of my career for an individual.

I was aghast because I realised this is the society we live in. We attempt to trace the decisions and choices of a woman to a man’s influence, more so, a non-existent individual in my case.

If Njoki Chege is changing from a fiery City Girl to a much more relaxed columnist, it is because Njoki Chege wants to. I am not yet at the point in my life where I make career decisions at the convenience of an individual. This has by no means been a “sudden” change. To reduce my change into something “sudden” is to do a great injustice to the intricate process of change, the process of becoming and the process of growing up.

Growth and change rarely happen overnight. They are a culmination of little, seemingly insignificant moments in life, building up into a life-changing decision like this one. My transition took three years of a deeply personal journey of reflection and meditation to arrive at this decision. More importantly, it has been informed by the path in which I now clearly see for myself in the near future.

My future path has never been clearer to me than it is today. I am profoundly persuaded that I am headed to a new level. This is why I am changing and rebranding City Girl.

I am changing my messaging so that it is consistent with the future I see for myself. I know taking this decision could possibly have disappointed many, but I am not one to peg my decisions on the convenience of others.

 I hope my readers understand that change is the essence of life. That to avoid change is to die a painful death inside. That sometimes we must leave the warmth of our nests, spread our wings and soar to see what the future holds. I will not promise to write authoritatively on all issues, but be sure that I will refrain from writing about the blue cars and other “pink topics”.

My prayer is that my readers will welcome my change not because they like me, but because they personally appreciate the value of change in their own lives as I have seen it in mine. A new level requires a new me. This is the new me.

I hope my readers change and grow with me. Happy New Year, 2019.

Readers bonus: For the past couple of years, I have been drumming into my readers that I am not on Facebook. I had to write about this several times because of the many fake Facebook accounts purporting to be me. In fact, I had nearly completely written off the idea of ever returning to Facebook. However, in a complete change of mind, I finally caved in and dear readers, I am happy to confirm that I finally joined the platform at the behest of a friend who pointed out that the easiest way to fight fake Facebook accounts going by my name is to actually join Facebook and declare them null and void. So far, I am loving the idea of reconnecting with friends and fans and I wish I had done this sooner!


Is Kenya’s rule a reflection of the will of the people? It depends on who you ask

By PAUL EKURU
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Is there democracy in Kenya? Why has there been a long-established debate in both elite forums as well as village political rallies about just how democratic Kenya is or isn’t? Is it all that important to be democratic – in the list of pressing priorities a country has to deal with? Ok, wait a minute, what is this democracy to begin with? What should my grandmother in the village say it is? What is its colour?

SIX QUESTIONS

As to what exactly constitutes democracy, we could debate that till cows come home, and chances are that we will still be at loggerheads even then. The debate would leave us haggling over whether to define the concept of democracy exclusively grounded on the procedures used to select top government office holders, whether it is about the extent to which the public participates in the formulation of public policy, whether to focus on the degree of civil liberties enjoyed by Kenyans, or is it all of these things together? In fact, it may well be that democracy is all of these characteristics plus many more – a long inexhaustive list. Fellow Kenyans, I would now like to invite you to answer these six questions, questions whose answers could to a great degree point as to whether there is or isn’t democracy in Kenya.

The number one question on our public checklist is around how elected government officials get to ascend to a public office in Kenya. Is it through free, fair and regular elections? And what would a free and fair election look like? First, all citizens who qualify to vote must be allowed an equal and uncoerced chance to cast their vote. Secondly, there exists a precise, objective and an effectively authoritative procedure that guarantees all those competing for political seats irrevocable right to contest. Thirdly, that those established rules are not deviated from when declaring the winner. Do such conditions exist in Kenyan elections? You are far more qualified to answer this than I am.

CIVIL LIBERTIES

Our second question has got everything to do with how the elected government makes decisions for the very people that elected it. While public policy making is enshrined in a complex process, are there procedures that provide for transparency in the whole decision-making process? Are these procedures known to Kenyans? Are the decision makers accountable enough? And by way of expressly inviting your second answer, are you, as a Kenyan, aware of which government officers make decisions affecting you? Are you aware of how they make such decisions? Let’s dig even a bit deeper, and we may exit with some idea of the real colour of democracy in Kenya.

Our third checklist item is about how political parties generally organise in Kenya. In your very dignified judgement as a Kenyan citizen, would you be a witness to the fact that there is free space for political parties to field candidates for elective positions? Is the environment free for political competition amongst all the parties that declare interest in contesting for political seats? Does the government of the day take it in stride when criticised by the opposition? I’m sure that you have already worked out your answer.

The fourth question takes us to the most powerful political office – the office of the citizen. There is probably no way this concept of democracy can sustain a meaningful definition if it has not been sieved through the lens of the citizen. In practice, are the political rights of all the citizens safeguarded? Does the state project and protect Kenyans’ right to participate by way of voting in all the periodic elections that are conducted? Is their right to not vote also respected? How about their civil liberties?

BILL OF RIGHTS

Do Kenyans speak freely without fear of official reprisal? In fact, allow me to directly put this question to you, do you feel that your human dignity is respected? Do you have access to information that would be relevant and useful to you as a citizen? Do you associate freely within the territorial boundaries of this land called Kenya? How about your freedom to demonstrate, picket and petition issues you are uncomfortable with? Do you actually experience these freedoms as espoused in the Bill of Rights, chapter four of Kenya’s constitution? Please do add your answer to our mental list of responses so far.

The fifth question takes us to our final leg of democracy checklist, and it’s all about the rule of law. So, if the law was to be placed on one side and all Kenyan citizens on the other, would you lift your hand and say with gratified pride that yes, all of these citizens are equally treated by the law? Are there some persons, groups of people or organisations that would occur to you as being above the law? Are you proud of how the Kenyan courts are functioning? Are they independent or do you get a sense that the judges and magistrates do receive instructions from outside of the judiciary? I do invite your response once again.

And the last item on our colour of democracy checklist is how the country’s leadership deals with conflict. Any society that is organised politically is bound to experience a variety of challenges. There will be political and ethnic identity related conflicts like Kenya’s experience of the unfortunate 2007 post-election violence, there is bound to be observable economic challenges as well as social upheavals. The grand question is, is there an overarching commitment to have all and any of these types of conflict resolved peacefully?

Is there observable desire to not resort to violence as a means of resolving these issues? Would you be of the opinion that the elected governments in Kenya have done well in exercising effective authority – including control over both military and private power holders such as the powerful elite? Are there private persons or groups of persons who in your view do veto the government position? Is that even a possibility in the Kenyan society?

There is effectively a total of six colours of a democratic society presented here. I would be quick to say that there is probably much more of these elements that could help us frame what democracy should look like. It’s also practically impossible to have societies in consistent and absolute observance of all of these elements – not even in the long-established democratic societies like the Americans, the British and the Germans. But depending on the type of responses to this checklist – whether in the affirmative or negative – one can start to form a view of what democracy should look like in Kenya. So, is there democracy in Kenya? I hand this debate to you the honourable jury.

The writer is a media and social change expert. He is also an Obama Leadership Fellow. [email protected] Twitter: @PaulEkuru


We can develop and still protect environment

By DAVID GITHAIGA
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Flip the pages of this publication or scan the television news, and you’ll soon come across a story about looming climate change and the sacrifices apparently demanded of us all to avert its worst affects.

While there is no denying there must be shifts in how we use natural resources, what’s rarely featured in these stories is by doing so we can be better off than if we continue with the ‘business as usual’ mode.

ECOSYSTEMS

Instead, it’s said economic progress — what Kenyans are working so hard to accelerate — is incompatible with protecting environments from permanent damage. No wonder we all stick our heads in the sand and ignore the growing clamour.

But what if we can drive economic growth, meet rising demand for food, energy and water, and still make significant environmental progress? New research published last week suggests that we can.

The study, ‘An Attainable Global Vision for Conservation and Human Well-Being,’ presents a scientific test of a vision for the future where thriving human communities and abundant, healthy ecosystems coexist.

It analysed whether we could advance major conservation goals while meeting the demands of population and economic growth in 2050. It found that we can put the world on a path to sustainability, as long as we make significant changes within the next 10 years.

That sounds ominous. But what’s interesting is that to succeed, those changes do not need to include things like giving up eating meat, or significantly changing the crops we grow, or stopping moving to cities.

SUSTAINABILITY

The study, done by The Nature Conservancy together with the University of Minnesota and 11 other institutions, modelled what the world would look like in 2050 if human development progressed on a ‘business-as-usual’ path compared to a ‘sustainability’ path.

We can see what that means just north of Nairobi in the watershed for the Tana River, where The Nature Conservancy is working with farmers to secure water supplies for the capital’s businesses and homes.

There, business as usual means removing all the remaining tree cover to maximise planting, cultivating right to the edges of rivers and streams, sucking water from those water sources for irrigation, and failing to account for the area’s geography as fields are planted.

Taken together, these actions put thousands of farmers on a fast path to degraded soils, silted rivers, and ever-poorer harvests.

What about the ‘path to sustainability’? Does it require huge sacrifice and compromise?

No. Our work there is as simple as supporting farmers to terrace their fields, dig water pans to store water for irrigation, and protecting river banks to keep streams clear. That way, yields increase, land is protected, and livelihoods are securer.

PRODUCTION

Globally major changes in production patterns are needed, let’s not deny it. But what is important is that we can meet our human demands, while simultaneously advancing several major conservation goals.

Steve Polasky, from the University of Minnesota and the report’s co-author, said: “It will require big shifts in the way we think about and use natural resources, but our study shows it’s possible with expected technology and consumption patterns”.

Heather Tallis, co-author, from The Nature Conservancy, said: “We are not looking at an inevitable trade-off. Expected growth in GDP, population and its demands can be balanced with major improvements for climate and nature.”

By 2050, as Africa’s population doubles to 2.5 billion and the world grows to 10 billion people, demand for natural resources will reach unprecedented levels.

Crop harvests will need to rise by 53%. Energy demand will increase by 56%, and domestic water demand will more than double. Overall, the world’s economic production — which relies on food, energy, and water — will triple.

Without action, this will intensify the harsh impacts of climate change. Leading global development organisations are already highlighting air pollution and water scarcity as the biggest dangers to human health and prosperity.

TEMPERATURE

But the point of the study is that it shows there is another path we can take. How? By adjusting how and where economic activity occurs.

First, we transform energy production from primarily fossil-fuels to renewable and nuclear energy, and site new infrastructure on already-developed land.

Next, we change where within our farmland we grow certain crops, and where others, finding the optimal conditions for each crop. This lowers water demands, and avoids converting fallow or protected land into more and more farm fields.

Finally, with better management of wild fish stocks in our lakes and oceans, we increase what we catch, but sustainably.

This is all doable, and what an incredible difference it will make if we choose the ‘sustainability’ path compared to the ‘business as usual’ path.

Temperature rises could be limited to 1.6°C rather than 3.2°C. Air pollution that could harm 4.9 billion people would instead affect one-tenth that number. Fisheries that would otherwise be almost entirely overfished would be secure.

In Polasky’s words: “Protecting nature and providing water, food and energy to a growing world don’t need to be either-or propositions”. A sustainable path for the future is indeed possible.

This is hugely encouraging. What stands in the way of a sustainable future is not the limits of the planet. It is the limits of our will and creativity.

The writer is Africa Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy


Prayers should be our first line of defence, not last

By PURITY WANJOHI
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Towards the end of last year, an opinion poll by TIFA Research found that 56 per cent (almost six out of 10) Kenyans thought 2018 was a bad year due to life’s challenges. One thing you can be certain of is that at one point or another, each of these six people prayed when things got tough. Being human, we tend to pray when all else has failed yet prayer should be our first line of defence. We ought to pray long beforehand.

Five days ago, we ushered in 2019. Today, we are presented with an opportune moment to pray for our country. Let us pray.

INTOLERANCE

Our Heavenly Father, thank You for mercifully bestowing upon us another year. We take it not for granted that we are alive in 2019. For this, we are truly grateful. As we begin this year, Oh God, we want dedicate Kenya into Your mighty hands and invite You to walk before, and with us.

Creator of what is seen and unseen, we ask that You make us to be good stewards of our environment. Please grant us the wisdom and desire to care for it. Help us to maintain its integrity since a sustainable environment is good for our beings, economy, social lives and for future generations. Along with that, God, grant us favourable weather for growing food. Father, we pray for our families – the basic units of our society. It’s in families that we learn much of who we are; and how we are to deal with the world. Indeed, family is very important. As a result, the enemy has found ways to break it up. He has showed up in the form of jealousy and strife, selfishness, intolerance and poor communication. We are seeing divorce, family and sibling rivalry over ‘things’. We are seeing children and youth fall into many societal vices and suffer a loss of identity. Lord, since You are a good and powerful Father, intervene and stop the devil in his tracks. Give us Your love so that we can love one another as You love us.

Lord of all lords, we pray for our leaders. You are not only the greatest authority there is but also the greatest leader of all. You also don’t expect from us what You Yourself have not delivered. Therefore, God, we ask that You will remind our leaders to emulate the servant-leadership model that You exemplified, to think with their minds and not their stomachs; and to endeavour to bring unity and development for all. Let them know when Kenya prospers, they too will prosper.

God, we also pray for the media industry; a sector of utmost importance because it influences the way we think as a society. As journalists and associated staff collect information, guide them in Your wisdom, protect and embolden them. We also remember opinion leaders. Because their opinions count, let them be careful with their words in speech and writing.

Great Teacher, we intercede for our education sector. Of late, it’s been marred by confusion, infighting and a rebellious spirit. Minister to its leaders so that they work together peacefully. Inspire teachers to teach with gusto, punctuated with words of encouragement, and give students the discipline and will to study

Jehovah Rapha, our health sector requires Your healing. Arm all doctors and nurses with tenacity and resilience, researchers with innovativeness and solutions against diseases like cancer. We pray for our economy and businesses. We don’t have to tell You about our burgeoning Sh5.1 trillion debt for you are All-knowing. Cultivate in us creativity so that we may seek and find solutions to our economic and business problems, and find new ways to grow without debt. Bless the work of our hands as employers, employees and hustlers.

Finally, remember our judiciary, lawyers and the police. Honour their sacrifice and give them courage to live the words of our national anthem: “Justice be our shield and defender.” And for those who have stolen taxpayers’ money and time, show them no mercy!

In Jesus Name, amen!

Wishing you a fulfilling year!


Only accuracy can guarantee good planning after the census

By GLADYS BURINI
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Here’s a word we will all be personally engulfed in for most of this year: census. The ancient Roman term, stemming from the Latin word censere or to estimate, will be taking place this year after a decade. What are your estimates of the Kenyan population in 2019? A) 48 million, B) 50 million, C) 55 million, D) Somewhere in between. Either way, assumptions will be set aside by the true figure in August.

WRONG FIGURES

Thanks to the progress in technology and us with it, this year’s census will be digitised. We now move from a paper based to a paperless, wireless census. Gone are the days of filling in paper questionnaire forms which were at risk of being altered, destroyed or lost. While a paperless census is also bonus to the environment, does it absolve all of the previous risks from a paper-based census?

With a wireless census, there still remains a risk of bad faith in conducting the census where the enumerators collect the wrong data, do not enter the data correctly or worse, enter the wrong figures. We cannot be too naive about these possible errors having recently questioned foul play in the use of data in last general election. Given the magnitude of the task at hand, we as Kenyans gravely concerned with the use of our painstakingly paid taxes would like to believe there will be good faith in conducting the census that results in an accurate figure that is a true reflection of the Kenyan national population.

Though each of us cannot personally police every enumerator hired by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, we would like to believe the 200,000 enumerators will be cautious and take into due consideration the effect of having correct figures. If some area is not properly canvassed to the last child, adult and senior citizen, how will we hold our county government to account when it comes to constituency fund allocation? What then will me make of the Equalisation Fund for marginalised counties versus the ones we deem worthier of the assigned funds?

SENIOR CITIZENS

Competition for national and county funds aside, the census is our signpost reflecting how we have grown as one; Kenyan. It is not an exercise of collective data division of the Kenyan population and the highest number gets rewarded. If that flawed theory was the case, look around your constituency and county, are you reaping the rewards of holding a high number?

Rather bizarrely and very onset into the year, much like most things of national interest, the 2019 census is already being politicised. Murmurs of an unexpected growth in certain regions is steadily being used, a weapon of words. These kinds of whispers if internalised turn into hairline fractures dividing a steadily united nation.

Let us not be distracted or easily swayed from the purpose of the census. It is there to check and consequently challenge the national housing capacity against the population. It is here as a true indication of our demographic dividend with the exact number of youths in Kenya who beseech to be heard but are often dismissed with no valid explanation. The census is there to speak for the senior citizens whose voices often go unheard yet they still form part of the population. How else would we know how to allocate Older Persons Cash Transfer and confirm every shilling is accounted for? After all it is the senior citizens constitutional right to receive reasonable care and assistance from the State.

‘POLITICAL CENSUS’

If you still feel removed from the entire process and it seems to be of no benefit to you, a census is a good data capture for densely populated areas ideal for setting up a business a goal many Kenyans aspire to. But, should we take up and continue with this on set ‘political census’ this dynamic process seeking accuracy will be tainted with bad faith, lacking public confidence and trust.

We have come of age, capable of conducting a full, non-partisan and accurate census. Despite challenges in conducting this year’s census already being reported; technical preparations, the procurement of digital equipment including 165,000 smart phones and training of 200,000 enumerators for the exercise, the Bureau has at least 7 months to right any wrongs. God forbid we witness public faux pas of last minute procurement and details hastily being finalised calling into question the whole exercise.

For every single Kenyan, let’s be optimistic for an accurate census that accounts for each and every one of us by taking part in it. For the Bureau tasked with a costly census of Sh18.5 billion and its 200,000 enumerators, the onus lies entirely with you to deliver a thorough first digital census in the history of Kenya. Will you live up to our expectations? We sure hope so!

Happy census year 2019!


Take your time to read or even write a book on land, it’s vital

By IBRAHIM MWATHANE
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Generating, processing and documenting thoughts, knowledge and experiences takes effort and resources. But it helps to preserve today’s experiences, create fresh knowledge and share lessons. It helps to interpret complex theories and procedures for understanding and use by a wider lay audience. Documentation makes it possible for future generations to learn from and improve on the experiences and lessons of our time. This is why we need many voices in the land sector sharing and documenting experiences. We too need more writers in various fields to unpack complex procedures into simple, easy-to-understand narratives in 2019.

PHOTOGRAMMETRY

And writing is never about extra time. It takes focus and commitment. My editor James Ng’ang’a Mbugua is a good example. Besides his routine duties, we bombard him with volumes of opinion write ups yet still finds time to write. He has written many books; all manner of books! He is a good challenge. And now some of my close colleagues has jumped into the book league. Dr David Nyika, a PhD holder in urban and regional planning, taught me photogrammetry during my undergraduate days. He is also a licensed surveyor. He, along with Dr Winnie Mwangi, a PhD holder in land economics who once served as vice chairperson when I served as chair of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya, partnered to write a helpful book.

This new easy-to-read book entitled Land Administration: Principles and Processes is good read for practitioners and scholars. Masters and PhD students will particularly find it helpful for shaping thoughts and scope for further research. But many others, including practitioners and policymakers and implementers, will find the book useful reference. It helps to bring out the place and role of land administration in development, an area that remains grey to many. I found the definitions of land, land administration, land management, land rights and land tenure very well done. Much as these are documented in many texts, David and Winnie make it quite easy for anyone to appreciate these from a lay perspective. Their experience and diversity practicing and teaching land administration and surveying must have come in handy.

PRINCIPLES

But more marks out the text. Key land sector actors and gatekeepers such as the national and county government, landowners, professionals and professional associations and their respective roles, are profiled. The role of civil society organisations, international agencies and the private sector in land sector processes and management is also discussed! But one wishes that the book found space to mention and discuss the position and role of land commissions.

The chapters that discuss and simplify the otherwise complex land administration processes such as land adjudication, physical planning, surveying, valuation, land allocation and land registration from Kenya’s perspective give good value. The book provides the procedures and challenges that define the land adjudication process in Kenya. It also documents the physical planning process, the applicable standards and also sheds light on short and long term physical development plans, development control and coordination in the context of land administration.

Surveying, the science of measuring man-made and natural features on the earth’s surface for various uses, and its role in land administration for development, is also discussed. The role of surveyors in specialised areas like the production of various kinds of maps, delimitation of boundaries, as expert witnesses in judicial proceedings and in land consolidation and subdivision, is highlighted. And so is valuation, its principles and approaches, and its link to land administration and development! The discussion helps one to appreciate and to figure out the key principles that inform the valuation of property.

LAND RIGHTS

Investors and groups who require to be allocated public land will find the chapter on allocation very helpful. Public auctions, tendering and requests for proposals from the public are some of today’s methods of allocating public land. But disadvantaged persons and groups can be targeted for land allocation on grounds such as gender equity, disability, historical injustice or even economic and cultural marginalisation. But where will such land come from? Land banks, which are reserves of land built up through direct purchases from the market, is one such source. Others include land which has been compulsorily acquired, land which has been surrendered back to government for instance when lease terms expire or even land obtained from the degazettement of public reserves like forests and parks. Well-wishers also donate land for the development of public schools and health facilities.

The book also highlights some of the instruments through which one can hold the allocated land rights such as assignments, leaseholds, sub-leases, easements and freeholds. Land registration, the business of officially recording legally recognised interests in land, sits at the end.

In sum, busy folks keen to avoid big technical books on the sub-processes that support land administration, and the roles of the respective stakeholders, will find this a good alternative for quick and easy reference.


Stop sideshows, implement new curriculum

By EGARA KABAJI
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It is now official we are rolling out the new curriculum starting this month. We have to ignore arguments against tangible research findings on the weaknesses of the 8-4-4 system. The shift from knowledge-based learning to competence-based learning is now within sight. What is important now is to move with speed and address some of the implementation hiccups already identified.

Key to the successful implementation of the system is proper training of teachers. Teachers should be trained to design tasks for students that enable them achieve their objectives. Under the new system, the role of the teacher has changed from an information giver to a facilitator. They are expected to simply provide the democratic environment, materials, the activities and guidance to the learners.

SPECIFIC SKILLS

We now have to empower teachers to appreciate the fact that they need to design creative activities and materials if their lesson are to be successful. That is why we have to in-service teachers on new approaches to lesson planning. Under the new system, the teacher has to identify each competency and plan for activities to instil the skills. Teachers also have to give learners opportunity to practice these skills. But more significantly teachers have to be trained to always take into consideration personal differences of the learners and deal with them individually. That is precisely why this system can only succeed if teachers devote large amounts of time to create activities to teach specific skills.

In competence based learning teachers have to encourage students to engage in active inquiry and make explicit their implicit expectations. The teacher should be keen on outcomes and assess application of what has been learnt in form of actions and performances. In essence therefore, we need to prioritise training of teachers. The classroom has to be an interactive space that encourages experimentation and exchange of ideas. This can only happen if the teacher motivates students enough.

ASSESSMENTS

Equally important is the process of preparing teaching resources. Well-designed performance activities should aim at making the students to practice the requisite skills. Materials aimed at being used in classrooms should be oriented to doing rather than knowing. Students have to be taken through activities oriented towards the ability to successfully complete a real-world task. My plea to the Ministry of Education and by extension Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) is to work closely with publishers and guide in the development of the right teaching resources. Availability of these materials will contribute towards a successful implementation of the curriculum.

Our approach to assessment of learners has to change. We will need to overhaul the whole assessment system. Use of formative assessments will help determine how well a student is progressing along the path to competency. These assessments have to be frequent and specific. Summative assessments should be designed to determine whether or not the student has mastered the competency.

We have to guard the system from suffering the same fate as that of 8-4-4 system.

MASSIVE WASTAGE

We have to insulate it from massive wastage and cut throat competition for grades with minimal emphasis on skill acquisition for learners. But more importantly, the Ministry has to bring everybody on board. A national strategy of informing and consulting all stakeholders should be designed and implemented. Top on this list of stakeholders are the teachers unions.

Trade Unions are not professional bodies and sometimes run off the mark, but we have to engage them. By their very nature, trade unions often advocate for positions that bring immediate comfort to their members without projecting far enough and without truly engaging the issues with fidelity, but they are key stakeholders who have to be made to appreciate the need for competence based learning.

I think opposition to the new system is partly driven by fear of the unknown. There is no time we will be 100 per cent ready for implementation. The time is now.

Prof Kabaji is the Deputy Vice Chancellor at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology [email protected]


Should Kabila rig in his ‘project’, there won’t be any peace in DRC

By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have hit upon rather innovative ways of manipulating and stealing elections which should be quite an eye-opener to those strongmen on the continent who do not want to let power slip from their hands regardless of the outcome of such elections. First, shut down the Internet and the short messaging system (SMS) to ensure that no information about the vote count reaches the voters or the outside world to avoid early declarations of victory by the opposition.

MEANINGLESS

Secondly, postpone the elections in some opposition strongholds thus effectively disenfranchising as many voters as possible. But to prove that you are not entirely heartless, allow the vote three months after the rest have done it, even if it will be completely meaningless. At least the electorate cannot accuse anyone of denying them their democratic right to queue. This is a most ingenious solution, for a country’s peace and security cannot be compromised.

Third, pull down the signal of the most popular radio stations which are not under the control of the regime so that nobody can broadcast any inconvenient truth. It would never do to allow a station owned by foreigners to usurp the will of the people. All these foreign broadcasters have a habit of siding with the opposition in Africa, thus fomenting internal strife among peaceful citizens. They must be stopped in their tracks and their nosy correspondents kicked out of the country.

Fourth, reject any offers of assistance by outsiders. If there are glitches during the elections, especially in the matter of results transmission, it is not the business of outsiders to interfere. Problems with the logistics must be tackled locally otherwise what is the use of talking about sovereignty if outsiders can end up helping the opposition? By the same token, it would be unwise to allow too many international observers into the country, for they tend to turn into intolerable busybodies whose main aim is to instigate insurrection and regime change. The fifth solution, besides stuffing ballots boxes which has been rendered anachronistic by electronics, is to ensure that even if the voters in opposition zones do line up, they won’t vote. Either their names will go missing in the register, or the voting materials will be delayed on voting day until closing time. Also, electronic voting gizmos are made by men and one should expect some to break down here and there. The government cannot be blamed for such inevitable malfunctions.

There are many other ways in which opposition politicians who want to change the status quo can be contained, but the most effective is to ensure the names of the most popular do not appear on the ballot papers at all. Banning such politicians from participating is relatively painless and negates the need for all those other measures which are prone to easy detection. There are very few politicians without skeletons in their closets and discovering such reputational blemishes is easy. So is acting on the intelligence.

These are not mere theories. All these things happened in the DRC in the run-up to the voting last Sunday, the first “free” election since the country’s Independence in 1960. Indeed, variations of this kind of vote theft have occurred in many African countries, Kenya included, which make a mockery of our pretensions at democracy. What is different is that the DRC pulled a fast one by using a disease outbreak to rig the election most blatantly. This is definitely original.

DISENFRANCHISING

While it is a fact that the Ebola virus has already killed 360 people since April last year, and while, indeed, there are militias wreaking havoc in the eastern region of the vast country, disenfranchising a million voters cannot be taken lightly anywhere. Ebola is not spread through the ballot; it is spread through the exchange of body fluids – blood, saliva, vomit, semen, sweat, tears and urine – none of which is likely to happen in a queue. This makes nonsense of the claim by the DRC government that its aim is to save the lives of voters in the eastern region.

The other inexcusable ploy by the government is to prevent people learning the progress of the vote count. While it is true that the major opposition contenders were as early as Tuesday claiming victory, so did President Joseph Kabila’s “project”. Shutting down the Internet is a high-handed way of ensuring that blatant rigging goes on unhindered. It is also myopic, for when people discover they have been prevented from expressing their will through a stupid ruse, they will definitely go on a rampage, and the response may be brutal and deadly.

It is difficult at the moment to know exactly what the preliminary results will show tomorrow, but one thing is certain. If President Kabila’s protégé is rigged into office, there will be no peace in that country just as there has never been any in the past 58 years. This means the long-suffering people of the Congo will have to wait longer for their elusive messiah.


It’s high time we played by the rules of a language

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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As with other English verbs with UR endings, to occur – to take place – is turned into its simple past form (occurred) simply by doubling the R in the last syllable and appending the usual simple past tense letters ed. Yet in our newspapers, the verb to occur is usually turned into the past tense simply by adding to it the letters ed.

Such a chimera as occurred is what you thus end up with. On our obituary pages, we read that “The death of…” somebody has occurred. But, in English, there is no such word as “occured” (with a single R). In the past tense, the verb to occur becomes occurred (with two Rs) in the simple past tense.

CIVILISATION

In writing, the C and the R are doubled in the continuous form (occurring) and in the simple past form (occurred). The doubling of the letters C and R is so central that, if you ignore it in writing, you terribly confuse your readers, frequently with appalling consequences to understanding. Yet that often happens especially in Eastern Africa’s English language newspapers.

If your nationalist politicians have latched onto a colonial European language as your medium of education, of intellectual intercourse and of governance, you are committing your education system to foreign interests, which are extremely difficult to contain. Yet Africa must fully tame the languages not only of its mental education but also of its governance, especially if it is English or French.

That was the great political failing of Africa’s so-called nationalists, those who led our continent into its alleged independence. Where a colonial tongue remains the language of your elite, you have appallingly compromised your independence.

Why? Because, as Europe had introduced and imposed it on Africa, “education” was aimed directly at taming the minds of Africa’s future (educated) elite into favouring as “civilisation” the material interests in your country of the colonising European elite.

INDOCTRINATION

As long as upper-class Europe imposed certain values claimed to be “civilisation” on the young natives through the colonial classrooms and church-houses, upper-class Europe’s social assumptions about you and socio-economic desires from you remained the essence of all the classroom indoctrinations that were so powerfully advertised as “education”.

No, it will not be easy to extricate ourselves from that trick of the mind into which Europe cheated our nationalists into “independence”. Many Africans already recognise the state of affairs as “neo-colonialism”. But it will take a special caste of Africans to redefine our independence and to latch onto the most effective method by which our continent can arrive as soon as possible at true mental and material self-rule.

That – I assert – is the responsibility now facing Africa’s elite of the younger generation. It makes it abundantly clear that members of Africa’s new class of liberators will recognise its full ramifications only when, as a group, they begin to give their own definition to such terms as “freedom”, “independence”, “nationalism” and others.


Avoiding the unending losses due to mastitis

About 40 per cent of all confirmed diseases in many veterinary laboratories across the counties are cattle mastitis cases.

This shows not only the threat the disease poses but also that there is an urgent need to set up diagnostic laboratories within the reach of farmers.

To set up such a facility, one needs to understand mastitis, its economic importance, what the laboratory tests involve and the equipment necessary.

Cattle mastitis

Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland caused mostly by bacterial infection. Other causes of the disease include fungi and algal micro-organisms.

Mammals, humans included, therefore, get mastitis. However, since cattle are the major source of the consumed milk in the country, cattle mastitis is given preference here.

Once infected, quantity and quality changes in milk take place. The quantity goes down in most cases and the quality changes from the opaque white liquid to one or more forms of coloured, clotted or watery liquid with or without foul smell.

The udder too changes such that it swells, there is pain, heat and redness. Sometimes the infection spreads to the whole body in which case it is referred to as systemic. In the systemic situation, there is fever, lack of appetite and sometimes shock.

Some infections are so severe leading to dead tissues of the udder, which sloughs off a condition known as gangrenous mastitis. In other cases, the infection is mild and it is referred to as subclinical mastitis.

Economic losses through mastitis

Direct economic importance comes through loss of milk, which is discarded during the recommended three days’ treatment; loss of permanent or temporary production by one or more of the four quarters of the udder that are affected; loss of a variable animal through slaughter or death in non-treatment responsive mastitis and the cost of the curative and preventive medicines plus occasional rejection of milk at the dairies due to subclinical mastitis.

The indirect costs involve treatment of people who develop hypersensitivity to medicine residues used in mastitis treatment, development of antimicrobial resistance against human and animal drugs due to the frequent exposures of the drugs during mastitis treatment and loss of business for milk outlets that depend on an infected herd.

All dairy herds have cows with subclinical mastitis but the prevalence of infected animals varies between 5 and 75 per cent while infected quarters range from 2 to 40 per cent.

This implies that loss of one quarter in 10 per cent of the producing animals would lead to a 2.5 per cent reduction in produced milk.

The implication is that in a county where producers earn Sh6 billion annually, this translates to a loss of Sh150 million annually.

On the antimicrobial resistance, trial and error to treat the various mastitis causing bacteria species such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pseudomonus, Corrynebactrium, Mycoplama and others, all of which require specific drugs, leads to resistance of the micro-organisms with the danger of a situation when there will be no drug to treat mastistis plus other animal and human diseases caused by these organisms.

Laboratory confirmation and equipment required

With milk, confirmation of mastitis, identification of the causative agent and the drugs that the isolated organism is sensitive to goes hand and in hand.

The confirmation involves culturing the organisms in the bacterial media while identification uses microscopes and biochemical tests. Identifying the effective drug involves carrying out diagnostic sensitivity test.

The whole procedure requires technical knowhow, a facility designed for laboratory services, amenities like water, electricity and waste disposal mechanisms.

It also requires equipment such as microscopes, incubator, fridge, inoculation hood and others in addition to a host of chemical reagents and other materials.

Institutions with the capacity to set up testing laboratories

There are several public veterinary laboratories, which are sparsely distributed across the country namely in Kericho, Nakuru, Eldoret, Karatina, Kabete, Garissa, Mariakani, Ukunda and Witu.

These laboratories test for mastitis in addition to other disease diagnostic services at subsidised fees.

There is opportunity for them to set up satellite laboratories not only in all the counties but also in sub-counties, including in the counties that host them.

Universities and other training and research institutions touching on animal health; medical laboratories; private animal health service providers; dairy cooperative societies; large-scale farms; county and national governments as well as interested investors can also open such facilities and provide the service at a fee.

Before setting up such laboratories, it is important to consult relevant authorities that include and are not limited to the veterinary department; Kenya Veterinary Medicine Directorate; existing laboratories within the region that one intends to setup the facility; National Environmental Management Authority as well as other regulatory authorities.