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Sunday, January 13th, 2019

 

Hola Boys grapples with bane of low enrolment

By STEPHEN ODUOR
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Hola Boys Secondary School, the only national boys’ school in Tana River County, is popularly known as “Hola Baracks” because of its rich history and the fact that many of its former students join the military.

The school was started 62 years ago through a harambee, and with only 10 students. But is has come a long and now boasts more than 400 students.

However, the journey has not been smooth for the county’s foremost learning institution because, despite its elevation, most of the students invited to join Form One have continued shunning it over the years.

For instance, of the more than 200 students invited last year, only 26 reported. But even before the year ended, six of them transferred to schools outside the county.

And this year, the school invited 170 Form Ones with 330 marks and above, but by Friday last week only 12 had reported.

The administration is now contemplating admitting students with 250 marks and above willing to join in order to have a “quorum”, in line with the Ministry of Education’s requirements.

“We are heading into the second week of the term but the students we expected from Kilifi and Mombasa counties have not yet reported. No student from Nairobi or Central has ever reported. That notwithstanding, we need a quorum,” Principal Stanley Moto lamented.

A variety of reasons have been given by various education stakeholders for the school’s low enrolment, the major one being the perception that Tana River County is prone to terrorist attacks.

“After the 2012 clashes, nobody wants to bring their child here and it gets worse every time there is an attack, with the abduction of an Italian volunteer in November last year making the situation even worse,” Mr Moto said.

INFRASTRUCTURE

He regretted that from time to time, parents seek to transfer their children from the school citing insecurity.

The state of the roads is another factor, with parents complaining that it takes too long to reach the school.

The school also has been struggling to make a mark in the region, but in vain.

“When students don’t take up the offers for admission, we are forced to admit student with low marks so that we can have enough numbers to teach. As a result, our results have not been very good,” he added.

Last year the school had a mean score of 3.7 in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, which the administration attributes to indiscipline among students.

Two students scored B minus. Meanwhile, the school has to deal with lack of staff quarters, a shortage of teachers, and inadequate learning materials.


Nyeri man dies after opting not to take treatment

By NICHOLAS KOMU
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A patient died at the Nyeri County Referral Hospital (PGH) after declining blood transfusion allegedly on religious grounds.

Mr Samuel Maina succumbed to kidney complications on Saturday after turning down critical medical procedures because of his religious beliefs, a decision that also left his family in a dilemma.

Documents seen by Nation indicate that the patient was supposed to undergo regular renal dialysis but required urgent blood transfusion.

Mr Gathuku Gachini, the patient’s brother, said that doctors at the referral hospital had advised that Samuel required a blood transfusion before undergoing dialysis.

The patient, however, declined to receive the blood on grounds that doctrines of his church do not allow blood transfusion.

The retired engineer was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe that Christians should not accept blood transfusions or donate or store their own blood.

Mr Maina’s decision drew a sharp rift in the family. While some, including his children, agreed with him, his wife and siblings opposed his decision.

They to change his mind arguing the doctrines were irrational and that the procedure was critical for his survival.

“We are Christians too and respect all denominations, but this is wrong,” Mr Gachini said.

Despite multiple counselling sessions and encouragement by his family to reconsider, he refused and doctors, who found themselves in dilemma over his condition, eventually opted to have him sign a legal document declining the medical procedure.

Records show that the patient signed a Power of Attorney declining the procedure, noting he was a member of the denomination.

The documents show that the patient made it clear that no transfusion should be done even if doctors believed it would save his life.

Having signed the documents, the hospital discharged the patient in a move that legally exonerates the facility of blame if the condition worsened.

Despite days of counsel from peers and sections of his family, the patient held on to his decision.


Lay bare mega public projects’ secret deals

By EDITORIAL
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Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji ought to order investigations into the Standard Gauge Railway project and other big infrastructure projects financed by the Kenyan taxpayer, especially through Chinese loans.
In the SGR, Kenya has entered into a secret agreement with China, a nation well known for imperial ambitions and unfair trade practices. The project, 973 kilometres from Mombasa to Malaba costing Sh1.06 trillion — give or take a few billions — is huge. Some sections cost Sh1.3 billion a kilometre, or Sh130 million a metre. Granted, the 120km Nairobi-Naivasha segment goes through challenging terrain, apparently requiring 17 kilometres of bridges and seven of tunnels.

VALUE FOR MONEY
For a single-track, diesel-powered, non-electrified railway line, this is a very expensive undertaking. And the loans required mean that the government is taking out a mortgage on the country. This deal, therefore, needs to be checked, re-checked and checked again to confirm that the contracting is pristine, there is no corruption, the taxpayer is getting value for money and all other alternatives have been explored and fairly discounted.
Reporting by the Sunday Nation yesterday revealed a couple of troubling facts from the contract signed by National Treasury Minister Henry Rotich and then-chairman of the Chinese Export-Import bank, a state entity, Mr Li Riogu, on May 11, 2014.
First, the government placed all the nation’s assets on the gaming table, pledging them as security for the project. The Mombasa-Nairobi section of the railway, which is already built, is run by the Chinese, who, going by recent reporting, have also been mismanaging it, resulting in allegations of pilferage.
Secondly, the government appears to have waived its right to neutral and fair arbitration in case of a dispute, as there is bound to be when big commercial projects of this nature are involved. Legally, the government has tied its hands and legs, accepting the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission — another Chinese state entity — as the sole mediator.

EXPLOITATIVE DEALS
Thirdly, by meekly agreeing to the condition that the loan agreement is “governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of China”, Kenya submitted to the laws of another nation, which few competently understand. It also agreed to keep secret the terms of the loan agreement and not to brief even its own citizens without the permission — in writing — of a foreign power.
This may be a standard feature of this type of agreements, most of which are exploitative and neo-colonial, but if the contract is fair, why go to such lengths to keep it secret?
These revelations give rise to the obvious question: What else are they hiding? And not just in SGR, but also in the humongous infrastructure projects in roads, airports and the energy sector. The little that has been investigated in other utilities, such as Kenya Power and Kenya Pipeline, reveals deep rot.
Issue is in the detail
The case for an SGR between Mombasa and Malaba has been made. People can bicker about timing, cost and short-term viability but, in terms of the long term strategic goal of making the economy competitive, there can be no argument about that. The issue is in the detail of its contracting and implementation.

VANITY EXTRVAGANCES
For a government with such a keen appetite for money, an investigation is required to confirm that the cash is going into good use. This year’s Sh3.07 trillion budget is 30 per cent higher than the previous year’s. Of that, 31 per cent has gone into servicing loans, 12 percent to the counties and 54 per cent to the national government — a full Sh1.7 trillion. Of that, half goes to salaries and 20 per cent to infrastructure-type entities.
But even for those who support these big projects, there is still room for caution to ensure that investments have the desired effect on the lives of the people so that we don’t end up with vanity extravagances like Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s cathedral in his village of Yamoussoukro. Yes, it’s a big cathedral, but does anyone worship there?
Recently, the Kenya Navy turned out one of its “warships”, a Soviet-made, World War II-era river boat. The guns on it looked like horse-drawn canons from the Napoleonic wars. It, no doubt, was procured at some expense and in great secrecy.
Corrupt procurement and unexamined contracting not only waste public funds, but also defeat critical national objectives, such as security and economic competitiveness. After a year in office, Mr Haji should now have the confidence to seek answers to the big questions in the minds of Kenyans and order broad investigations, audits and prosecutions to protect Kenya’s future.


Silence the killer police guns against our young generation

By KALTUM GUYO
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Many would agree with me that Kenya police have gone beyond being trigger-happy and become a killing machine.

There is no justification anywhere (in law) for the police to fatally shoot innocent people, least of all unarmed ones. The poor youth of this country have been turned into dart boards for the police to aim their live bullets at and it must stop. Full stop.

I get many emails from young people, mainly in the slums of Kenya, on the subject of ‘shoot to kill’ policy used by the police and they are crying out for help. They form groups to try and keep themselves and their friends safe from the police when, ironically, they should be running to the law enforcers for help.

VIOLENT & BRUTAL

NGOs are also out to try and support victims of police brutality, but what does the government do? Deny there is extrajudicial killing! This is coming from the minister in charge of security for all. If not extrajudicial killing, then we are talking of a bloodbath. Either of them being miscarriage of justice of an unimaginable scale.

We cannot stop crime by exterminating youth. Police are assuming an extraordinary level of illegal power by summarily executing whoever they deem to be a “suspect”.

Presumption of guilt is not within the official role of the police. They have no legal power to pass such an ultimate sentence on a suspect, whatever the crime. We have it in our laws (Article 26 of Chapter 4, to be exact) that everyone, including a criminal, has a right to life.

The primary role of the police is to maintain law and order. By taking away lives so brutally and violently, they break the very laws they are meant to enforce. How did the police end up above the law?

The level of violence police are meting out in towns such as Mombasa is very personal to me. I grew up there feeling safe and secure. Granted, the crime rate has, indeed, increased in the coastal town, and so has the level of poverty.

Crime is no excuse for the police to act outside the law, however. Violence is not an effective crime control method and never was. The police well know that plastic bullets and stun guns are better alternatives to live bullets.

RIGHT TO STEAL

The picture of poverty is the same for youth around the country, who are struggling to find opportunities to earn a living. Those opportunities are not going to be created through the barrel of the gun, but employment policies that would create sustainable jobs. We are going to war with our socio-economic challenges.

There were loud cries of presumption of innocence recently when many senior state officials were charged in court over corruption. We were meant to believe that they had the right to steal public funds to their heart’s content, to enjoy the due process of the law and, in the meantime, have the right to return to their comfortable offices safe and sound until proven otherwise.

I could not think of a legal system more discriminatory towards the poor than the one we have. It seems it is alright to advocate for the life of those that embezzle funds from crucial departments — whose criminal acts could lead to death and leave many more walking dead — but it is not to save the life of a poor chap who is, sometimes, forced to steal just a morsel of food to sustain the very life that is lost through the bullet.

We have our policing values completely mixed up and it is leading to intolerable suffering. The police need to understand that, for them to succeed at their job, they must establish a healthy relationship with the communities they serve. They need to be friends, not foes. Continued use of violence, especially on the poor, alienates them more and turns communities against them.

FIGHT BACK

We have witnessed a few such incidents, when the public turned against the police. Many such cases may not be justified but, if injustice pushes people too far against the wall, they are bound to fight back for their rights using the same violence.

Respect for the rule of law is inherently interlinked with the work of the police. The departure from it by the police has the potential to plunge the country into lawlessness. Who can keep order when those mandated to do so are at the front of the queue flouting the law with impunity?

The lack of separation of powers within the criminal justice system is a dangerous trend. It is time lines within it were made crystal clear in order to maintain smooth and fair administration of justice.

Security in the country is paramount in attracting investment. But that does not mean it should be maintained through loss of blood of otherwise innocent civilians. The violent and abrasive form of security keeping does very little in enhancing a good image of the country.

It is time to humanise the face of the police service. New uniforms and digitisation of the service are not enough. Human rights ought to be at the fingertips of every officer.


Learn from horrid R Kelly abuse tales to call out sexual predators

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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Do you remember when, in 2002, RnB superstar R Kelly was filmed urinating on a child and the world laughed and laughed and bought more of his music and made him an even bigger star?

In the opening sequence of the first episode of Surviving R Kelly, the stomach-lurching six-part docu-series of Kelly’s history of abuse against women, a weeping Jerhonda Pace chokes back tears as she tries to articulate what Kelly did to her. She fails and apologises and flees from the camera, sobbing.

I watched Surviving Kelly with growing disgust and horror, taking breaks because I could not stomach the gratuitous violence that his victims were describing. A friend who was watching it with me would later say: “This is even more sinister than I thought it would be.”

RAPE CULTURE

Several victims and witnesses say Kelly was a sexual predator who groomed girls as young as 12 for sex, often in the guise of helping to nurture their music careers. The most famous of these was the late RnB singer Aaliyah, whom he met when she was 12 and married at 15. Kelly was 27, and his former employee admitted to have faked Aaliyah’s age to procure a marriage licence. The marriage was annulled after two months.

Then came the infamous ‘pee tape’, which showed Kelly raping and urinating on a 14-year-old girl. He went on trial for child pornography but was acquitted. A juror said he did not believe the women who testified against Kelly and did not like how they were dressed or how they acted.

And so the world moved on, helped along by an insidious rape culture that silences victims and makes it hard for other people to believe them.

In the US, the growing #MeToo movement is making it harder to ignore sexual harassment or assault, especially at the workplace. We learn from the documentary that #MeToo recently threw its weight behind #MuteRKelly, a protest group calling on radio stations, streaming services and event organisers not to play his music or book him for events.

The logic is, if he cannot face legal action, then he should at least suffer ostracisation, which would be particularly punitive for him as a recording artiste.

RARELY REPORTED

The #MuteRKelly is gaining traction and, like #MeToo, is an example of how an effective protest looks like. And the ripple effects are being felt in Kenya with emboldened victims coming forward against the predators. Since 2017, several women in corporate Kenya have accused their bosses of sexual harassment or assault. A handful of the stories made the headlines but speak to women and you will realise that sexual deviants are rarely reported because the victims are seldom believed.

Sexual harassment and assault has become an ever-present threat for women. We have been conditioned not to ruffle feathers at the workplace, not to be the “problematic” one because how well we do is down not only to our actual work but also people’s perceptions of us.

We have internalised abuse into our DNA, restructuring our lives to make space for it and doing mental arithmetic on how to protect ourselves. We have learnt not to complain when a male colleague calls us “sweetheart” or compliments our skirts as well-fitting.

We take it for granted that Tom from IT will pull us in for a hug when he comes by to repair the internet; George from accounts will never look at us in the face but focus his eyes on our chests, whether we are in a turtle neck or plunging neckline.

DAILY AGGRESSIONS

These daily micro-aggressions that we cannot really articulate without sounding “crazy” or “hysterical” forever have us on high alert and in permanent exhaustion. So we save our energies for bigger transgressions because we fear the backlash against us. We find a way to sanitise the R Kelly bestiality and put the girl on trial. We claim that all those who testify against him must be lying. We then play his music in clubs and stream his albums online. Do you know that his music has spiked in popularity since this documentary aired?

I give a standing ovation to the victims who defied fear and raised a quiet middle finger to the system and reported abusers. I believe them, without question. May their courage be the spark for the fire of zero tolerance to sexual harassment.

I will ask the DJ to change the music when he plays an R Kelly track, no matter how much everybody else wants to “step in the name of love”. There is a lot of good music out there from non-abusers for us to listen to tired records by child rapists.

Ms Kubania, a feminist, is a communications and advocacy specialist at African Wildlife Foundation. [email protected]


Exempt private sector from tax to grow sector

By BOBBY KAMANI
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The increase in domestic and international tourist arrivals in Kenya last year can be attributed to a combination of factors — including the augmented role of the Tourism ministry in the sector, one of the top foreign exchange earners, and concerted efforts in the positioning of the country’s tourism products by the Kenya Tourism Board.

Private sector players have also contributed significantly to the marketing of their products in local, regional and international markets besides creating more employment, directly and indirectly, locally.

Domestic bed nights increased by nine percent last year from 2017, displaying the improved confidence by way of the growing domestic holiday sales by the dynamic travel trade fraternity.

DIGNITARIES

Political stability and improved security throughout 2018 made Kenya a more attractive destination for international travellers (holiday makers and conference delegates alike).

Kenya hosted several international meetings last year, instilling confidence in the country’s safety and capability of handling large conference delegations of international repute. They included the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, the International SKAL Congress and the Africa Hotel Investment Forum.

The growth in the aviation sector boosted confidence in the region, with the launch of non-stop direct flights between Nairobi and New York by Kenya Airways and direct flights from Doha to Mombasa by Qatar Airways. The return of Air France’s thrice weekly flights and TUI Fly Charter Airlines’ operations at the coast instilled renewed confidence in the tourism sector.

The visits by foreign dignitaries throughout the year reinvigorated Brand Kenya on a global scale. British Prime Minister Theresa May, US First Lady Melania Trump, former US President Barack Obama, American television personality Ellen DeGeneres and several African presidents were all visitors to ‘Magical Kenya’.

OPEN BORDER

Open border policies such as visa on arrival and the Single African Air Transport Market have encouraged the free movement of people and goods across borders. These have had profound benefits to Kenya.

Marketing has been revitalised with a greater involvement of the private sector in drafting policies and implantation of strategic frameworks within the sector. Digital marketing has also been at the forefront of the ministry’s agenda, which has been of great benefit to the country’s tourism.

President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke of the need for private sector players to invest further in their products by refurbishing and upgrading properties. As the private sector, we couldn’t agree more.

To help the sector grow even further and faster, however, the government should consider tax exemptions for the private sector, for reinvestment in the economy. It should be made mandatory that whatever amount is saved as a result of that must be spent on the refurbishment of products and upgrading of services.

Mr Kamani is managing director, Diani Reef Beach Resort & Spa, Kwale


We shall go it alone, says ODM on by-elections

By DAVID MWERE
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The campaigns for April 5 by-elections in Embakasi South and Ugenya constituencies have begun in earnest with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party ruling out any coalition arrangements before the 2022 general elections as it seeks to reassert itself.

The two parliamentary seats fell vacant after the Supreme Court on December 21, 2018, nullified the August 8, 2017 election of MPs Christopher Karan (Ugenya) and Julius Mawathe (Embakasi South) on grounds that they were not validly elected.

Speaking at a Church in Nairobi’s Embakasi South constituency yesterday, Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi, who led seven ODM MPs in a campaign for former MP Irshad Sumra, dismissed the existence of the Nasa coalition, saying that it died on January 30 when Mr Odinga was crowned the people’s president in a mock swearing ceremony at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

The ‘swearing-in’ ceremony was boycotted by other Nasa leaders; Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, who supported Mr Odinga’s presidential bid in the August 8, 2017 election.

“Nasa coalition died on January 30, 2018. If we have to make any coalition, it must be after the general election in 2022. We must assert ourselves as a party,” Mr Wanyonyi spoke at Christ Cornerstone Church in Mukuru Kwa Reuben.

The other MPs present were Tom Kajwang’ (Ruaraka), Anthony Oluoch (Mathare), George Aladwa (Makadara), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Caleb Amisi (Saboti), and Teddy Mwambire (Ganze) and ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna.

Mr Kajwang’ further deepened the fears of a dead Nasa when he warned Wiper party leadership against fronting a candidate in Embakasi South. Mr Julius Mawathe, who lost the election petition to Mr Sumra, is a Wiper party member.

“If we are going to travel together and if you think there is something we can do together, we want to hear that Wiper will not field a candidate in the by-election,” Mr Kajwang’ said.

Mr Kajwang’ also claimed that Jubilee will not field a candidate in the area in the spirit of handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

However, there was no immediate verification of the claim from Jubilee even as sources within the president’s party said that there will be a meeting in the course of the week to plan for the by-elections.

Former Ugenya MP David Ochieng, who lost by about 200 votes, successfully challenged the victory of Mr Karan while Mr Sumra petitioned against Mr Mawathe’s election.


ODM denies fronting Rahab Wangui to be Mike Sonko's deputy

By DAVID MWERE
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The Orange Democratic Movement party has denied claims that the National Super Alliance (Nasa) has proposed a nominee for Nairobi deputy governorship position.

On Friday last week, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko delayed the naming of his deputy claiming that Nasa had written to him proposing Rahab Wangui to be his deputy.

“I was ready with a nominee but I received a letter from Nasa requesting me to consider their nominee. Therefore, I shall not be forwarding the name in the spirit of handshake to allow for more consultation,” Mr Sonko said.

Mr Sonko’s announcement was based on the letter he said was signed by Nasa Secretariat chief executive Norman Magaya fronting Ms Wangui’s name.

‘CITY HALL MESS’

But on Sunday, the ODM secretary-general denied the claim, saying that ODM does not intend to be associated with the mess at City Hall even as affiliated MPs said that Nasa died on January 30, 2018, when Mr Odinga was ‘sworn-in’ in a mock ceremony at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

The process of coming up with a name would have been a consultative one involving Amani National Congress, Wiper Party, Ford Kenya and ODM — Nasa’s constituent parties — but the alliance is non-functional.

“We did not send any name for deputy governorship position because we do not want to be associated with the mess that happened in Nairobi,” Mr Sifuna said. “There is no Nasa, it died long ago.”

The deputy governor’ post fell vacant when Mr Polycarp Igathe abruptly resigned on January 12, 2018, saying he had failed to earn Mr Sonko’s trust.


Pension idea good but 7.5 percent deduction too much for workers

Trade unions such as Kuppet and Knut and the umbrella body Cotu have opposed the about-to-be implemented 7.5 percent deduction from the salaries of teachers and civil servants for the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).

However, although they are right on the immediate negative effect of CPS on the workers, its long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term adverse effects — such as financial instability on contributors. The rate, however, needs to be revised downwards.

In 1951, International Labour Organisation (ILO) was of the opinion that a worker had freedom on how to use his money. It tolerated arguments such as a worker should live as he deemed fit and choose what to do with his money without being burdened with pension issues.

But today, ILO approves that, upon retirement, we need something to fall back to. Pension management is one of the solid security attributes that ILO Convention No. 102 recognised.

Nowadays, retirees wait for months, or years, to collect their entitlement. Pensioners have failed to meet their statutory obligations of submitting pension entitlement within the statutory time frames. For instance, teachers had to fight court battles for 18 years to have their pension processed. This is due to pressure that the national government faces.

When workers contribute to a pension fund, there is an accumulation of capital that, if well invested, can have a positive effect on retirees’ welfare.

The Chilean pension reform of 1981 made it possible for retirement benefits to be paid promptly. Nigeria adopted Chile’s contributory system with a little modification and it’s a success.

CPS accommodates the compassionate allowance. With the current arrangement, pension benefit is lost for an employee whose service is terminated for reasons such as misconduct, incompetence and inefficiency. Pension is not admissible under such conditions.

With CPS, however, one is entitled to benefit because it is his savings. Even when one transfers his services to other organisations, nothing is lost; he transfers his benefits. This enhances labour mobility.

And one does not need to first retire to get his entitlement. A worker can access part of his pension even when still working.

Engagements with the government on pension reform should aim at protecting the worker from too much saving at the expense of current living. CPS of most models is 15 percent of pensionable income. The employee and the employer each gives 7.5 percent. In Nigeria, the government gives 12.5 percent to the disciplined forces’ pension and they pay only 2.5 percent.

As has been proposed, the government ought to start with 2.5 percent, then adjust to five percent after some years and, ultimately, make it 7.5 percent. At least that will check against the one-third take-home policy.


Revive ‘harambee’ streams for local students, if to pay back to pioneers

Many years ago, nearly all public secondary schools had a “harambee class”. As schools admitted students from all over the country, this was reserved for local children. They were admitted with slightly lower marks but, soon afterwards, would learn alongside their peers.

This gesture ensured a bond between the local people and the school. But this cannot be said of the same schools today. Little wonder that these school have very few or even no student from the locality. How many students from Gatundu are in Mary Hill Girls High School, or Kikuyu or Kabete residents in the Alliances?

The foundation blocks of nearly all the early schools were laid by the local people. In some instances, they donated part of their land to have them built.

As counties admit pupils from “everywhere” to these schools with title or no consideration of the local communities, the government and donors pump in more funds. Also, the schools have the highest allocation for development and expansion.

When CDF allocates money to a national school with a few local students — or none — how does the community benefit?

The local people are simply locked out in nearly everything — except, maybe, menial jobs. Firewood, milk and other supplies that could be readily available from the locality are sourced from God-knows-where.

We must pay back the pioneers by allowing their grandchildren to learn at the schools, do genuine business with them and be employed there. Only then, we shall not be accused of betrayal.

Mungai Joe Ngige, executive secretary, Knut Thika, Kiambu.