Entries from January 19th, 2018

Parliament still a dead beat dad; is there hope for better?

Posted by on 19th January 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

In a country where it’s normal for some citizens to miss certain meals; live in shacks unworthy of a pig sty and spend their days worrying about tomorrow, it’s quite safe to apply the metaphor of Parliamentarians as deadbeat dads; unwilling, though capable of meeting their constituent’s needs because of selfishness.

The irony of democratic politics is that poor people withstand harsh weather, stand on meandering lines with no visible end for hours to vote someone who doesn’t live the life they live; some haven’t even spent a day waiting for anything in their life.

It’s as though voters have some kind of Stockholm syndrome. It doesn’t matter how many good men show up for the baby mama, she prefers the deadbeat dad with all his flaws. The working adage here is, better the devil you know. As a result major towns in the country from Nairobi to Mombasa are filthy and getting worse by the day and it’s not for lack of good leaders.

Since the beginning of the year we’ve heard of devastating media reports of fathers and mothers killing their children and themselves. Only this week an 11year-old child took his own life over worries of this world after his father left them.

It’s easy to consider these as isolated cases and wonder how they relate to Members of Parliament but if you think about democracy in its philosophical sense; people purely engage in a general election exercise in the hope that life could change for the better. More importantly that their representatives will find ways if not pass laws to make their lives bearable where it can’t be better.

Sadly, the 12th Parliament like the previous Houses is more concerned with personal gains than their main mandate. They have united to fiercely fight the gazette notice by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to slash their salaries, perks and do away with the car grant. Through the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) they have sought the court orders to ignore the SRC pay cuts even if it means misrepresenting the facts in a court of law. It turns out PSC did not divulge crucial information to the High Court after SRC filed a case to discard their case.

Meanwhile the country is sagging under the weight of debt that experts now say each Kenyan has a Kes. 100,000 debt courtesy of these bad loans. Our government refuses to call them bad loans, insisting the Eurobond among others were wisely invested. The move by SRC was going to save the country Kes 8.85 billion annually.

Never mind the decision by SRC to cut these salaries was based on among other things the rising wage bill. But MPs won’t hear any of it. They don’t care that majority of them were elected by people who have never held down any worthwhile job. They don’t care that over 80 per cent of Kenyans earn below Kes. 70, 0000; they feel the slashing of their salaries to Kes. 621,250 is disrespectful and fails to capture their problems. It’s almost laughable, if only it was that trivial.

There are Kenyans who are living in camps because of lawlessness. Some people decided to attack them and take their wealth as part of their sport also known locally as cattle rustling and there are MPs who would go on camera to defend this banditry of a culture.

Worse still is that police can harass children and teargas them for being in the ‘wrong’ part of the country but the same police can’t apprehend bandits taking over people’s land and cattle; choosing instead to make a herd of cattle their target practice, killing livestock in the name of looking for bandits.

And we pride ourselves in having Members of Parliament who should at the very least come up with laws that can help good people live happily within the law wherever they want. We pride ourselves in having representatives who can amplify our voices only the amplification is not practical. What a joke for democracy!

And while we’re still on democracy, Jubilee is having a hard time accepting the will of the majority in the National Assembly after MPs elected some four MPs that were not supposed to be elected. The leader of Majority had requested the four to relinquish their positions for other MPs with more politically correct backgrounds but the MPs elected to chair these committees will hear none of it.

Led by the outspoken Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, the MPs went to court contrary to the Jubilee expectations that the matter be solved internally. They have continued to defy the party even refusing to adhere to the top party leaders’ request that they step down. As the showdown continues one wonders why the obsession with this political correctness in the name of national outlook?

The obsession with political correctness is the reason all those appointed to cabinet for being in tribes that would appeal to the national outlook have performed dismally with the exception of former Education CS Matiangi, although debatable.

While it may appear a little too early to judge the 12th Parliament, it hasn’t shown any indication they’re different from previous Houses. Time will tell but in the meantime the voters need to realize the habit of thinking civic duty begins and ends with elections is a bad joke. We need to be vigilant now, more than ever.

EU poll observer report unpopular with government but necessary for strengthening our democracy

Posted by on 16th January 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

The October 26th elections is one that will be discussed for many days to come despite the political fatigue-real or perceived. Only last week the government through the Ambassador to Belgium accused the EU observer mission of breaching protocol when releasing their report on the 2017 polls.

EU observer mission on the other hand accuse the government of lack of cooperation and were unwilling to receive them in Nairobi. Whether the EU mission dishonored the MOU they had with the government or released the report earlier than scheduled is immaterial.

The content of their report is really what we should be discussing. In retrospect, could it have been that it was the content of the report that the government wasn’t comfortable with and therefore the application of delaying tactics? If Kenya is really committed to strengthening institutions and realizing the much talked about electoral justice. European Union Observers Missions ought to have been welcomed as friends and not chased like enemies.

Shortly after the annulment of the August 8th polls there were reports of Police brutality that led to scores injured and many deaths including children. To this moment none of the cases have been successfully investigated and closed – to date, the police have denied responsibility. How do we bring justice to the affected families?

There was alleged ethnic profiling that brought with it bitter politics that has birthed secessionist talks by the aggrieved opposition NASA. These are not things we want to sweep under the carpet. How do we heal our land? And talks about giving opposition leaders positions in the cabinet is not a solution.

In their observation of the repeat polls the EU observer mission notes the harassment of the Civil Society by the government through the NGO board. This too must stop and the government must accept that the Civil Society exists for the betterment of Kenya.

It’s instructive to note that one of the functions of the Civil Society is to check, monitor, and restrain the power of political leaders and state officials. They raise concerns when government is overreaching its mandate or violating human rights. It’s the Civil Society that speaks out against the corrupt conduct of public officials and lobbies for good governance reforms like the Red Card Campaign that was geared towards having leaders that meet Chapter Six of the Constitution on Integrity. We therefore need the Civil Society to strengthen our democracy more.

One of the challenges in the 2017 elections both the August 8th and October 26th was the perception that IEBC was infiltrated by State House and some members likely to be compromised by the opposition NASA. It’s solely the reason why NASA withdrew from the second exercise. To that end the Observer mission recommends that the electoral agency should be in place in good time before elections unlike the situation we had where commissioners had less than a year to prepare credible polls.

Another key issue noted is the harassment of the IEBC officers by the NASA supporters. Whether they felt aggrieved or not this was against the spirit of democracy not to mention illegal and amounted to violation of human rights as well. How do we ensure that those working for the electoral agency feel dignified and safe to work across the country? How do we bring such culprits to book now and in the future?

The EU Observer mission has noted so many things that as a country we must take note of even those of us not happy with the report. It can’t be that every electioneering period things go south and we momentarily live in fear of losing lives, jobs and business only to later sweep everything under the carpet and wait for another five years to repeat the same. No, let’s act on these recommendations now.



Curriculum reform should tackle integration as a challenge for our time

Posted by on 4th January 2018

Categories: Uncategorized

Some clever person once said a country that mistreats its children will reap their wrath in future. Considering we stood on the edge of the cliff and gazed at the abyss below following a very competitive poll; that statement seems very appropriate. In the deadly Post-election violence (PEV) of 2008 it was our young people who the demons chose to possess.

It’s for these reasons that we must take the debate on curriculum reforms very seriously. We need to produce young people whose minds are not so idle that demons congregate for a weekly workshop. Otherwise replacing a failed system with another one that hardly deals with the challenges of our time will only lead to a terrible outcome.

In the recently released KCSE results 545,700 students failed to make the cut for university entry. The President in his New Year message advised them to join the technical training colleges. The President’s message was meant to encourage especially after reports of children feeling hopeless and others committing suicide.

However, if analyzed further, that advice, subtly reveals the problem with our education system. What the stakeholders miss in their consultative forums about our system is the capitalistic nature of our education. Which sadly, even the much publicized education reforms does not identify, let alone tackle.

The vision of the new curriculum that is being rolled is, a desire to see an engaged, empowered and ethical citizen. This are good ideals yet impractical if we insist on curving ‘pathways’ for children while we have institutionalized failure by virtue of which institution of higher learning one attends.

It’s very possible that there are ‘A’ or ‘B’ students whose only interest is to work as a Plumber or Carpenter-building and fixing things but we’ve since relegated such jobs to school drop-outs that everyone wants a Bachelor degree-even those that can’t properly challenge themselves to be useful citizens after graduation.

This is why the debate on the new curriculum should’ve also figured how to change attitudes in children as they learn along the way to realize the goal for life is not acquiring a university degree. But this won’t happen if we see technical colleges as secondary to bachelor degrees. Developed countries like the US and Germany as critics of the new curriculum keep pointing out, know this only too well and some of the top students fight for a place in technical colleges because it’s not seen as the other option-in the event you don’t make the cut for university entry.

If the 8.4.4 system was to bring about self-reliance the new curriculum in many ways appears to completely claw back such gains if at all. Meaning we are likely to have a generation of kids who can only do certain things courtesy of their ‘gifts’ or ‘potential’. This is what 8.4.4 was expected to cure, how then are we going back without exhaustive consultations?

It’s the reason why some of the harshest critics of the new curriculum are now saying it is indoctrinating our children to become tenderprenures. Education in its ideal form should not be about jobs; it’s the reason the idea being pushed about ‘pathways’ is problematic. At best education should expose pupils and students to knowledge that can allow for a child to properly integrate in his or her society comfortably and hopefully add value to it.

We seem to be happy as a nation that many children are now failing and that this is a sign that there are reforms. Yet this very same children of the ‘good’ system are the ones forwarding hate messages on WhatsApp and unable to contend with one another during electioneering periods. It’s laughable. But to give the devil his due, Education CS Matiangi has stopped the cartels that aided cheating in exams on their tracks. Yet education is hardly about exams that we should rest easy. The devil resides in the details.

The new curriculum’s mission is nurturing every learner’s potential. This is good and appears to move away from exam focus. However in their explanation they negate the essence of that statement by introducing these ‘pathways’. If you acknowledge that a child is many things and should not be restricted to one form of exam, then why direct him towards a predestined path?

One of the good things that came out of the crisis talks held yesterday between ministry officials, Kenya Institute of Education officials and KNUT officials is that the curriculum will be rolled out gradually with the completion expected in 2027. There were fears these reforms were being carried out in a rush where key people like the teachers hadn’t fully grasped it. We can only hope that stakeholder engagement will continue even as it is progressively rolled out so as to deal with the problematic areas.

If you peruse through the document it’s easy to see the curriculum is heavily anchored on vision 2030 and the Sessional paper number 2 of 2015. Both documents are big on economic development and the need to equip pupils and students with the right skills to enable us as a country meet these economic goals but will there be an economy or these ‘marketable jobs’ if Kenya burns?

We therefore challenge the education officials and stakeholders to widen their working definition of ‘challenges of our time’ to include issues cohesion and integration. Perhaps there is a need to bring back Geography Civics and History as a mandatory course so that we have Kenyans who are well informed about the making of our nation and the role different leaders from different parts of the country have played over time, if only to challenge their prejudices and misconception about the country.