Maraga retires and leaves a legacy that will outlive him

Posted by on 18th January 2021

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The curtains came down on Chief Justice David Maraga’s tenure on January 11th 2021 who leaves a legacy of being one of the most upstanding state officers. A quick Google search on his famous quotes and one comes to mind. “The greatness of any nation lies in its fidelity to the constitution and adherence to the rule of law and above all respect to God.”

This was said just moments before the Supreme Court ruled that the August 2017 presidential elections be nullified owing to irregularities by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). At the time, Kenya became the fourth country in the world nullify a presidential election, a move that many thought was unlikely. The ruling by the Supreme Court that nullified the re-election of an incumbent was not only rare but spoke volumes to the firm and unshaken courage of the 15th Chief Justice of independent Kenya.

The ruling by the Supreme Court would then set the stage for verbal attacks on Justice Maraga and the judiciary from offices as high as the president’s at the time. Not only did he have to endure this but he also had to fight budget cuts on the judiciary that threatened to cripple some of the services and make it impossible to address the hundreds of thousands of cases that were piling up. One may recall that in 2018 the judiciary had requested Sh 31 billion for their financial year only to be allotted Sh 17.3 billion that was further reduced to Sh 14.5 billion by the National Assembly.

Budget cuts have been a consistent phenomenon and not an accident or an isolated incident. Some of the incidents that we encounter are deliberate attempts to undermine the Judiciary. On many occasions, the Judiciary has not been given treatment that is commensurate to other organs of government,” read part of a statement he issued on November 4th 2019. This was after he had unsuccessfully raised his budgetary concerns with the national treasury. In his wisdom, the former CJ decided to take their budgetary proposal to Parliament, and not the Treasury, so that when they have no funds to operate, the Kenyan people will know who to ask – their representatives.

Such statements cemented Maraga as a courageous leader who remained grounded by his values, mostly drawn from his faith, and his adherence to the law. It is in observing the rule of law that he also gave an advisory to the President to dissolve Parliament for failing to implement the two-thirds gender rule. As expected, this elicited a lot of reactions both in support and opposition of the advisory. While the matter remains unsettled in court following petitions by interested parties such as Parliament, it attests to the boldness of the former President of the Supreme Court.

Despite these challenges, Maraga went to on to unveil the judiciary e-filing system in June 2020 that was hailed by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Law Society of Kenya as a milestone that would curtail corruption cases, enhance transparency and accountability in the delivery of justice. The timing of this coincided with the global Covid-19 pandemic that warranted swift adjustments by the judiciary to hold virtual hearings in adherence to the Ministry of Health preventive protocols.

It is also in 2020 that he launched the Alternative Justice System (AJS) Policy which he said aims at enhancing access to justice and supporting expeditious delivery of justice to citizens. By the time he was going into retirement, Maraga noted that only seven counties were without High Courts and the judiciary was working to ensure that the same is achieved. He’s also lauded for fostering the growth and capacity of the judiciary that has seen a significant reduction of case backlog.

As Maraga bows out let us all remember his call to us Kenyans to defend the judiciary. That demands that we ensure that our representatives do what is right by the judiciary who will then be able to dispense justice without bias based on one’s tribe, race or connections but with fairness and equality.

To find solutions in 2021, leaders need to listen more.

Posted by on 11th January 2021

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While the pomp and cheer around festive holidays have significantly fizzled out over the years, the ushering of 2021, will so far, go down as the least eventful. The nationwide curfew, for one, restricted night movement confining Kenyans in their homes. Secondly, a majority of city dwellers opted to skip the annual exodus to their rural homes owing to the steep fares by long-distance buses that were trying to break even considering the massive losses they incurred for the most part in 2020.

Indeed the unprecedented times didn’t spare the holiday cheer. The pandemic not only robbed people of their little joys such as gathering and feasting with their loved ones but widened the rift between the rich and poor. Basic needs such as education and health proved to be a luxury for a majority of Kenyans who had to make drastic adjustments to their daily lives to make ends meet.

In the new year spirit of reflection and setting of new goals for the incoming twelve months, many fear that 2021 may just be as rough as 2020. Firstly, the government revised the tax preventive measures meant to cushion the economically vulnerable. Secondly, all learners across the nation are resuming school for the first time since March last year. This again puts a lot of households in a tight spot to ensure they raise the necessary funds to purchase ordinary school items and additional things for their children’s’ protection against the virus, such as masks and sanitiser.

While all these are attempts at resuming normalcy, there seems to be a breakdown in the communication between the citizenry and their representatives. Lately, the cabinet has taken on a rather abrasive approach. Cabinet secretaries have been issuing directives that have a great mismatch with reality. The Swahili phrase “vitu kwa ground ni different” loosely translated to the “situation on the ground is different” is an apt description of the Kenyans’ reality. Constitutionally, citizens have a right to make their views known on any legislative and policy proposals as enshrined on Article 118. But the feeling generally has been that public views are not considered in the decision-making process. We now find ourselves in an awkward position where leaders seem to be stamping their authority and the result of this has been a lot of public criticism.

Leaders now have to rise to the occasion and listen to Kenyans to avoid missed opportunities. To achieve an inclusive nation, there needs to be a deliberate effort in addressing the gaps that were exposed on the onset of the pandemic. Unprecedented times call for different approaches. They call for leaders to abandon boardroom ideas and instead face issues having the common mwananchis interests in mind. On top of that, it’s not enough to copy what other countries are doing because each country is experiencing the pandemic differently depending on their levels of development.  Communication ought to be top-down and requires empathy, patience and consideration of the other party in order to achieve impact. Hopefully, in 2021, Kenyan leaders will embrace this more to achieve efficient service delivery.

Is Kenya ready to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted by on 21st December 2020

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There has been a lot of concern about the Covid-19 vaccines that are out in the global market. In Kenya, the greatest concern has been its efficiency if the discussion about the vaccine over the past few months is anything to go by.

The Kenya CoV-19 vaccine, being trialled in Kilifi County by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), is said to protect over 70% of people who use it from catching the deadly virus. The results are in conjunction with trials that were conducted in Brazil and the United Kingdom. So far, Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine which would be enough to cover approximately 20% of the country’s population. Last week the Ministry of Health submitted its request to the global vaccine alliance Gavi and confirmed the doses will cost Kenya a total of Ksh 10 billion. This is the approximated cost also by Gavi, who says each dose will cost about $3 (Ksh320).

Gavi has stated that the amount is already heavily discounted through donations from a number of developed countries, organizations such as the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Foundation, among others. The Vaccine Alliance helps vaccinate almost half the world’s children against deadly and debilitating infectious diseases. In the face of the unprecedented pandemic, Gavi is working with countries to support their Covid-19 response and to maintain and restore routine immunization. The Alliance is co-leading efforts on equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

On the other hand, AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical firm, and Oxford University have jointly developed a Covid-19 vaccine. The company expects to sell the vaccine at about Sh327 ($3) a dose, according to reported agreements between the firm and governments and international health organizations. The other vaccines from Pfizer will cost about Sh2,180 ($20) a dose while Moderna’s is priced between Sh 1,635 ($15) to Sh 2,725 ($25). However, all these three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they are administered.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe told the Nation last week that the government has not made a commitment to take any vaccines. On the other hand, Health Director-General Patrick Amoth, in an interview with the Nation, said Kenya could easily enter into a bilateral partnership with Astra Zeneca to get more doses. A better turnout of events for Kenya, which has been sitting on the sidelines after it emerged that the logistical nightmare of handling the first two vaccines announced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were out of reach for the country.

Even as the country lines up with the rest to receive the vaccines next year, in countries like the United Kingdom, the NHS is currently offering the Covid-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. The vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and, soon after, hundreds of local vaccination centres run by hospital general practitioners.

There are concerns that the vaccine may not be readily available to all Kenyans when it arrives in the country. Currently, there is a huge divide in terms of access to healthcare between the affluent and the poor in society. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is not providing insurance for persons infected with Covid-19, despite the monthly contributions given by those under the scheme. Further, there has also been the national issue that frontline healthcare workers do not have access to the requisite medical care and necessary medical protective equipment leading to the tragic loss of lives and healthcare workers.

Bearing this in mind, even as Kenya gears towards receiving the vaccine, the Ministry of Health should consider a necessary and in-depth look into current health systems in the country. Firstly, those implicated in the KEMSA scandal should be arrested and arraigned in court immediately for their negligent and corrupt actions. Secondly, equal distribution of PPEs and other critical medical equipment to all counties should take place as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary loss of lives. This should also go hand in hand with fair remuneration of our healthcare workers. Finally, there should be a provision for NHIF to cover Covid-19 related cases especially with regards to testing and thereafter, treatment.

 

The Cost of Corruption too Steep to Give up the Fight

Posted by on 9th December 2020

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Annually the world observes the International Day of Anti-Corruption on 9th December. This year’s theme as indicated on the United Nations website focuses on uniting against corruption while acknowledging that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and vision 2030.

Indeed, corruption has been an impediment to achieving growth as it has been witnessed in Kenya. According to the 2019 Corruption Perception Index reported by Transparency International, Kenya ranks is the 137th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries. The statistics accurately mirror the situation on the ground that has seen the disease, if you may call it, suck the life and potential out of almost all industries. Several development projects, both at the county and national level, have been marred with controversy at the expense of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Recently the Senate Ad-hoc Committee that was constituted to investigate the Managed Medical Equipment System (MES) tabled a report that revealed that the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) Programme was just another money-making scheme for some highly connected people. However, the report findings did not give conclusive recommendations nor mention the names of those who took part in the scheme, proving even further that the corrupt are insulated persons who have managed to build an ecosystem that protects them and allows them to thrive in their thievery.

For many, leaders and citizenry, the MES scandal didn’t hit home because as a society we have become numb to such reports. The mention of billions being looted has overtime become normalized largely because there are no consequences that follow. That has been the case until recently when the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) announced the death of 28-year old Dr Stephen Mogusu who was deployed to Machakos under the UHC programme. On announcing his death on their social media platforms, KMPDU noted that the young medic had not received compensation for five months and he had not been on any medical cover.

The cost of corruption is undoubtedly steep. That a young man in his early years of a promising career contracted the deadly virus, Covid-19 and died is not only saddening and maddening but a statement to the failure by the state to protect him. The past six months have seen reports upon reports on irregularities and misappropriation of funds meant to cater to the needs of healthcare workers at both county and national level. Yet medics have numerous times made known their needs to the Ministry owing to the fact that they are at the forefront of fighting the disease.

Unfortunately, medics’ pleas have been treated with contempt by the political class who have clearly shown that their only priority is securing their political future and not delivering the services they’re mandated to do. As a member state of the United Nations Kenya has an obligation to put in efforts in localizing the SDGs vision to provide a better quality of life. We, however, seem to be running in the opposite direction while the rest forge forward.

The first four goals; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being and quality education have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. This has been felt the world over. The mass job losses have seen families plunge into poverty and depend on support to get by. The pandemic has also brought about a lot of confusion in the school syllabus and has threatened to leave behind those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The government’s reaction to all of this hasn’t helped. In the midst of the confusion, corrupt folks have found multiple entry points to loot without having to worry about facing the law.

Like a Kenyan on Twitter said, this should be a George Floyd moment. The death of Dr Mogusu should be a turning point where we as Kenyans look inwards and make a deliberate choice to rid of our country the disease that is corruption. In our individual duty to hold the government accountable, it should not be lost on us that any harm that is placed on our doctors is in itself harm to us, the populace. We should remember that working hospitals translate to better health for us. In the same vein, a strengthened judiciary means justice may at some point be dispensed equally to all of us regardless of social status.

Eventually, we have to realize that we have the moral and civic obligation to demand better working conditions, transparency and accountability in all sectors for all of us to attain a better living standard. This fight against corruption is for all of us to take up if we want to safeguard our country.

Party Manifestos: A Tool for Accountable and Transparent Governance

Posted by on 2nd December 2020

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Party manifesto is the primary tool via which every political party makes its position known in a raft of issues touching on the governance of a country. They play a crucial role in capturing, presenting and communicating a party’s organized thinking. It is a tool that ideally allows for accountability in political party systems. In organized systems, where political parties are anchored on sound structures and crafted along strong ideological foundation, manifestos form part of the tools and platforms via which the parties are able to engage with the electorate through definite and clear elucidation of standpoints on various political, economic and social issues that are of paramount importance to the country. Their visibility and utility materialize during elections, whereby they enable the electorate to delineate their choices from a cocktail of alternatives.

In Kenya, the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 (COK, 2010) seeks to streamline political parties within the country’s governance ecosystem. Articles 91 and 92 provide for, among other things, a basic regime guiding responsible governance of political parties, including composition, leadership and principles. The Political Parties Act, 2011 further seeks to entrench effective management of political parties. Specifically, with regard to party documentations, Section 17 (1) (c) provides that: ‘A political party shall maintain at its head office and at each of its county office in the prescribed form, an accurate and authentic record of… a copy of the policies and plans of the political party.’ Besides, the Constitution establishes central values that bind every person and entity within the country’s bounds. Article 10 of the COK, 2010 provides, among other things, that ‘(T)he national values and principles of governance include good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.’

Despite the robust and revolutionary legal provisions, the effectiveness of party manifestos, as tools of accountability and good governance in the political space remains a challenge in Kenya. The situation was borne out by the findings of a recent study that was commissioned by Mzalendo Trust. The study revealed that political parties/coalitions do not make explicit references to the manifestos in their legislative agenda, and largely disregard them immediately after elections. For instance, the ruling Jubilee Party’s (JP) legislative agenda has thus far been influenced by the government’s priority areas, rather than an exploration of the ideas in the 2017 manifesto. Moreover, the report established that the political parties/coalitions’ negation of their manifestos is enabled by their lack of strong ideological positioning. Kenya’s political outcomes are influenced by ethnicity, personalities, and other considerations, rather than policy positions. If party manifestos are to optimally play their role, then stakeholders, duty bearers and other actors have a role to play. Parliament, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), political parties and the Office of Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP), among others have an inevitable duty to play toward extracting success out of party manifestos.

Covid-19 Reminds Us of the Much-needed Health Reforms

Posted by on 23rd November 2020

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In early 2017, Kenya’s striking doctors used the hashtag – #MyBadDoctorExperience” to tell their horror stories on social media. For about 50 days, the Kenyan public health system was at a standstill. This was a health crisis, as told by the doctors in the trenches. Three years later in the midst of a pandemic with little to no basic improvement in the health care system, medics are now raising concerns over life-threatening working conditions.

Recent weeks have seen a worrying number of healthcare and frontline workers succumb to Coronavirus. This is despite medical workers, through their respective unions, making several attempts to seek the audience with the government over the unavailability of Protective Personal Equipment (PPEs), provision of a Covid-19 medical cover for when they fall sick and their compensation. An indication that soon the already overstretched health facilities and medics will reach their elastic limit with the rising numbers of the Covid-19 infections.

The second wave of the pandemic seems to have caught the national and county governments flat-footed yet huge sums of money, in the form of annual county allocations and conditional grants, were disbursed to counties during the early stages of the pandemic in the country. As of September 12th 2020, only seven counties were reported to have attained the 300-isolation-bed capacity for Covid-19 preparedness. To mean that the other 40 counties have to quickly come up with ways to meet this demand. While these concerns have been voiced over and over again, the political class seems to have slept on the job and were recently jolted to the reality of a broken healthcare system when Matungu MP Justus Murunga collapsed and died shortly.

It is reported that the late MP collapsed at his home and was rushed to Matungu sub-county hospital where they could not admit him due to the hospital’s lack of oxygen. The family then quickly started their journey to St Mary’s Mission Hospital about 10 kilometres away during which the MP’s condition deteriorated. He was admitted to the casualty department where efforts to resuscitate him didn’t bear fruit. This news saddened and maddened his colleagues who pointed fingers at governors for failure to strengthen the healthcare services.

While expected, the legislators’ reactions have since drawn a lot of criticism from Kenyans. Kenyans have for a long time endured long trips to access medical care and specialized treatment, dealt with crazy hospital bills and fallen into debt while seeking treatment and died over negligence. The political class, on the other hand, has seemed detached from most Kenyans’ reality having the privilege to access world-class health care either in private facilities, that are mostly based in Nairobi or outside the country. All the while ignoring the need and importance of localizing emergency treatment and equipping all county hospitals and clinics for such eventualities.

The nonchalant approach by representatives, unfortunately, failed to factor in such possibilities where their health and life can be in the hands of the very local health facilities that they have ignored for a while. When the country announced its first positive Covid-19 case in March, Makueni Senator, Mutula Kilonzo expressed how leaders would now realize that the disease did not discriminate on social status. Though the sentiments shared were from an economic lens, the words still ring relevant to our current situation.

It is sad that the late Murunga’s life could not be saved but it calls for leaders to look inwards and self-evaluate. Development should not be driven by self-serving interests. Provision of services should not be viewed as a favour to the citizenry but as a basic right that is provided for by the Constitution, that needs to be fulfilled. Public service is essentially conducted for posterity and with the goal to meet the needs of all without discriminating. This is a call to the leaders both at the county and national level to ensure services are provided efficiently, expeditiously and with openness.

Parliamentarians have an even bigger task to oversight the executive’s spend of public resources to ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money.

While the recent numbers indicate that we’re in for a couple of tough months, now is not the time for the leadership to drop the ball. Every Kenyan’s life matters and it is the responsibility of the government to guarantee the health and well-being of all.

 

Youth Central to Inclusive Governance

Posted by on 9th November 2020

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It has been exactly one year since Mzalendo Trust launched two reports on the inclusion and participation of youth and women in the 11th and 12th Parliaments. A look back at the 12 months since sharing the findings, the challenges and recommendations highlighted for these two special interest groups still ring true.

One of the challenges concerned linkages, challenges and opportunities to effective discharge by Youth MPs of the constitutional mandate. This, in particular, came to the fore during the release of the 2018 scorecard mid last year where young legislators recorded a dismal performance compared to older, seasoned members. It is against this backdrop that Mzalendo Trust in partnership with the Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association (KYPA) and the support of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) conceptualized the youth assembly that brings together young leaders from various political parties across the country to deliberate youth-related matters and develop policy and legislative solutions.

As at now, three virtual meetings and one physical meeting have been held with participants drawn from 30 political outfits. The deliberations have proven what has been common knowledge for a while, that the youth are not lacking in ideas to drive development in their wards, constituencies, counties or country at large, but instead are lacking in opportunities to implement them. The denial of opportunities for young people, who make up 75% of the population as per the last census, is highly systemic and change can be achieved largely by having reforms in instruments of governance such as political parties key to their election to the national assembly and county assemblies.

Mr Enock Onkoba, the youth leader at the Kenya National Congress Party for instance is one who gives a tale of a young person who has unsuccessfully endured numerous challenges to gain an opportunity to serve his constituents. From being robbed off his ticket party even after garnering majority votes in the party primaries to intimidation tactics by opponents from the same party, Onkoba has had to jump so many hurdles to have a fair chance at securing a seat at the county assembly. He, however, remains unshaken and lauds the youth assembly initiative by Mzalendo and KYPA that aims to build the capacity of youth leaders who seek to serve at different levels. Drawing from a past similar experience, he notes the relevance and importance of such initiatives that led to five youth leaders being elected as members of the county assembly back home in the 2017 general election.

With the help of other young parliamentarians such as Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura and Murang’a Women Representative Hon. Sabina Chege, the participating young leaders have gained a deeper understanding of the workings of the institution of Parliament and the mandate of a lawmaker. It is such knowledge that will empower them to articulate the role of an MP to their constituents while aligning their manifestos with the same with the hope to deliver once elected into office.

It is our hope that the increased participation of young people in politics will come a long way in combating voter apathy among the electorate aged between 18 and 35 years old. As it has been witnessed in the recent American elections, young people have the ability to turn around an election. The more youth front themselves as potential candidates, the more their peers are likely to take part in the election and choose members that understand and have the capacity to represent their interests. To truly and effectively solve the issue of inclusion and diversity, the conversation on policy changes has to not only be centred around special interest groups but it has to be driven by them.

Even as we hope to localize the historic election of American Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris we should remember there is power in levelling the playing field at the political party level, consistent civic education and mobilization of voters the grassroots level. This should be harnessed in the coming months as we hope to attain better governance come 2022 and in the future.

State Officials Should Lead by Example in Fight against Covid-19

Posted by on 25th October 2020

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During his weekend press briefing Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe expressed concern with the rising number of positive Covid-19 cases in the country that signaled a second wave of the virus. He particularly put young people on the spot for flouting the preventive regulations while they go about their entertainment. Indeed Kenyans have let their guard down a little in the recent weeks following a few directives by the government. The lifting of the ban on operation of bars and clubs has seen scores of revelers gather at entertainment joints to wind down their week. A significant number of Kenyans in every day activities have been spotted not donning masks and public vehicles have been alleged to carry more passengers than is required by authorities. However in condemning Kenyans’ behaviors in observing government regulations, Mr Kagwe left out a particular segment of people that have violated the regulations severally, politicians.

The caution he issued appeared to be a biased attack against the youth while the political class has been moving around the country for one reason or the other without observing the government directives. One would be forgiven for thinking that we were in an election year given the increased number of rallies and gatherings by elected leaders. If anything CS Kagwe would have been particular about state officials who attend rallies that attract crowds bigger than 300 people, the maximum number permitted in public gatherings as directed by the President in his last address. 

Matthew 7:3 says,”Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” It therefore seems hypocritical for the government to heap blame on the youth for the surge in Covid-19 patients while a good section of state officials – whether elected or appointive – have been on countrywide tours campaigning for or against the BBI report that is to be handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

With the possibility of there being a second wave of infections, both national and county governments should instead shift focus and resource to enhancing the capacity of health facilities across the country. In fact with the phased school reopening, the Ministries of Education and Health should be appraising Kenyans on the status of school preparedness and monitoring the effectiveness of any measures put in place. Details of how schools are providing and distributing protective gear to students and teachers should be provided to parents and stakeholders to inform the steps needed to be taken to address any gaps that may emerge in the coming weeks. 

Coordination at both county and national level should be enhanced for proper utilization of funds that were recently disbursed by the national government to all the 47 counties. Caution is a collective responsibility for both the government and citizens and its a responsibility that doesn’t discriminate based on social standing. So while the citizens have a hand in ensuring their safety, state officials should look inwards and lead by example before calling out the youth for flouting rules.

 

This post was initially uploaded on October 19th 2020.

Resumption of Learning and the Question of Schools’ Preparedness

Posted by on 14th October 2020

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Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha released the schedule for the resumption of studies which would see Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four Learners report for their second term on October 12th 2020. He also announced that the National examinations for these three levels would be taking place in March 2021, with KCPE exams beginning on March 22 and ending on March 24, and KCSE exams starting on March 25 and ending on April 4. This announcement came a day after tertiary education institutions had rolled out phased reopening of campuses while giving priority to final year students.

The resumption of studies for learners across the country was a much-anticipated move following the abrupt closure in March to prevent the spread of the global coronavirus. However, the Ministry has come under heavy criticism for the confusion on reopening dates, the non-involvement of parents and learners in decision-making and failure to address schools’ preparedness. The move by the Ministry, that has been termed as rushed by some leaders, has raised serious questions on the safety of students and protocols that have been put in place to ensure that

Further, the Ministry has come under fire for ambushing parents and guardians with the announcement thus denying them ample time to prepare for the return of their children to school. Despite the recent directives by President Uhuru Kenyatta that have seen the economy gradually reopen, many households are still reeling from the negative economic impact caused by the pandemic. A study by Twaweza East Africa conducted between 29th May 2020 and 30th June 2020 found that 85% of Kenyans had either lost their source of income or were facing financial constraints due to the pandemic. Some of whom were forced to travel back to their rural homes seeing that they could not afford their monthly rent expenses.

This could mean that a significant percentage of learners could report late to the schools they went to pre-Covid-19 or in the worst-case scenario be forced to postpone learning to a later time next year. With the likelihood of this happening, several students run the risk of being left behind on the syllabus or the possibility of repeating class. Such implications deepen the already existing gaps in education between the affluent and those who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Those who are able to rejoin school have to adapt to the protocols that have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus in the institutions. From wearing face masks, social distancing in classrooms and temperature checks, learners and teachers have been put to task to ensure strict adherence with the Ministry of Health protocols.

With the majority of learners enrolled in public institutions, questions on their preparedness have arisen. Prior to the pandemic, most public schools had been struggling with inadequate funds, poor teacher-student ratio and infrastructural gaps. The Ministry of Education hasn’t appraised parents and the public in general on the measures put in place to not only ensure the safety of learners in schools but that these measures are undertaken in a humane way that doesn’t violate their human rights. In England for instance, the Department for Education inspected the schools weeks in advance before learning resumed and the government even went ahead to widen their scope to supporting services such as students’ transport. Beyond encouraging students to walk, cycle or scoot to school the British government is reported to be providing an additional GBP 40 million to local authorities to increase home to school transport to curb the spread of coronavirus. Considering the high number of day scholars in all levels of education in Kenya, such steps would go a long way in ensuring that the students’ safety is not compromised even outside the school premises.

The next few weeks will therefore be critical in observing the effectiveness of the protocols put in place by the Ministry. While the initial move to reopen schools excluded the input of the majority of the stakeholders, the government should correct this wrong by involving parents and learners in the coming weeks and months to stay ahead of the curve. The safety and wellbeing of students should be protected at all costs.

 

The article was written by Ruth Akolo

If not careful we might find ourselves back in 2007

Posted by on 9th October 2020

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When President Uhuru Kenyatta further eased the Covid-19 restrictions during his September 28th address most Kenyans took this as a cue to revive the economy that had taken a hit from the pandemic. Restaurants and entertainment joints have since enjoyed a boom in business with more revellers going for a dose of ‘enjoyment’ as it is commonly referred to. However, it seems that it’s not just lovers of the drink who are enjoying the President’s directive to increase the number of people in public gatherings from 100 to 200. Politicians have taken advantage of this to traverse counties to sell their agendas, be it the BBI conversation or 2022 succession politics, to the masses.

The images taken from these political tours across the country would have one convinced that Kenya is in an election year. Indeed, we are a peculiar country. The 2022 agenda is one that has been spoken of shortly after the 2017 elections were concluded and continues to gain momentum despite us having almost two years left before going to ballot again. Even before Covid-19 Kenya’s economy wasn’t in a good state. One would expect elected officials to exercise prudent use of time and resource to prioritize the country’s developmental goals and vision to make up for the time lost and mistakes made along the way.

As such, recent weeks have seen the weekends buzzing with political gatherings in various parts of the country. The latest one that was held at Kenol in Murang’a county, unfortunately, led to the death of two young people signalling that we are not out of the woods yet as far as political violence is concerned. The issue has been escalated to the police authorities who are currently trying to get to the bottom of it. Whether the investigations lead to prosecution or not, the Sunday incident is one that should have all Kenyans concerned.

Kenya has a dark history of ethnic-based post-election violence (PEV). Anyone over 18 years old can still remember the tension surrounding the 2007 election that led up to the December 2007 to January 2008 post-election violence which saw over 1000 lives lost and over 300,000 people displaced. Some of the victims, unfortunately, still identify as internally displaced persons (IDPs) to date. So as the succession politics gain momentum by the day, what does it mean for Kenyans? What does it mean for those that are still scarred from the 2007/08 post-election violence? What does it mean for the thousands of Kenyans who have been rendered jobless during the pandemic? Does their current economic vulnerability make them an easy target for politicians who may opt to employ chaotic tactics to have their way? These are pertinent questions that need to be addressed as we draw closer to an election that is expected to be highly contested.

The political culture in Kenya has morphed into one that places a lot of emphasis on influence and power as opposed to service delivery. Which then explains the hunger by most politicians to seek a higher office or hold on to the ones they occupy by whatever means possible. That coupled with the fact that Kenya is yet to make any serious reforms to address political violence is not only worrying but it calls for serious and long-term interventions. Now more than ever, oversight bodies within the government, media and civil society need to exercise vigilance and call out comments and actions by politicians meant to incite and instigate chaos. Ultimately leaders, whether in elective or appointive positions need to exercise wisdom in their undertaking to avoid actions that lead to death and destruction.