Thursday, September 29, 2011

Honored in death

It is common for many of us Africans to honor our people when they die more than when alive. I remember an old relative in my upcountry home telling us to buy him a warm blanket and a suit when he is still alive and not to buy them when he is dead to bury him in a nice suit that will rot in the grave. This relative was very correct because he needed the items more when alive than dead, it is true we spend a lot and honor people more when they are dead then when alive.

I thought about this when the Government decided to give Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai a state funeral, 2 days (today and tomorrow) declared for mourning and the Kenyan flag to fly at half mast read all the stories here. There is no doubt she deserves the honors of a state burial but despite her excellent education background, efforts to conserve the environment, achievements and honors, she was not given a deserving honor by the Government when alive. Instead of being appointed as the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife she was appointed as an Assistant, surely she deserved a full Ministerial post and Kenyans also talked about it because they loved and adored her for her achievements.

She was very different from many African Women leaders because she valued African culture this can be seen in her name and the way she dressed, also on her beautiful photos of her in African attire. She was a woman of action apart from sitting in and addressing conferences, boardroom meetings on Environment; she went out of her way to plant the trees herself and risked her life when protesting depletion of forest and nature. She was also humble.

Many African leaders issue appointments based on loyalties and gender, Prof. Maathai’s case is a good example and it is time for leaders to honor and appoint personalities for their achievements when they are alive.

If not for her ailment leading to death and age, she would be a Presidential candidate to reckon with in the coming elections in Kenya.

RIP Mama Africa.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Prof. Wangari Maathai passes on

News of demise of Nobel Peace Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai after a long battle with cancer is shocking. I have been wondering why she has not featured much in news lately even with succession politics of 2012 getting hot and when Kenyans need the opinion of women like her. Kenyans will surely miss this humble and noble lady.

Rest in Peace Mama Africa.

Poor state of Pumwani Hospital

Yesterday’s Sunday Nation newspaper featured a Hospital Audit report that was done upon request by the PM Raila Odinga after he visited the facility in July. I was shocked about the condition of biggest maternity hospital in Africa because I thought the situation had improved with the many changes taking place in Government institutions. Unfortunately the state of this hospital is a clear reminder that rampant graft is a chronic disease that is yet to be dealt with in our health institutions as well.

This hospital that is an important institution that ushers in new life into the World is riddled with “Graft, financial crisis, lack of supplies, moral and ethical decadence and absenteeism amongst staff” mentioned in the news, causing more than 1000 death of babies in the past year and 13 maternal death very sad. Mothers bathe in cold water because boiler is not working, after giving birth, the last thing that a mother would want on her body is cold water yet this is very common in public hospitals in Kenya. Only one theatre works full time and they put up to 6 babies in an incubator that is meant for one baby. The story is long read more

Am amazed by the contradiction in city council run heath facilities, the health centers that now offer maternity hospitals are like free, mothers pay Kshs20 for normal delivery, they only need to carry some items like cotton wool, bleaching agent like Jik, methylated spirit items that are around Kshs100 depending on the size one buys. But when a mother has complications they are referred to Pumwani Maternity hospital were the bill is like Kshs4000 for normal delivery, yet this is hospital meant for the poor and should be the best referral public hospital for maternity. Women who have delivered at the health centers say they are clean, they get good food and are taken good care of for the one night stay, if one stays for another night they would only add another 20 bob. So it is ridiculous for a similar facility that charges 3980 more is in worse condition. This is another case of deep graft at City hall another head ache for town clerk Philip Kisia to deal with.

I believe the best solution is to place Pumwani Hospital and all heath facilities that are under city council under Ministry of health. Government hospitals like Kenyatta hospital are far much better now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More and more tragedies

After the Sinai tragedy one would not believe there would be another incident of people siphoning petrol from an overturned petrol truck. Most victims of Sinai fire tragedy have not been buried, those affected are yet to be resettled, yet it is unbelievable that Kenyans have not learned from these petrol tragedies of the past like the one in Sachangwan and even this one that is still fresh. Daring Kenyans still went to siphon petrol from this truck on Kisumu-Busia road in Western Kenya. What is this? Is it that the people do not hear what is happening in other parts of Kenya, many means of communications available in Kenya are Television, if one has no Television at least every home has a Radio and now nearly every home has a mobile and most mobiles now have FM Radios, those who are too poor to have these at least visit their neighbors or markets where they get information, so where is the problem?

May be it is poverty and greed, to an extent that one is willing to die making money as a matter of life and death. Like a sticker that is common in public vehicles “get rich quick or die trying to”. This is grave desperation imagine a father, a mother risking their lives to get something like Kshs500 ($5.2) from 5 liters of petrol (pump price would be a little more), because of jostling from the crowd it would be difficult to get a lot from the tank, then die living their children as orphans hence more suffering because of making some 500 bob? This is crazy. Kenyans have seen and heard about the tragedies, warnings have been sent by the Government, leaders and the media but nothing has changed. It cannot be that they do not understand the language used to relay the message because we have FM stations in different vernacular in Kenya, Inooro FM, Kameme FM, Milembe FM, Ramogi FM, Kass FM, Musyi FM, Chamge FM, Just to name a few. All these stations have passed messages but nothing has changed. A petrol tanker will overturn even today if there are no police around people will rush to siphon petrol not caring about the danger involved and the incident that happened yesterday. The question Kenyans are asking, how can this be stopped?

I think it is about time concerned organizations like the Government through the Ministries involved, The Red Cross, Kenya Pipeline, Petrol Transporters because it is their drivers and vehicle causing most problems and other organizations that may help put up adverts Bill Boards would be a better option especially on our highways. The adverts should be in Kiswahili and other vernacular if need be. The words of the adverts should be clear warning of the consequences of siphoning petrol. It should also be a criminal offense. If possible pictures of previous scenes and victims can be used to pass on a message. It should also be clear to people that the Government or any organization involved will not compensate victims who willingly went to collect petrol from a scene of accident or anyone living in an area with a petrol pipe as the case of Sinai. Drivers of the vehicles should also report the accidents immediately in this case there should be emergency numbers to report the cases. This is because the Government is loosing a lot of money on treatment, compensations and other costs involved.

Apart from petrol related tragedies, everyday there are reports of road accidents, very bad ones, traffic police have been blamed for corruption and now they are trying to enforce rules that they have ignored. It has not been a good year after the severe drought that affected many Kenyans in the Northern part of Kenya. The latest tragedies are just weird because of the occurrence, it is like the evil one has visited our country or his agents are at work, I agree with religious leaders who are calling for national prayers it is the right time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What a tragedy

The terrible fire that engulfed Sinai slums on Lunga Lunga road of Industrial area yesterday morning caused by petrol spillage is very, very sad and shocking. Kenyans in the past have died of such fires when trucks transporting petrol fell and people siphoning petrol are caught by fires that ensued. This one for Sinai is really sad because fire caught people unaware in slums causing many to be homeless, over seventy confirmed dead and more than 100 hospitalized with terrible burns. Most of the victims are in Kenyatta National Hospital a friend who was there yesterday told me it was a terrible sight of badly burnt expectant women, children, old, young men and women.

Lately there have been bad tragedies of road accidents like Kawethei accident that claimed over 20 victims and other accidents the one for students on Meru road and other roads in the country. Our neighbors in Zanzibar are still dealing with Ferry accident that has claimed many lives. It can be true that “ajali haina kinga” (which means accidents cannot be avoided) as the Kiswahili saying goes, but I believe that some can be avoided, when law and order is maintained. Because we know the issues with slums there have been many fires in the past that have claimed many lives especially children left in the houses, rescue operations have been hampered by poor infrastructure, more people could be living on time bombs that could explode anytime.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What a relief as Teachers’ strike is called off

It is a great relief to hear news that a deal has been signed between the Government represented by Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya Union of Teachers (Knut) and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to employ 23,000 more teachers.

The strike was worrying not only to parents with children is public primary schools but also to many of us parents with children in public secondary schools and especially those with children doing exams this term, because Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) had also called on their teachers to join the strike. This would have been very costly for parent because unlike public primary schools that education is free, secondary school education in public schools is not free, most of them are in boarding schools and travel to different parts of the country to attend the schools, hence it could have been very costly for already pressed parents if children were to be sent back home, then later to pay for transport again to take them back.

Now that more teachers will be employed the issue of understaffing in public primary schools should be given priority, it is also a shame for the Minister of education Mr. Sam Ongeri to term the teachers demands are unrealistic. It is a fact that the decline in performance of public primary schools is due to overcrowding of students and understaffing. I will quote the standard “Teachers have complained of being poorly and irregularly paid and teaching overcrowded classes. Shortage of learning materials erode public confidence in the value of public education, even as State takes a backseat on teachers woes”

It is true that most of us Kenyans have no confidence in the value education in public primary schools, am a good example of a parent who attended public schools but cannot take my children to the current public primary schools, secondary schools are much better and in-fact most parents after taking their children to private schools in primary rush for the best public secondary schools. I cannot imagine my child failing because teachers have more than enough children to teach and worse I cannot imagine my child in a dirty class or worse a school with poor sanitation facilities. Am not saying this with pride and prejudice but it is the bitter truth of our public schools and many parents have no choice but to take their children to these schools.

Since these schools are run by public fund from taxes paid by Kenyans, the Government should improve and restore their glory so that parents like us who spend a lot of money in private schools can take our children to improved public schools. It can even be better if the government could have two categories of public schools, free public schools and subsidized public schools for parents who are able to pay some fees this can also be a way for the Government to get some money to support paying teachers. Consequently many private schools that are mushrooming can be controlled. Most of them are in business of drilling students for exams, making quick money and doing booming business in school uniforms from the normal schools uniforms to additional uniforms like track suites, jackets, sports shoes, scuffs etc…., being sold in the schools. As a result children who are drilled in such private schools end up performing poorly in secondary schools.

Friday, September 2, 2011

School opening may be affected by teachers strike

Public schools are scheduled to re-open next week. However a 7 days strike notice by teachers unions KNUT and KUPPET may paralyze re-opening of schools for the third term of this year. This is a very crucial term for student who will sit for exams in October/November.

Teachers and the unions are annoyed by Treasury’s move to allocate money meant for employing more teachers, to Parliament to clear tax arrears for members of parliament who most of them refused to pay taxes and already have huge salaries compare to teacher’s who pay taxes on their small earnings. Some teachers have even been hired on contract without benefits.

“He complained whereas Knut had met top Treasury officials and that the Parliamentary Budget Committee had approved the allocation, and the matter was agreed on by the MPs, the same committee had turned round and re-allocated the funds.
“We are calling on parents to support us in fighting this injustice that would further mess up the standards of education,” Okuta pleaded.” By Vitalis Kimutai. The Standard read more

I support Mr. Okuta’s (Knut Secretary General) plea to parent because since introduction of free primary schools education, the number of students in public schools has more than doubled, a class that used to have around 30 students now has over 100 students with one teacher. Off course it is a challenging task for teachers to follow keenly each student’s performance under such circumstances. It is very difficult for the teacher to mark all the 100 plus books or exam papers in one day to prepare for another lesson. Consequently the student’s performance has gone down tremendously in public primary schools, public primary schools like Olympic primary schools in Kibera that were amongst top ten in the past, now features no more. As a result most private primary schools are amongst the top. Even though the Ministry of Education stopped ranking schools one can still tell that private schools with fewer children are amongst the top when they name the top students and their schools.

As a result of the crowding in the public schools and few teachers, many private schools have mushroomed and many parents who are able to pay for school fees send their children to private schools, where there is better attention from the teachers because of few students in class. No parent would want their children to fail, but many parents do not have a choice but to take their children to public schools. Therefore this is a serious issue the Government should look into and address urgently.

A quote by Chairman of Knut

“Sossion said: “This is a war between the rich and the poor. Some leaders were brought up in royal families. They do not understand the tribulations the common man undergoes everyday.” He asked the Minister for Labour to consider all avenues to address the issue and ensure that TSC employs teachers on fair and equitable terms. “The withdrawal of the financial allocation marks the lowest time in our history. It comes at a time standards of education are at its lowest,” said Sossion. also from the Standard

I support our teachers 100% because they are important in the society to shape the future of every school going child.