Tag Archives: social media

We Need An Education System Overhaul In Kenya – Part 1

I cannot remember a lot from my primary school Science and Agriculture class. One of the few things that I remember from Arts and Craft class is dovetail joints. The only reason I remember this is because it was the answer to a question on a quiz that I failed. It was also the first time that I was beaten by a teacher using a bamboo stick for getting an answer wrong. You can imagine the shock horror of being beaten during your first week in boarding school. Nothing stings like a bamboo stick, I can tell you that for sure. I did well in the two subjects in the final exams though. All hail the power of cramming.

Fast forward to high school where we had some mandatory subjects and others that we could choose. Now, in my high school the choice was between Art and Home Science. There was no way I was going to choose Art. I barely got the Craft portion of it right in primary and Lord knows I can’t draw to save my life. Home Science was the safer option and I was glad to ditch it after the first two years of high school. I forged on with Biology, Geography, German, History and the mandatory Chemistry, English, Math and Kiswahili. Of the 8 subjects, I was only genuinely interested in 4.5. I don’t particularly consider myself a science-oriented individual so balancing chemical equations was pure frustration. I loved the human part of Geography. As for the physical bit -let’s just say I can only name less than a handful of rocks. We all know the parts of Biology that were cool, everything else just made time move slower. Working with numbers is always fun, until they start throwing the alphabet in there and it all goes left. Passing the exam in some of the subjects was again due to the sheer power of cramming.

Cramming was a key strategy to doing well on exams. Understanding the content didn’t necessarily matter as long as you could regurgitate the information when tested. That’s how a lot of us ended up not retaining the things we learnt. It certainly didn’t help that there was more emphasis on excelling tests than there was on acquiring knowledge. As a result, students ended up being pushed through the system so that they could get to the next stage and become another educator’s concern. This continued singular focus on passing exams is not beneficial especially to students. The problem with this structure is that those who do not get certain marks or grades in the national exam at every level of the education system end up being written off. If you don’t get at least X marks at the primary level national exams then you can’t get into high school. If you don’t get a certain grade or above at the secondary level national exams then you can’t get into public university as a regular student.

Another issue is that the opportunities for students to discover their innate talents and explore their interests are not maximized. A student is in class from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., moving from one subject to the next with short breaks every few hours. After that, one is focused on doing homework and preparing for continuous assessment tests and exams – whether that entails actually studying or cramming. Getting good grades is emphasized as the main goal – the be-all and end-all of one’s academic experience. Pursuing one’s other interests is not even presented as an option. As a result, you end up feeling like a failure every time you don’t pass an exam. You start thinking that you are not intelligent and will probably not succeed in life.

Thanks to social media, I see classmates, who stood next to me as we were being caned for getting some question or other wrong on a GHC test in primary school, all prospering in unconventional ways. One of them, for example, paints beautiful pieces of art that make you want to reach into your screen and grab one to hang in your house. Another one is a blossoming entrepreneur. There is one who is a musician and a guitar instructor. The same applies to my high school classmates. Those remedial sessions on Sunday had us believing that we were doomed for not acing Chemistry or Geography or whichever subject we were not excelling in. Turns out getting a question wrong on a test or “failing” Biology is not the end of the world.

The primary and high school academic experience really should include the space for students to explore their other capabilities. Instead of packing every single minute with subjects that do not play up to everyone’s strengths and natural inclinations. It is unfortunate that this cram and pass education structure continues even today when Kenya is awash with proof that one can follow unconventional paths and be successful. I am in no way implying that education is not important because it is. I am simply advocating for a switch to a wholesome multidimensional academic experience.

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Highlights 2014 (Celebrating Kenyan Women)

(This list is not in any particular order and neither is it exhaustive…just 10 (-ish) moments that came to mind today)

1. Lupita Nyong’o’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar win…
Lupita Nyong'o Win

…and her acceptance speech…

…and her recent speech at the Massachusetts Conference for Women…

…and the numerous times she owned the red carpet, the pavement, the airport entrance/exit and social media.

2. Okwiri Oduor’s Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “My Father’s Head,” and her interview with Arise News.

Okwiri Oduor has also written a novella “The Dream Chasers,” that was highly commended by the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2012. She is currently working on her debut novel…I’m over here waiting for it with a cup of chai masala!

Side note: Two other Kenyans have won the Caine Prize. Binyavanga Wainaina in 2002 for “Discovering Home,” and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor in 2003 for “Weight of Whispers.” Oh, book recommendations alert -> Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s Dust.

3.

my dress my choice

#MyDressMyChoice was started as a response to the stripping of women in the name of “decency.” Active and passive perpetrators of this form of violence against women claimed that stripping women teaches us not to be “indecent” and to dress “respectfully” while upholding our “African values.” Seriously!? How much stupidity does one’s brain have to be cloaked in in order to even think like this!? Please, we all know violence against women is about power, control and intimidation, among others. Enough is enough. It’s time to put an end to violence against women.  Salute to all the women who organized and participated in the protest against these heinous acts.

4. Diana Opoti celebrating 100 Days of African Fashion was amazing. She showed all of us just how fabulous African fashion is and the phenomenal level of talent designers across the continent have.
Follow her on Instagram @dianaopoti for pictures of her different outfits as well as designer details, you know, in case you decide to rock out 2015 in statement-making African fashion.

Side note: This was my favorite outfit, not that anyone asked…ha!

5. Captain Irene Koki Mutungi became the first African woman Dreamliner Captain. She was also the first female pilot at Kenya Airways. Inspiration is her, for sure.

Irene-Koki-Mutungi

6. This picture of an all-women Kenya Airways flight crew. Definitely using Kenya Airways next time. Well, if I am guaranteed that I will be on their flight…ha ha ha ha #disclaimer.

crew

7. Tegla Loroupe wins the 2014 Billie Jean King Contribution Award. Like many, I heard the name Tegla Loroupe before I fully grasped exactly what running a marathon and breaking records entails. She is not only a marathon legend but also an advocate for peace, women’s rights and education. Not to keep all her winnings to herself, she started the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.

8. Evelyn Watta won the Sport Reporting Award in the 2014 CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards. She won for her story “Inside Senegal’s Mythical Wrestling Heritage.” Hmmm…to think that there are people out there who are constantly coming up with ways to pigeonhole women. Meanwhile women are out here broadening your world with their words and award-winning stories.

9. The Wangari Maathai Peace Park is now under construction! Yes, it will be open to the public and according to the Green Belt Movement, they hope to have a library in it one day. I hope this is the start of many more parks with libraries throughout the country.
Also, I love the Google doodle of Wangari Maathai, below. It’s from 2013 but it’s timelessness landed it here.

wangari maathai

10. All the Kenyan warrior women who are constantly fighting/advocating for our rights. You are the reason we will have a better Kenya for women. You are an inspiration to many of us. You are everything and then some!

Are You Patriotic?

Patriotic –
i) Having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country
ii) Having or showing great love and support for your country

I have noticed a very disturbing interesting trend on social media as pertains to the Jubilee Kenyan government. Anyone who dares to question or expect anything progressive from the government is instantly labelled unpatriotic and anti-government. With all the things that are going wrong right under the government’s nose, it baffles me that its superfans are willing to unquestioningly take it all in. Moreover, they expect the rest of society to follow in their footsteps. It is clear that some Kenyans have fallen hook, line and sinker for this accept and move on gospel. But why!? For what reason!? Only they can tell us.

When the current government took office, they promised us the moon on a diamond-encrusted silver platter. A year and some change later what have we received!? A charcoal drawing of the moon sans diamond-encrusted silver platter. And we are expected to just accept this!? And move on!? Move on to what when it seems like the government is dragging its feet on pertinent issues!? We can’t ask questions!? Or expect anything better!? Why!? Because patriotism…ha…okay.

Let’s just look at what is happening in Kenya as of today. There is rising insecurity. The government doesn’t appear to be doing much about it given the almost-every-other-day-attacks. We have had malls, markets, places of worship and public service vehicles (PSVs), among others, attacked. There are no safe spaces anymore.  What these attacks keep reemphasizing to Kenyans is the lack of intelligence and strategy as far as security is concerned.

What worsens the insecurity situation is these knee-jerk reactions from the government. We have had a public facade operation security swoop that resulted in the harassment, arrest and detainment of many Somalis for the simple fact that they are Somalis. The government claims that it is part of their terrorist-finding-and-fighting strategy. Yeah…ok…as callous and haphazard as the operation has been…please…you expect us to believe that!? Some of the people that were arrested were released on the spot as long as they had enough money to boost the arresting officers’ bank accounts. Clearly there was a money-making scheme at play. Those who didn’t have money ended up in #kasaraniconcentrationcamp. This is how our government fights terrorism – through mass arrests and detainment of innocent individuals just because they happen to be of Somali origin.

The government’s other terrorist-fighting strategy!? Banning tinted windows on PSVs. Because obviously these attacks and the attackers rely heavily on tinted windows. We all know what is going to happen. A police officer will stop a PSV with tinted windows, ask the driver for a bribe and then let them go on their merry way. Why!? Because there is no way to monitor the enforcement of grasping-at-straws directives.  We have seen this picture before…it has just come in a different frame this time. So much for fighting corruption and protecting the nation.

According to the Daily Nation,  the government is angered because the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and France have all issued travel advisories to their citizens.  Britain has stepped it up and evacuated its citizens who were touring Kenya. The government protested, of course, terming the decision unfair and harmful. First of all, I thought we didn’t need the West!? Well, at least that is what the dynamic duo at the helm of the government has been saying since their campaign days. So why are you so bothered, government people!? Why the anger? Is it because the aforementioned countries care about their citizens and don’t want them to be gallivanting around a place were security is not an obvious priority!? Is it because you just realized that the unneeded West forms a large chunk of the tourists that come to Kenya!? You recently discovered the importance of tourist markets huh!? Or is it because they have dared to take action against your subpar response to insecurity!? You know, you could actually redirect all that energy you are wasting on anger to promoting domestic tourism. You have to deal with insecurity first though, and it doesn’t look like you care to do so, government people.

Dear all the people who are quick to label others unpatriotic and/or anti-government,

Of course we are going to question the government for their nonperformance. Are we supposed to accept mediocrity when we know for a fact that Kenya can and should be better!? What has accept and move on done for us so far!? That’s right…nothing! Do you really want to live in a country where the government does not fulfill its mandate? Where some citizens are discriminated against because of their origin? Where the government does not listen to the people? Where government officials come up with roadside directives that make no sense!?

We ask questions and have high expectations of the government because we believe in the greatness of our country. We can’t just turn a blind eye  to failures because of some misguided notion of patriotism. We love the country and that’s why we question and demand better. We are devoted to our collective success not just that of a select few. The government needs to step up to the plate. Massaging the government’s ego and eternally appeasing these leaders isn’t going to result in the Kenya that either you or I want to live in, and bequeath to future generations.

So, as you jump hoops and cheerlead for the government 24/7/365 while spreading the gospel of accept and move on, I ask, are you patriotic?

 

On Kenya and Digital Gone Awry

The president and his deputy branded themselves as the dynamic digital duo during the election campaign period. They promised us many a digital revolutions in the country. Digital government, digital classrooms, digital government offices and digital public services to name but a few. Turns out that digital government simply meant they (or their social media handlers) would tweet links to their speeches and retweet praises from their superfans. Any questions or criticisms directed to them on their social media channels are either ignored or dismissed.

The digital classrooms are yet to become a reality. The dynamic digital duo had promised that all students in class one throughout the country would get laptops. Last month, the tender for the supply of laptops was awarded to Olive Telecommunications Limited, an Indian company. According to the Daily Nation, the Education Cabinet Secretary said that the company quoted the lowest and most advantageous amount which saved the taxpayers Kshs 8 billion. The cabinet secretary said that they were confident that Olive Telecommunications would deliver. They had after all sent a team of government officials to assess where the laptops would be assembled. They had also seen a list of companies that Olive Telecommunications supplied laptops with. The cabinet secretary led us to believe that everything was perfect and the laptop project was finally ready to roll out.

But this is the Kenyan government after all a.k.a scandal central. Just this month, the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board ruled that Olive Telecommunications Pvt Limited did not win the tender fairly. As a result the board cancelled the tender and asked the Ministry of Education to undertake a fresh tender process. The tender required that the company that got it would be an Original Equipment Manufacturer. Turns out that Olive Telecommunications is not. How exactly did the cabinet secretary and his people miss this? They assessed the company supposedly right!? How did this fact escape them!? Also, Olive Telecommunications did not have the financial resources required in order to qualify. Guess the cabinet secretary and his folks were just going to find a way to sweep that fact under the rug. In December, Olive Telecommunications had offered to supply the tender at Kshs 23.2 billion. By the time they got the tender last month it was at Kshs 24.6 billion. A difference of Kshs 1.4 billion. Pray tell Mr. Cabinet Secretary, why the Kshs 1.4 billion increase!? Is it a hidden transaction fee!? A signing bonus!? A good-job-on-duping-the-Kenyans-again golden handshake!?

We can only hope that the next process will not be as flawed as this one. Although, last I checked, the cabinet secretary has said he is not resigning over this. So if it’s the same people handling the process again, we can only wait and see what antics they will pull…sigh.

Seems like digital government offices are also a rumor as shown by the gem below.

tender

Really Lands Ministry!? A tender for TYPEWRITERS!? It’s 2014 and you are looking for typewriters!? Because why!? What can typewriters do that…I don’t know…say computers and tablets can’t!? I suppose they are the ideal portable device huh!? Are you just looking to collect antiques or what!? Are you planning to use them as decorative elements!? Oh wait…I got it…you are trying to create jobs for the youth…manufacturing typewriters right!?

Digital means different things to different people I guess.

No Country For Women

About Kenya and all the other countries that are increasingly becoming hostile towards women.

Last week, two public incidents happened in Kenya that made me question whether I would live to see the day when women are accorded the respect and honor that comes with being human beings. The social media commentary that ensued after both incidents simultaneously infuriated and saddened me. What am I talking about? Well, read on dear fan.

Mike Sonko, the Nairobi Senator, called in to Caroline Mutoko’s morning breakfast radio show. Now, Sonko has been known to help his constituents by paying their rent, hospital bills, school fees for their children and transport costs among others. He is the regular communal PIN-free ATM if you will. There’s nothing wrong with that. He is after all helping people make ends meet. However, as good-intentioned as his actions are, dishing out money is not a comprehensive sustainable plan to get people out of poverty. When he called into the radio show, Caroline asked him what his long terms plans were. You know, plans to ensure that people are able to become financially independent as opposed to constantly seeking help from Sonko. This is a reasonable question and it’s something many people want to know. Sonko went on a non-answer spree and Caroline, not one to be deterred, repeated the question several times. Now, we all know long term plans are many a Kenyan politicians enemy. Sonko was clearly out of his comfort zone. Instead of giving the typical diplomatic BS answer that politicians have prepared for anything, he begun hurling insults at Caroline.

Why is it that the first response to be being challenged by a woman is to resort to sexually-related insults and threats to her life!? I doubt that insults would have been his first line of defense if it was a man who asked him the question. What does it say about our society when an elected leader, unable to articulate himself, instinctively eases into the verbal abuse lane!? What’s even worse is the number of people, both men and women, who supported his actions and even made numerous jokes about it. It really is not a laughing matter.

In the same week, Evans Kidero, the Nairobi Governor, showcased his true colors to those who couldn’t/ were pretending not to see the black and white before. A group of city county workers, led by Women Representative Rachel Shebesh, went to Kidero’s office to demand better pay. At one point in the video, you see Shebesh having a conversation with Kidero. What does the man do seconds after!? He slaps her and walks back into his office promptly shutting its door. Really!? On being asked about the incident, Kidero’s first instinct was to cling to temporary amnesia. Later on, he claimed that the slap was in reaction to an assault around his lower abdomen. Wait…wait…wait….first he has no recollection of slapping Shebesh and then suddenly he remembers why he slapped her!? Huh!?

Needless to say, Kidero’s behavior was unacceptable. I thought everyone would share that opinion but to my shock and horror many people, men and women, spoke out or rather typed in his support. Memes were made and jokes were told. It all honestly worries me. What kind of a society are we trying to create here!? Claims were made that Shebesh acts like a man and should be treated as such. What!? Such comments are way too dumb for me to address. Others said she deserved it because of comments she made in the past. Again, what!? There is absolutely no reason for Kidero to have done what he did. None. As a leader, one should be able to diffuse situations. All Kidero had to do was to calm people down and have a conversation with them. Or he could have simply stayed in his office if he wasn’t ready to deal with life at that point. It would be better if he just removed himself from office but I don’t see that happening. A girl can wish though!

We, men and women, need to stop condoning such behavior and speak out against it. Violence against women is not a women’s only issue. Men are part of the cycle…so step up to the plate men and do the right thing. I urge you to think twice, and possibly a third time, before you stick that “Angry Feminist” label on me. If violence against women doesn’t make you angry then you really should reevaluate your life space. I have said it before and I will say it again….women should be treated with respect and honor because we are human beings not objects for you – misogynistic men and the women that constantly cheer you on- to do with as you please.