Month: May 2016

An Annalysis Of The Kenyan Campus Situation

I dropped out of campus 2 years ago due to financial constraints. Before dropping out, it had been a 7 year struggle for me trying to get a degree to no avail. I had attained the cluster points necessary for me to gain admission into campus in my country in the KCSE examinations. However, I was more than sure that the Course I would be considered for, if I did join Public University as a Regular student, wouldn’t be something I had a passion of pursuing.

And so like many other Kenyan students in a similar predicament, I opted for the Parallel Course. By opting for that, I knew that I would be a self-sponsored student unlike the government sponsored Regular Course students. I knew that I would have to pay way higher for my tuition fee than the latter category. However, I found comfort in the fact that I would still be eligible for the HELB loan. Thanks to the government considering the fact that there were indeed needy students in the Parallel programme.

But there was an advantage for parallel students in Public Universities. Unlike their counterparts in the Regular Programme who took longer to finish their courses in campus. The parallel students are usually in a crash form of programme. Within 3 years, a student is done with their undergraduate studies. Considering this in mind and seeing that I had always excelled in Languages and Humanities, I chose a Course I had a passion for. Little did I know that this would prove to be a grueling process which ended in me having to drop out.

I was a HELB loan beneficiary four times. However, with the exorbitant tuition fees, my annual loan of 55,000 Kshs only catered for 4 of my units in a Semester. It did help a long way seeing that I was in dire financial constraints with a strong zeal to attain a degree but at the same time, it wasn’t enough. Now my narration is not an attempt to draw a pity party kind of scenario to myself. Neither is it a ploy to point fingers at the Government sponsored student loan. As a matter of fact, I will still go back to campus to finish my degree but this time round, in a Private University.

Why have I opted for a Private University?

Private Universities have in the past been associated with students from well off families. Parents who could afford to pay campus fee totaling around 100,000kshs per semester without factoring in accommodation and pocket money. I personally plan to educate myself in a Private University from my own pocket. I’m psychologically prepared for the tuition fee I would be required to pay. But I’m certain that the quality of education I would attain from an established Private University would be higher than the one I attained in a Public University.

I’m not trying to insinuate that Public Universities are for the poor and of bare minimum quality of education. Indeed, some of our Public Universities in Kenya have been in existence from the colonial times and have since created a name for themselves, in some of the courses where they are known to churn out the best professionals. The one I was enrolled in was no different. However, it is no secret that many of our Kenyan Institutions of Higher Learning have in recent times, leaned more on the money making side of things than of giving quality education.

I was paying close to 100.000kshs per semester in a degree course offered by a Public University under the Parallel Programme. Not much difference from a student purported to be from a well off family in an established renowned Private University. Indeed many of us struggled a lot with school fee to the extent of dropping out. We were advised to get funding in the form of student loans but that did only a little to ease our tuition fee financial burdens. At some point, we started feeling as if we were being punished heavily, for failing to join campus via the government sponsored regular programme, if the frustrating high tuition fee was anything to go by.

Young Kenyans are hungry for education. However, being an average performer further hampers this dream in the youth of Kenya. For this post, I chose not to refer to any of the statistics given, but rather to relay the situation on the ground just as I have equally experienced it. When Garissa University happened, it was evident the high number of needy students in Kenyan Campuses. Many of the Garissa University victims were students from poor families, who had ended up in campus through the government sponsorship admission. They simply wanted to learn and eventually improve their livelihoods.

These are the things the government needs to look at. I’m 100% sure that a majority of the Garissa University students were HELB beneficiaries. HELB really helps the needy Regular students and especially, if you manage to get the maximum amount of around 50,000Kshs, according to an article on the Business Daily website dated January 27 2015 which is a reduction from the previous maximum amount of 60,000kshs. The regular course tuition fee is way reasonable as compared to the parallel course. However, you will be highly surprised that many Kenyan students still miss out on this. Reason being, that they fail to gain admission into Public Universities perhaps, due to the marks they attained in their KCSE in high school and therefore, their parents cannot afford to enroll them into parallel programmes as an alternative.

The student leaders in our Public Universities do little to help with the plight of struggling students in the Parallel Programme. It is almost like over time, the student leaders have developed an insensitivity toward their counterparts who are not in the Regular programme like them. They appear to assume that since they are paying much higher than them, then they can definitely afford it and therefore, need no representation whatsoever. I will confidently state that while in campus, I paid annually for the student leadership as part of my tuition fee. An amount of 1,000kshs. Higher than what the Regular Student pays. And never once, did I hear our student leader address the plight of the parallel programme students, except hollering over cheap, unnecessary politics that hardly concerned education.

My intention in stating the above is not to create a rift but rather to address the deep rooted issues that are ailing our higher education as a country. We need more enlightened Kenyans. We need more degrees in our nation. It doesn’t matter whether this person with a degree will go the formal employment way or not. Education empowers you as an individual. Once literate, you cannot reason like someone who has never been to school and this is way important in the development of a nation. As much as there are concrete reasons as to why there are Parallel as well as Regular courses, it is time we asked ourselves critically if everyone who had initially been targeted by these crucial decisions, is in essence benefiting from them.

There are quite a number of our Kenyan students in foreign universities abroad. We need to ask ourselves why this is so other than dismissing this fact to their parents having money to send them abroad. Why aren’t the Western countries sending their students to Africa to study? Not unless they are on exchange programmes or in universities with an affiliation with some of the best universities in the West? What can we do as a nation to improve the quality of our education in higher learning institutions and in the process, ensure that a larger percentage of our Kenyan youth are in campus to the end? What do our student leaders in campus need to really fight for?

These are questions that are posed to all of us and not just individuals.

Do You Treat Your Domestic Worker Well?

Opposition leader and former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s daughter got herself in some hot soup sometime last week. Winnie Odinga in a “hit the nail on the head” kind of post, lashed out at Middle Class Kenyans, for the poor pay they give their househelps and suggested a salary of around 50,000kshs. A small section of the Facebook post from Winnie read;

Middle class Kenya needs to wake up. Every time you pay someone less than 50,000 shillings a month you are responsible for creating a home in the slum. Surprised? Or did you think 12,500 would afford your househelp a chalet in Muthaiga?
 www.domesticworkersupport.info
We call them Mboches (Domestic worker/househelp) in Kenyan urban slang. The ladies we usually employ in our houses to take care of our children and home affairs while we are away on job duties.
Currently in my country, more women are career oriented therefore, they cannot really skirt around the idea of whether they should employ a househelp or not. If there are children involved and mummy has to work, then definitely a househelp HAS to be employed.
An article on The Business Daily Website dated October 7th 2015 and titled Number of Kenyan super earners shrinks as income gap grows states;

Only 68,676 or 2.89 per cent of formal sector employees in Kenya earn more than Sh100,000 per month, according to newly released data, showing a widening income gap in the country. The data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that more than half of formal sector workers (64.5 per cent) are living on low wages of between Sh20,000 and Sh49,000 that have barely increased in the past 10 years, eroding the wage earners’ purchasing power.

In the Informal sector with all its unpredictability, the figures of super earners in relation to the moderate to low earners could be worse. No wonder the kind of uproar from quite a large number of Kenyans, who got the chance to give their two pence worth on what Winnie Odinga had bashfully proposed.

With such a kind of statistics showing the percentage of Kenyans who are earning between 20,000 kshs and 49,000kshs per month, it would be unfathomable for a Kenyan falling in that category, to be able to comfortably pay their househelp 50,000kshs even if they would have wanted to.

However, there was equally the argument that Winnie was referring to middle class Kenyans (whom in essence, could be earning between 50,000kshs to 80,000kshs with bills to pay and school going children). So indeed her reasoning still sounds a bit too farfetched if you choose to look at it in such a manner.

The question of how well you treat your domestic worker is a rather contentious one. Sometime last year, a Ugandan clip surfaced on the Internet, of a househelp thoroughly beating a hapless toddler who had been left in her care.

The clip elicited a lot of negative emotion and especially from mothers who can relate well with the uncertainty, of leaving a child in the care of someone, who could as well be a stranger to your family.

Househelps have been known in the past, to often times take out their frustration with their employer on the children and somehow, manage to get away with it. In this case, justice was served and the househelp jailed thanks to the secret nanny cam, that the employer had wisely thought of installing in the home.

This of course brought about the debate of whether nanny cams were indeed a viable option for employers to take. And would installing a nanny cam in the house ensure that the househelp was indeed tamed while the parents were away?

Assuming a Kenyan could indeed afford to pay their househelp 50,000kshs a month, give her a comfortable bed to sleep in, treat her with utmost respect, ensure that she ate and dressed but still installed a nanny cam somewhere in the house, without the househelp’s knowledge. Wouldn’t the househelp feel curtailed in her movements or as if her rights to freedom of being infringed if at all she found out about the installed cams watching her every move?

In another scenario, a Kenyan pays their househelp 4,500kshs. What that Kenyan can afford but still gives the househelp a bed to sleep in, food to eat, clothes to wear and treatment of the utmost respect but without any nanny cams installed. Then this househelp perhaps in a sense of ingratitude, decides to mistreat her employers kids. Would her actions be tied to the kind of treatment she received from her employer?

Now I’m not trying to imply that all employers are saints. There are indeed quite a number of employers who are actually devil incarnates. Who wouldn’t spare a thought for a domestic worker in their home. Who would gladly pay her peanuts and watch with glee while she worked to the bone day and night just to keep the home running and the kids organized. Whose husbands would prey on the hapless domestic workers in the dead of the night for despicable sexual favors. Employers who would not think twice about delaying or withholding a help’s salary.

You might be very surprised that some of the domestic workers in such homes, can actually work diligently for their employer for many years irregardless of the kind of treatment being meted out. Even more taken aback by the fact that a domestic worker, being treated well by an employer might decide to just up and go one day, without giving any notice to the employer.

The question of how well you treat your domestic worker should well be answered by the Kenyan who wants to employ one for whatever reason. It is time that Kenyans started looking at the mboch as a human being with needs such as ours. However, a Kenyan should equally be clear with the househelp during employment, on the amount of money that he/she will be in a position to pay. If the househelp is not willing to take the amount then she should equally be clear in her refusal to take the job.

Indeed regulations have been put by the government in the recent past, on what should be the minimum salary that a househelp should take home. However, just to be fair, few Kenyans can afford to pay a househelp a salary of 10,954kshs per month. Not with the kind of salaries many Kenyans are taking home in addition to the high cost of living and responsibilities to be attended to.

Winnie Odinga might have truly had a good point in her argument but I think she fell short of understanding the reality on the ground. And the reality on the ground is that only a very small number of Kenyans can afford to pay a help 50,000kshs. Equally, the treatment of a househelp is not measured by how much you choose to pay her. It is actually measured by an employer’s integrity and therefore bashing middle class Kenyans is uncalled for.

 

 

 

Judging One Another Based On Skin Color Or Ethnicity Communicates A Lack Of Knowledge

I had a very astounding encounter on Monday this week. There’s an Asian Barbershop I walked into on a Sales mission, only to encounter the most ignorant kind of reasoning from the people present.

So I’m there, all salesish (if there’s such an English word even) and this Asian man pretended to listen for just about a minute or so, before breaking into a somewhat sympathetic smile. The kind of smile you usually give someone you assume is dimwitted or slow in learning. Then with that same smile on his ignorant face, he pointed upstairs and said, “There’s a salon upstairs for Africans.

My friends whom I have shared that encounter with, all said that they would have thoroughly insulted that man. Funnily enough, I didn’t react with rage. I remember clearly telling him that the salon upstairs, already had a knowledge of the products I was marketing and were actually using  a couple. Of course that did little to wipe that annoying smile off that man’s face but at least, I left that barbershop with my dignity intact.

On my way out, I couldn’t help chuckling at how ignorant all three men in the barbershop had come across. One chose to totally ignore my presence, the other chose to equally smile sympathetically at me and this one, whom I assume was the manager, thought it best to remind me that there was a place for my kind right upstairs.

Never mind the fact that he hadn’t seen the product and had no idea that it was in fact Caucasian manufactured. In his ignorance, he had assumed that since it was an African girl selling, then it definitely had to be an African product for Africans.

By narrating this, I’m not trying to insinuate that people from the Asian community are discriminative of Africans in my country. Although there have been some cases in the past, that came out as racially discriminative, I believe that where we are now as a country, we are past that stage where an Indian saw an African as inferior. And so my conclusion was that either this particular Asian man, was new in the country or had stubbornly (stupidly even), decided not to move with the times.

I’m reminded of the time recently, when our Rugby team won the Singapore Sevens tournament. A popular TV channel in my country decided to immediately celebrate the news on Facebook. So I was going through the comments and all of a sudden, I see a Kenyan of African descent, ignorantly stating that the win was in essence, a certain political party’s win.

His reasoning; since a majority of our rugby players are from a certain community and this political party is synonymous with party members from the same community, then the rugby team winning the Singapore tournament had to be that party’s win.

Needless to say, everything went pretty downhill fast from that comment onward. I read comments of Kenyans, bitterly trying to justify why their tribes were equally important and pointing fingers at others, who had sounded downright tribal in their comments. The whole idea of celebrating a great Kenyan win ended up being overshadowed by a simple misguided comment by a Kenyan, obviously lacking in knowledge.

twitter.com

twitter.com

As much as we may at times yearn to sweep things under the carpet, racism and tribalism are still very much alive and well. Back in 2014, during a Spanish League game, Barcelona’s Dani Alves an Afro-Brazilian, had a banana thrown at him by a racist fan. Instead of fuming, the clever footballer picked up the banana, peeled it and took a bite. The fan ended up being banned for life from the El Madrigal Stadium. http://www.edition.cnn.com

Looking at Dani, if you are from the African continent, you may be excused for mistaking him to be of purely Arab descent. However, this obviously very ignorant football fan, decided to concentrate on his African roots in particular and with an insinuation of an African being a monkey, threw the banana into the pitch.

Footballer, Dani Alves. alicephotos.esy.es

Footballer, Dani Alves. alicephotos.esy.es

The reaction the fan got from Dani must have shamed him for life. People of all races came out in defense of the footballer and all the footballers, who had previously suffered racial slurs and discrimination of sorts felt finally pacified.

It is indeed sad that no matter what strides we have made in civilization in the world, a section of people still choose to judge one another based on skin color or tribe. Tribalism greatly ails the African continent and indeed, quite a number of countries in Africa have suffered gravely from tribal conflicts.

The problems of race are so deep rooted that we now have a #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US, campaigning against violence toward Black people, according to an introduction given of the movement on Wikipedia.

In Kenya, we have a tendency of blaming our politicians for creating rifts between tribes. However, I tend to reason otherwise. I tend to conclude that Kenyans are equally to blame. If we indeed loved and appreciated one another irregardless of tribe, then no politician would have had the power in the first place, to incite us against one another.

We spend a lot of our time on earth trying to prove ourselves as being superior to others. If a certain tribe handles its matters in this manner, then the people of that tribe assume that they are way better than another tribe, which handles its matters differently. If a certain skin color is considered desirable, then the other skin colors are automatically gauged by the standards of this so called, desirable skin color.

This in essence should not be so. The world would have indeed been such a dull place to be in if all the people looked and acted the same. Methinks that racism and tribalism stem from a reluctance to be open minded enough, to learn about other peoples and their way of life. Possessing closeted views is what contributes to people judging each other based on trivial things such as skin color or ethnicity. The outcome of this is often stupid as evidenced in particular, by the rogue football fan.

As Africans, we cannot constantly lay blame on our leaders for brainwashing us against certain tribes. We are fully equipped with minds of our own and have a free will to decide on whether to utilize the wrong information that we receive or not. As the world, we equally cannot blame our lack of exposure to other races as our reasons for being judgmental of them. We live in a global village and choosing to learn more about a particular race is just but a click away.

Anyone engaging in tribalism or racism is simply lacking in knowledge. You have the power to acquire knowledge.

Why I’m All For Hands On Dads

I’m totally awed by fathers who are completely involved in the upbringing of their own children. Seeing a father gently carrying his infant son or daughter always seems to blow me away. It just goes a long way to prove to me that there is indeed that very gentle, protective side to what is expected to be a manly, tough exterior in the male gender.

In times when quite a number of fathers have a reputation of being absentee dads, the few remaining out there who still burn the candle of proper fatherhood, only serve to maintain that all is not lost.

There is a lot that comes with fatherhood. The actual decision to father children is indeed a crucial one that needs some level of maturity in the male. Being a father is not only having little carbon copies of yourself running around in the house but rather, being aware of the developments and milestones in your children’s lives, in addition to having them in the first place.

They say a father is the first man that a little girl looks up to and that whatever standards he sets in his parenting style, is what she will subconsciously use to gauge all potential dating partners in her life in future. Indeed, quite a number of women have ended up getting hitched to men, who came across as quite alike to their own dads.

According to an article on http://www.huffingtonpost.com titled The Important Role Of Dad and dated June 12th 2014:

Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad, for after all, they know how “to do that.” Therefore, if father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they’ve gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.

But what is a father’s role in a son’s life?

The same article goes on to state;

Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father’s approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.

However, the above does not completely justify the choice of a young man becoming a wife beater just because his own father was one. Neither does it completely justify a woman ending up with an alcoholic as a hubby just because her father was one. I’m of the school of thought that, being equipped with what we know are wrong as well as good patterns of behavior as adults, then we can decide to make a personal choice, to deviate from what is considered the norm yet detrimental.

Still it is not an easy feat per se, as sometimes human beings act subconsciously. Indeed the article further explains;

Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior.Those early patterns of interaction are all children know, and it is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves, and how they develop.

So irregardless of whatever schools of thought we allude to, the importance of a father and the particular role he portrays in a child’s life goes a long way in modelling how that child will grow up to view life. Like it or not, daddy issues are real. They could have been avoided though, if many more fathers stepped up to their roles rather than absconding their duties or adopting tyrannical stances with their own children.

Once one decides to become a father, there is no turning back. It is a lifelong decision with an implication that someone is and will always be dependent on you as a figure in their lives. It doesn’t matter whether your children grow out of diapers, go to college, get careers and start their own families. If you were the father who chose never to be involved in their upbringing, it shall forever impact them negatively. Sadly, it may impact the men and women they choose to start their own families with in future too.

One important feature I think women ought to look out for while choosing a potential mate is whether this man is in essence, able to step up to his fatherly duties, should you get pregnant by him. Will he be involved in his children’s lives whether your relationship survives the test of time or not? It doesn’t matter how happy or giddy with excitement this man makes you feel. Question is, is he up to raising the kids he will have with you in tough times or good times?