Friday, December 30, 2005




The figures from the KCPE results present some interesting reading. Some people are bound to condemn them as not representative of the situation on the ground without giving us what is representative of the situation on the ground. In light of lack of alternative figures we are bound to go with what we have.

The girl child is still a threatened species in our examination performance. Nationally only a third of the 900 best students were girls in last year’s exam. Looking at the provincial figures, the disparity in top scoring girls ranges from a low of 22.12% (23 girls in top 100) in North Eastern Province to a high of 40.52% (47 girls in top 100) in Nairobi. Nairobi and Rift Valley produced some of the brightest girls, something to consider when thinking about where to get your future wife.

North Eastern continues with its perennial dismal performance. The song will be repeated again this year as in the past 40 plus years of independence about lack of facilities and the nomadic nature of the residents. The government will be called to bring development and preferential treatment sought in the form one admission process. By the end of February the whole thing will be forgotten until the next results in December. NEP may have a case, but what of Nyanza.

There was a time that Nyanza produced some of the best brains in h\the country, maybe it still does, but this is not reflected in performance in last year’s exam. While Nyanza leads in the awakening of the political consciousness of the nation, it continues to trail in the education arena as measured by KCPE performance last year.

Let us look at the statistics. The top performing student in Nyanza scored 447 which beats only NEP whose top scorer had 421. Nyanza managed to put only 2 (read two) students in the top 100 nationally, whose cut off point was 444. Compare this with 34 from Central, 25 from Nairobi, 19 from RVP and even 6 from coast. In Nyanza, only 8 students scored above 440 marks. Compare this with 62 from Central, 37 from Nairobi, 38 from RVP, 21 from neighboring Western, 12 from coast, 17 from Eastern.

If you look at the cut off score of the provincial performance, among the top 100 in the province, Nyanza’s performance is dismal. The lower score of 423 among the top 100 beats NEP and Coast. However the latter has a higher number of quality performers. The bottom 100 in Central had 435 which was the score for position 21 in Nyanza.

Of course these are statistics and can be interpreted differently but one thing they don’t do is lie. While the ranking of performance is irrelevant, the quality of performance cannot be ignored. Absolute scores are reflective of the trends in opportunities for higher education. Short of quota systems, which I believe are inherently discriminatory against better students, some areas will continue to lag behind in sending their sons and daughters to national schools. There is need for local leaders to analyze the results from their constituencies and focus on quality education. Most of our leaders, including those in the cabinet keep calling upon the government to provide resources for various projects. Yet few of them have ever produced concrete programs to be implemented at the local level to improve performance. Who is this government?

Leaders in Nyanza and other provinces should sit down and address their shortcomings and start remedial measures to improve performance. Some leaders will only talk about problems when the press is there. They will never sit down with their constituents to seek ways to improve the lot of the common man. This is playing politics. The solutions to some of these problems do not lay in shouting about them in the press. It is not in Nairobi or state house. Some of the problems can be solved at the local level. Let the teachers be involved, let the parents be involved, let the wearer tell you where the shoe is pinching. If each school improves its performance by a mere one point per year, nationally we will be pulling up the quality of our education. Let us have all the MPs coming up with programs of how to lift the standard of education in their constituencies. Let us not play politics with education. Just because some MPS are highly educated doesn’t mean the whole constituency is highly educated. Conversely just because most MPs are educationally challenged doesn’t mean their constituents should wallow in the quagmire of illiteracy and ignorance.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005



In those days we used to take pride in being Kenyans. In a continent of military coups and political instability, Kenya was an oasis of peace and tranquility. The East African Community had just collapsed and a sense of nationhood was gaining root in Kenya. We had left Kenya on first January in an East African Airways plane and were to come back home in December in a Kenya Airways plane. In between a lot of water had flowed under the bridge.

At the elite naval officers’ training school in Dartmouth, Kenyans were a welcome and respected lot. Together with Nigerians, Ghanians, Bangla Deshi, and other commonwealth and Middle East nationalities, we formed a strong team of international officer corps. We shared our experiences and respected our cultural diversity. As happens when in foreign lands, you tend to identify with and befriend other foreigners more than the indigenous people. And so was the case in Dartmouth. The first circle of friends was other Kenyans, then other Africans, then other internationals and finally the British. This eventually changed as we got better acquainted with the British and started interacting with them more. Some came into the second circle but the first circle was always sacrosanct for the Kenyans and could not be bleached.

The six of us had gone through the six month basic training in both Lanet and the naval base together. This had tied us together through common experience. The training did not only instill military tactics and knowledge, it is created a common bond between us. You end up being your brother’s keeper. You never leave a fallen comrade behind. The bond created during basic training persists for a long time and serves to sustain friendships among the officers. Here we were in the midst of British winter furthering our military prowess. The experience was daunting just as it was exciting. As relatively young cadets, I was the oldest at twenty five, we were ambassadors at large for our country. We took this role literally and were very vocal in defending our country any time there was a debate on any issue touching it. Our history and particularly our country’s future kept coming up especially because of the advancing age of our then president. The question most often asked was what would Kenya be like after Kenyatta. We were very defensive of our independence and believe in stability and peaceful continuity even after Kenyatta. History has at least vindicated our faith.

One day my friend and I walked into Barclays bank at Marble Arch in London. As we lined awaiting our turn, we saw this man ahead wearing what was then the national tie. The national tie was made up of the national flag colors. Wearing it was a sign of pride in the nation and people wore it especially on national days. Later the tie was emasculated by the Kanu party who made it a sign of loyalty to the party. Today no one, other than the die hard Kanu activists and some recalcitrant village demagogues parade themselves in the tie. This has made our nation lose its symbol of identity. The moment the national symbol was made a party symbol it made it repugnant among the non party members to identify themselves with it. Kanu hijacked the national tie and made it their own.

The gentleman I was talking about was patiently lined up ahead of us. We debated as to who was to approach him and test whether he was truly a Kenyan. My friend just stood next to him and while pretending not to address him simply said ‘habari mzee’. The man turned with a wide smile on his face and answered the greetings enthusiastically. He went on to explain that he wore the tie specifically to announce to all and sundry that he was from Kenya. His reasoning, which we could not fault but rather confirmed, was that by wearing the tie he was proud to be a Kenyan and more so in the land of former colonizers. He was proudly going about his business showing off as it were and announcing to other Kenyans, that he was around. He emphasized that our having approached him had vindicated his claim. After our self introductions and having finished our business in the bank, we shared a cup of coffee and exchanged contact address. It turned out that he even knew my father and this cemented our bond.

The thing I remember most about this incident is the pride the man showed in our national tie. The loss of this symbol to party demagogues and sectored interests haunts me every time I remember this man. Living in foreign land, I find myself looking for a national symbol. When I look at a number of flags flying at a hotel or other venues I instinctively look for the Kenyan flag. I wear with pride my T-shirt with a miniature flag sewn on the pocket and the word Kenya emblazoned across the front. I hang a miniature emblem of the Kenyan flag on my rear view mirror in my car. These small symbols serve as constant reminders of my country. Sometimes you meet somebody who will ask you whether you are from Kenya after they see you so attired and you strike a conversation. But the most frustrating thing about all this nationhood hullabaloo is when you go back to the motherland. There you discover there is nothing called Kenya. There we have provinces. We have regions, Mt Kenya, coast lake, dry regions etc. There are no Kenyans only tribes. You are either a Kikuyu or Luo, Luyhia or Kalenjin, Masai or Kamba never a Kenyan. When you go to check the tribes, they are not there only the clans remain. Where did the Kenyans go?

Monday, December 26, 2005



After reconstituting the cabinet, it is now the season for homecoming. The ministers are planning homecoming parties to show the flag and the spoils of the last war. It matters little that people are dying of hunger. That is an unfortunate thing and an unwelcome diversion from the celebrations.
Why should people decide to go hungry so soon after eating all those oranges and bananas? Didn't we send delegation after delegation to the great chief at the state house pledging our loyalty. Didn't the great chief dish out all those districts, promised jobs, postings, lunch money and other handouts at these fuctions? How can you people be so ungrateful as to go hungry at this time.

The government is very busy celebrating Christmas as well as preparing for the new year. The whole cabinet has to keep the great chief company at the coast. Those people from the periphery of Kenya claiming to be hungry should wait until the government comes from recess. We even doubt whether you are true Kenyans. Didn't I hear you have cousins in Ethiopia, brothers in Somalia and uncles inEriteria. And you, don't your grandfathers live in the Sudan? How can you claim to be Kenyans so soon after refusing to eat bananas.

This is the attitude the government has taken. We have to wait untill all the maize is collected into the Cereal Board depots before we dish it out. Death can wait. We have to wait until we appoint a commission to assess the situation on the ground before we release the food. We have to wait until the rest of the world comes to our aid, before we open our own stores. Talk about a ministry of special programmes. Talk about strategic food reserves. Talk about planning.

This time and age no Kenyan should ever be going hungry, set aside dying of hunger. Only in Kenya will you spend billions on dead end constitution review and not a penny on alleviating hunger. Only in Kenya will you spend millions to buy loyalty from an inflated cabinet and not a penny to institute water programs in the arid area. Only in Kenya will you receive aid to finance HIV/AIDS projects and still hold nearly a billion shillings unutilised in the bank while death continues to devastate the population. Only in Kenya where helicopters will criss cross the country campaigning and non will be available to visit the dead and dying from famine. Only in Kenya will we condemn those who highlight the plight of the hungry as enemies of development. Only in Kenya will it be famine when the president says.

Let us get out of the culture of dependence on foreign benevolence. Let us for once lead the way and feed our own. Open the graneries. Get the army off those barracks. Send them to distribute the food to those communities dying out there. Let's give human life higher premium. Let us address the issue of famine alleviation in the long term. The bottom line is our ability to combat adverse weather. It is a known fact to all but the government that in the dry areas water conservation is paramount. We have lake Turkana which hitherto has no agricultural utilization. Why can't we look at irrigation using this lake? or Baringo or Victoria. You talk about cost? well we can raise almost a billion shillings in the next 24 months without affecting our current budgetary allocation. How you ask. Simple. Reduce the current cabinet by half.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005



The naming of 20th October as Mashujaa day is commendable but begs the question; who are our mashujaa or national heroes? Kenyatta day has hitherto been identified with the arrest and subsequent incarceration of the founding father of the nation, Jomo Kenyatta. The name tended to overshadow all the other worthy heroes of the independence struggle. A time has come for the others to be accorded their proper place in the history of our nation. We however need to identify them by name and contribution. We cannot have hero’s incognito. When we seek to identify who should be called a hero, you are likely to hear all sorts of opinions and interests being propagated. These will range from tribal loyalties, clan interests, and professional bias to sycophancy. National heroes don’t necessarily have to be deceased, politically active or have been imprisoned individuals. National heroes are found in all sectors of the society, in all occupations and all age groups.

Are we going to limit the Mashujaa day to honor the political heroes? Are we going to honor our athletic heroes like Kipchoge Keino, Paul Tergat, Henry Rono, Rose Tata Muya, John Ngugi etc? Are Job Isaac Mwamto and Mambo Mbotela mashujaa? How about “Mama Kayai” and “Ojwang Hatari’? Are these Mashujaa? I am sure there may not be much debate about the inclusion of the Kapenguria six (though most died paupers), or Dedan Kimathi and Koitalel. Neither should the inclusion of those who were assassinated in post colonial era produce heated exchanges; Mboya, J M Kariuki, Gama Pinto, Ouko. But the question to be answered before inducting them into the Mashujaa hall of fame is; what was/is their contribution to the national struggle and conscience that distinguishes them from the other ordinary citizens of their time. An assassin’s bullet can make a hero out of a desolate ineffectual leader given the right political and social climate. An imprisonment or detention can make a hero out of a coward and a submissive puppet out of a hero. The suffering and manner of death are therefore not necessary pre-requisites for being accorded the title of shujaa.

Every village or town has its hero. When I was growing up we had a very strong man who would carry a whole electric post on his shoulder. He was known to have held a donkey by the rear leg with one hand and shoved it into a thicket a whole twenty meters away. I am sure he would have no place in the Mashujaa day. His heroic exploits were purely local at times detrimental to the society for he used his superior strength to steal timber from the forest. By the same token we have a lot of eminent Kenyans, whose exploits would qualify them as national heroes, but their character and social mien would knock them out.

Few people would talk or even write with confidence without fear of contradiction about the contributions of those we consider heroes. This is partly because we have sung about them for so long without delving into their actual roles in their respective fields, that we have lost their specific contributions. This is a challenge to the historians to get out there and document these events. We need to document accurately the role each played. (This is the topic of my next article in this series). How they went beyond the call of duty in sacrifice and use of personal talents, resources and leadership for the sake of the nation.

If Mashujaa day is going to be limited to the political heroes, then how are we going to honor the other eminent Kenyans? To me Geoffrey Griffin, Prof Mazrui, and Ngugi wa Thiongo are as great heroes in education as Kapenguria six, Dedan Kimathi, and Tom Mboya are in politics and should be accorded equal status during national celebrations. We have an opportunity to identify those Kenyans whose national contribution has been rendered obscure through either ignorance or deliberate obfuscation by those seeking self glory. You do not become a hero through etching your name in stone monuments and edifices nor through slogans and songs. You are not a hero through ostentatious pretensions and chest thumping, neither through acquiring undeserved titles and accolades. You are not a hero just because you have been re-elected into parliament since independence, neither because of your wealth or lack of it. Until the people recognize you as such, you will never be a hero. It does not matter what you want them to believe or force them to shout, this is temporary when the chicken come home to roost, and you will be dumped where you belong, the dustbin of history. Ask Idi Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu, Samuel Doe, Milosevic, Shah Pahlevi, and Marcos.

Let us have a national body that will receive and review nominations to “Shujaahood”. For a long time we have wasted our national honors on undeserving individuals. Just because you are a government minister for a month doesn’t mean that you are a worthy recipient of the Golden Heart. These national honors have lost value since the criteria for their award are not defined and cronyism cannot be ruled out. Let’s clean up the mess created in the past and accord appropriate honor and glory to those most deserving. That poor village woman who fed the Mau Mau freedom fighters her last chicken may be a worthy hero. But unless someone comes forward with their story we shall continue to edify the beneficiaries of their sacrifice as the true heroes.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?