What we MUST do!
I remember a childhood friend who could play guitar. He hadn’t received any lessons but could play any tune; he was just gifted. His ‘God-fearing’ parents were worried as to where it’d lead him to and did everything they could to discourage him from ‘waisting’ his life!
It’s unfortunate that they did not recognise the talent in their son in any positive perspective -to nurture it and develop it positively. I should imagine they’d have been very proud parents if their son went on to produce the very music they enjoyed listening. They were shortsighted and an hindrance to their own child’s growth and development.
And that’s largely the situation in our country. We have situations where 200 people perish on shallow waters barely metres from the shore whenever our ferries sink. Compare that to a thousands usually saved in the middle of the sea in developed countries. Not necessarily because of advanced rescue services, but early childhood investment in life skills.
We will continue to record high rates of deaths simply due to government negligence and lack of leadership!
Most of our leaders see their unique positions as opportunities for self-gratification. Grab the money, grab land, build big houses, buy helicopters and lead a beautiful conscience-free life amidst a sea of poverty.
People really do not understand what it means to be poor until they see it with their own eyes. Majority of our leaders know exactly what it means because during campaigns, they do brave the slums and villages with their empty promises. Some of them were poor as children.
With good leadership it is possible to transform our country- or countries as large in Africa. And there are many priorities – food security, conflict resolution in parts of our continent, Education et cetera et cetera- HOWEVER, my top priority is the protection and care for those most vulnerable and Education and life skills for our kids!
The Vulnerable will always need support. It’s not some form of if we want to- it’s our duty! Full stop! Among those who fall under this class are women in conflict hotbeds, the elderly, the disabled (in proportion to ability), the sick and mentally ill- including those with special needs or learning disabilities – and children!
The children of Africa put simply are deprived. We are not looking after our kids. As a result we have an insensitive growing generations whose instincts are for self gratification – you see leaders who’ve emerged out of poverty and almost overnight forget their own childhood experiences.
Children have become invisible in our society. But we want them to be leaders of tomorrow without any investment in them. The inevitable will remain: the rich, always ruling the poor. Every child has potential though!
This is what we MUST do for our kids and it’s the minimum.
Build decent schools. We CAN afford to build and equip schools for comprehensive learning -especially and more importantly -primary schools.
Every primary school MUST have sufficient learning materials: enough room, comfortable desks, learning tools et cetera- a well stocked library; sports facilities and a swimming pool and laboratories, even a kitchen for cooking classes- as well as music rooms- offering a range of music learning and instruments -traditional, drums to flutes, guitar, piano and saxophone.
And every school MUST have clean drinking water and decent toilets.
Children should enjoy a variety of learning opportunities. Every aspect of learning has its advantages in child development. Our children must be offered as many opportunities for learning and life skills, for us to develop of a pool of talent from which to choose our leaders from.
I have observed kids in Europe. They have advantage in every aspect except maybe in grazing cows and contributing in earning the family livelihood. A child’s role in Europe is very much promoted- to play and learn. Governments have invested heavily in children and schools and learning facilitiesAs a result, confident kids are growing who are continually challenging the science and improving the quality of life from generation to generation!
When I first visited Berlin in 1997, the city was being transformed – the detail is in modern German history. Last year I visited again, and the place even more developed- there’s progress- train stations, buildings, trains et cetera- These are being done by people who were primary school children 2-3 decades ago!
When I go back to my village, the story is reversed. We are still stuck where the colonial government left us. The Kenya Railways, Kenya Airways, the single carriageway from Mombasa to the West- almost everything remains the same if not worse. We are stagnant anymore. We are dying. Roads are not maintained, buildings falling apart- once clean spacious cities are now dirty crowded dens of crime.
The problem with our stunted development lies with our stunted childhood development. We are not cut out early to develop as people – once we achieve houses and cars, and now helicopters – that seems to define who we are. Very rarely you see our leaders take a guitar and display skill. Very rarely you listen to our leaders and feel wisdom. Just stupid incoherent rhetoric despite the fact that many of them do occasionally taste what the ordinary people go through on a daily basis- accidents, crime, delayed justice et cetera.
We can change our country by recognising EVERY child – prompt Birth registration; investing on our kids’ early education by making access to nursery and primary school a right- changing attitudes early and teaching life skills besides classroom education.
We can also borrow a leaf from countries like Germany and Canada. Kids begin school a little late by age 6 or 7. By which time their brains have developed to work out 1+1 without stress. And emphasis for early years being social interaction, more play, conflict resolution and education comes naturally both in class and in extra-curricular activities. You may have noticed grown men and women exchanging blows in parliament trying to resolve some issue. That’s because early education wasn’t sufficient. There’s a marked difference when compared to dealing with difference in developed countries especially in Germany. It has its roots in ‘Grundschule’ -literary foundation level!
I don’t really care if the government wants to make secondary school education free- which is practically nearly impossible – but even if this was realised, it’d still be nonsense if we don’t pay crucial attention to early childhood. Because as it happens, by the time our kids are in high school, they are bullies, thieves, experimenting on sex and drugs- already- headed on to be leaders in the country in under 2 decades’ time. The Recycling isn’t just in old leadership, but young leadership with old mentalities.
And Kenyans we must wake up- my understanding of free primary education is a situation where by parents don’t pay nothing in return for schools free of classrooms, free of teachers and free from quality education – it’s a nonsense not paying nothing and getting nothing. Those kids would learn a lot more through play and helping graze the family cow.
Giving our kids a good foundation early is an achievable dream. The 67 billion Kenya shillings missing in this year’s budget alone -could afford building of standard primary schools with ALL the facilities I have cited above for a whole county!
We must begin to teach ourselves and our kids that material wealth is not the ultimate achievement in life.