By Albert Nyakundi Amenya (The Banana Peddler)
Before the introduction of free primary education by the NARC administration, our bambinos were doing much better because there was quality in education. As if that is not enough, they introduced free secondary education, the quality of education exasperated.
Since the introduction of free education, our institutions of learning have produced complete greenhorns.
Nowadays, there is no difference between those unread street boys/girls and graduates. Or even if there is, the former are better as opposed to the latter. That is why employers lack people to employ yet there are millions of unemployed youth.
As a Banana Peddler, sometimes I come across graduates who read “big” courses in campus but cannot express themselves expertly in both speaking and writing. In fact, those Social Media Slay Queens who struggle to draw the attention of as many men as possible by uploading voluptuous photos on Facebook are better than them. Poor education coupled corruption makes Kenya a hell on earth.
Now, is there a relationship between the rate of unemployment and the poor work ethic in the country? I believe there is. I see no way of explaining the paradox of having too many people looking for work and having too many employers seeking qualified and dedicated workers. I know Kenya is full of paradoxes.
Because of poor leadership, ours has become a country that exports what it doesn’t have but imports what it already has.Ours is a country where banks lend money to those who already have more than enough but refuse to lend to those who need money. We are a country where people borrow to buy things they don’t need. We have become a country where the rich grow richer and the poor become poorer. Ours is a rich country of poor people. To these should now be added: we are a country where the majority are jobless and yet the few who have jobs refuse to work.
Poor attitude to work was once limited to government establishments. Now, it is getting worse even in private establishments. A young man fresh from campus comes pleading for a job. Once you hire him, he thanks his ancestors. He works hard for the first week or two and then starts waiting for pay day. I have observed, also, that some workers in big eateries have turned beggars or thieves.
I and my co-journo Silas Gisiora Nyanchwani were once frequenters of one of Kilimanjaro food eateries, not until some waiters turned beggars. They were literally begging to be tipped as if it is their right. We won’t dare report them because we knew it would cost them their jobs.
That aside, so disappointed have many employers been that they have felt like closing shop. A friend of mine who is a restaurateur found out that she was losing customers because the cooks and waiters she hired were coming late to work. And they would dutifully observe the closing time; in fact, they refused to serve customers if it’s five minutes to closing time, and not because there was no food.
Another friend, a CEO, confided in me last week that he would be seeking a general manager from a foreign country this year because he could no longer tolerate the work ethic of his Kenyan employees. Apart from those who stole his money at the slightest opportunity, there were those that embarked on ego trip once their designation changed from officer to manager.
In Kenya, Virtues like hard work, honesty and dedication have skidded into the cesspool. Year on year, we award plaques of honour to thieves and charlatans while hardworking but poor workers are never noticed.
Here, having a job means having a piece of the national cake, many think. Partly as a result, most workers (even in the private sector) harbour the impression that jobs are not meant to be done but to produce salaries. I’m yet to understand why an employee at one government agency should earn four times the salary of his mate at another government agency.
As I prepare to leave Banana hawking due to old age, I have a piece of advice for young Kenyan workers. “I know life is unbearable in this country because of poor leadership but try and turn over a new leaf, for any venture founded on dishonesty is bound to fail. One of the lessons I learned in 10 years of working for others is that he who works hard for someone else works hard for himself – it is the same work ethic that he would take to his own work. And hard work doesn’t kill. It is said that the reward for hard work is even more work.