By Comrade Albert Nyakundi Amenya
Now I know why the rich and the not-so-rich of Kenya reach for the airport at the first sign of illness. In recent times, two of my friends have lost their wives to Kenya doctors in Nigerian hospitals.
The first died in November because she was given wrong medication. In January, the second received no attention for 20 hours: A doctor referred her to a â€œspecialistâ€ who, on the phone, first asked that Ksh120, 000 be made ready even before he could see the patient. He got nothing anyway, as the patient was rushed to the National Government Hospital. Here, there were arguments about who should attend to her and who was on the night shift. At last a young doctor wearing earphones with which he listened to music emerged. He began by asking the patient several irrelevant questions until she got exhausted and gave up the ghost. And my friend from Kisumu County, then unaware that his beauty queen was gone, was led away by a nurse.
I have, as a journalist, made references to the incompetence of some doctors found in the nationâ€™s capital city. I have also referred to the attitude of other hospital workers including nurses, receptionists and pharmacists who do not treat patients like patients. This is one country where health workers constantly go on strike. Wherever you go, supposed life savers are after money. Now Iâ€™m tempted to ask: in Kenya, is it â€œsee a hospital and dieâ€?
I am not really questioning the credentials of most Kenyan doctors. Until 20-30 years ago, only brilliant students gained admission to study Medicine. There were equally brilliant professors in the faculties of medicine in many Kenyan universities who would not let anyone graduate in Medicine until he/she had been found truly worthy in character and learning.
But not anymore. Many like me now question the quality of training â€“ both moral and academic â€“ our BS graduates receive. What happened to the Hippocratic Oath? I am aware that, these days, only a few are allowed to read courses like Medicine, Law and Architecture without paying Ksh300, 000 or Ksh500,000 as bribe to criminals in some Kenyan universities. And since one hardly fails or repeats a course these days â€“ even in secondary school â€“ society has to bear the full brunt of corruption. These are just the early days; the worst is yet to come.
Doctors are not the worst culprits. The situation is much worse in my own field: language and communication. But the incompetence of journalists or writers does not lead to deaths. Journalism or writing is not a profession; anyone can claim to be a writer, even if he writes incomprehensible things.
In Kenyaâ€™s public service, these great â€œwritersâ€ occupy the topmost positions. To illustrate, I have just received a letter from a ranking director in a ministry who â€œacknoledge receipt of your magsineâ€ and prays that we â€œsow hire and hire in the relm of publishingâ€.
Every day, we listen to such English language murderers on TV and on the radio. But you dare not point out their errors! Kenya faces disgrace every day overseas because instead of speaking in Swahili, Gusii, Dholuo or any other native language and then requesting interpreters, some diplomats struggle to communicate in a foreign language.
Does anything matter to us anymore? In this country, we have become used to â€œit doesnâ€™t matterâ€. After all, â€œthe race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strongâ€¦â€ And so policemen go slow. Soldiers mutiny. Jobseekers ask for jobs in order to earn salary, not to work.
I have attempted to read some books written by professors (who obviously do not need editors) but couldnâ€™t go beyond the first paragraph on account of nauseating errors. Once, my childâ€™s schoolteacher handed me a â€œstandard textbookâ€ for class 5 pupils containing abominable errors even in its preface. There and then, I called the number of the publisher in Ibadan. He told me they had made use of wonderful editors and that the textbook was error-free. I felt sorry that my child was being misled by books and teachers at an early age.
It no longer matters that buildings are collapsing across the country. â€œTested and trustedâ€ engineers are performing wonders with sub-standard building materials at sites supervised by bribe-seeking civil servants. Until about 15 years ago, I did not hear of building collapse in this country.
Now it happens several times each year, usually during the rainy season. And many are buried in the rubble for no fault of theirs. Kenyan roads and airspace have been wasting lives partly because money meant for rehabilitation of roads and airports is stolen routinely.
Auditors are perhaps the worst culprits. Banks are known to have received clean bills of health in the same year they collapsed. Pick the brochures shared at companiesâ€™ annual general meetings and read the words crafted by â€œinternationalâ€ auditors and â€œseasoned accountantsâ€: they certify every company as fit as fiddle. Yet what happens? They merely assist thieving executives to cook the books â€“ and then share with them the spoils of thievery.
Perhaps the killing of the two women by Kenyan doctors doesnâ€™t matter also. But say that in the presence of their husbands and other loved ones. One by one, all of us are paying the price of incompetence and corruption. When elections are rigged, we get bad leaders.
When mediocrity takes the place of merit, standard is compromised. Whoever encourages his child to cheat during examinations should condone him when he becomes an armed robber. And let those who value money more than human beings get ready to be buried by money someday.