Values and Stories of our Generation

MICHELLELast week I was in a Obama mood. I stumbled upon a Obama collection of speeches and one really moved me. This was Michelle Obama’s 2012 Democrats National Convention speech(DNC). She mentioned many things in praise of her husband in an effort to marshal votes for his second term to the white house.

One of the astounding things she says about Obama, her grandmother and particularly her father is the value for hard work. She narrates her father’s struggles to raise her and her brother fighting with a myriad of economic demands but still emerging strong. She watched her father wake up daily to go to work even when she was in pain from sickness. He never missed a day and he did everything to make sure that his children went through college. According to Michelle, her father’s measure of a successful life was doing what gave him inner happiness and contentment – that what mattered most.

Values in the old generation parenting

The values that parents of her generation instilled in their children were hard work and giving their all in whatever they did. This was her basis of calling for the American people to vote for Obama. That the issues the families face, the struggles and challenges the American people go through on a daily basis are dear to her and Obama because of their parents and grand mothers’ struggles. The need for hard work, responsibility, equality and fairness for all are what the Obamas stood for.

It is moving to listen to some of the American leaders speak on the issues that are central to forging a nation’s unity. Obama repeatedly talks of unity of purpose, a resolve for hard work, honesty and unwavering hope. These values are also mentioned in Bill Clinton’s biography-My Life.

This on the background of love for money at all costs, gospel of shortcuts to success, nepotism, corruption and survival for the fittest is a contrast. Proper value system is the pillar of justice and fairness for all. In a system that treasures hard work for success, honesty and appointments based on merit, everyone gets what they truly deserve. What do we value in our lives, work place or homes? It easy to justify that times have changed that the above ideal are no longer of essence in our dysfunctional system. The challenge we face is living a life that risks having no authority or content to inform the future generations.

 History judges us based on the most fundamental ideals we stood for. We identify with some of the notable world figures for what they championed- equality of races by Mandela and Martin Luther Jr, non violent existence for Mahatma and sustainable environment by Wangari Maathai.

The measure of a person’s value system is assessed by their ability to look at a kid straight in the eye and tell them of what is right or wrong and truly believe what came out of their mouth. We are proud people who want to be remembered for our contribution to the stories in the books of family and national history. We want stories that talk of unending struggles, tribulations, and conquest. That is what we want to believe.

But do we have the moral ground to advice our children on issues of right and wrong based on what defines our daily lives?

….finally….

On a different perspective, you are lucky if your wife can have so much “positive” to say about you-albeit in front of the camera for election’s sake. If your wife was caught hiring assassins to hunt your head, all you can ask is where did it start raining on you.

Disclaimer: the article is not a political analysis nor is it an approval on the content of her speech as truth. It picks the passion of a woman in praise of her husband and what she thinks he holds dear and would always champion for at all costs.

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Youths and “Years of Experience”

class of 1992 The media is awash with news and speculations from renowned media outlets and tabloids on the big football stars in the transfer market. But does anyone pose and ponder how it all started?

The value of a footballer is assessed by the number of assists, tackles, and goals tally he racked while in the field. This in a techno-frenzied world is easy. It gets harder looking at it from the Human Resource Manager’s desk when there is a slot for a new recruit whose back ground and level of performance is unknown except for the few page document-CV he/she sent. It may seem that things get murkier when the position in question is to be filled by a-would-be future key cog in the organization in other words a fresh graduate. The Abramovichs of football want instant success, reputation to boast their marketing strategies, for label endorsements and ticket sales. hazardTheir interest is inclined to big names with built reputation of mesmerizing the spectators with showcase of dazzling trickery and skills.

I cannot tell how the recruitment process is but I have been on the receiving end. All I know is that EXPERIENCE and record of PERFORMANCE is what counts. “We don’t want Ronaldo back because there is no value in the transfer market” was a favourite phrase from SAF around this time of the year-summer transfer window. The football market has been inflated to the extent that what is best can only be afforded by those with the deepest oiled (literally) pockets.

That is as far as football goes. In the Kenyan employment market, the forces at play are different. The supply outweighs the demand. The economy is not growing fast enough to catch up with the supply of labour.  graduation in Kenyan universityThis was made worse by the certification of polytechnics and village colleges, not to mention private colleges to offer degree courses. The issue created here is where there are thousands of youths leaving colleges only to be faced by an industry that has its back on them and gates closed. The pretentious employers call for applicants for formality reasons while majority require “YEARS OF EXPERIENCE”. Few prefer college diploma graduates over university graduates claiming universities produce half-baked graduates. Those interested in university graduates abhor the rigorous task and process of training them. The challenge to the government then is how to deal with a growing population of educated youths with no guarantee for jobs.

Your average graduate is not a Messi, Ronaldo or Bale. These are youths  from the class like youths in a football academy.arsenal academy That word is used categorically to give the illustration of books and theories or lack of experience. The employment requirements to a fresh graduate spell doom when the words years of EXPERIENCE is all a HR office would think off. This to youths is a ploy to curtail competition.

Going by statistics, there is more that needs to be done. Between 2003 and 2007 the economic growth maintained an upward trend growing from 2.8% to 4.3 % in 2004 and reaching 6.1% in 2007. Coupled with issues of uncertainty resulting from the PEV, investors had opted to a slow engagement. This mean the rate of growth of labour force outstrips the job creation as measured by the rate of growth of economy.

According to Ireri (Management Magazine December 2012 January 2013 issue no.  0012) generation Y have a tendency to be ‘serial job hunters’, have unreasonably high salary expectations and career progression expectations something that works against them. On the other hand, they tend to be open minded and willing to embrace change, are innovative, energetic and proactive. Such qualities can be harnessed and a compromised worked out. This way, the future of not only the nation but the organization in question is guaranteed. The various concerned stakeholders should borrow a leaf from the Wengers of football and develop young people.  While grappling with where to direct corporate social responsibility funds, maybe this is what an organization should be concentrating on as its net effect and impact is broad.

Way To Go

Need for opportunities, training, start-up capital, employment among youths call for involvement of not only the government but all stakeholders. These stakeholders should create opportunities to take youth as interns and volunteers. More efforts have to be put in place to ensure that youth social development and empowerment is attained so as to spearhead national growth.

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) are central to developing a vibrant and useful youth population. It is worth commending the government’s effort through the newly introduced Uwezo fund and stakeholders like KEPSA, KYEP who have taken the issue heads on. Provision of star-tup capital by the financial institutions helps cut the high numbers of the almost desolate youths reaching for foundation in business and enterprise. At an organizational level, youths-friendly recruitment policy as a way of contributing to empowerment of youths is a step in the right direction. management traineesThe direct recruitment of university students by organizations like Deloitte, KPMG and others can be cited as examples of initiatives for graduate youths looking for avenues to avoid the hurdle between them and elusive promises from the nursery teacher- “masomo ndio ufunguo wa maisha bora/education is the key to a brighter future”.

To wind up the football cum experience talk, footballers are sent out on loan to gain experience. Lukaku of Chelsea is now a lethal striker thanks to the West Bromwich loan while Welbeck of Manchester United has Sunderland where he was on loan to thank.messi as a kid Stars like Messi (in the picture) can point to someone who identified them, believed in their potential, nurtured and gave them a chance. Internships like loans are central to the development of your future staff members. Youths do not gain experience if they have not been given a chance to practically learn the trade. Through partnerships and stakeholder involvement, youths will be in a position to meet that evasive requirement ‘EXPERIENCE’ in the job hunt while better still start their own business ventures.

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Teachers’ Strike and Children’s Future

The word “strike” must be trending in the Kenyan social circles. The teachers have taken to the streets yet again to force the government to keep their side of the bargain. It is now sixteen years since the 1997 deal was struck between the government and the teachers’ union. The current borne of contention is that teachers blame the government’s twisted priorities in offering laptops at their expense. They want the laptop project to be paused until their salaries and allowances have been fully met.

The debate has a number of angles depending on which side of the divide you are standing, what you really believe in and what you consider to be the future of whichever group you are advocating for. There are a number of stakeholders that are involved in this raging debate. The government and the teachers are the key players who are clearly visible and noisiest. On the other side taking a keen interest are the parents. Lest we forget, there is another group of people who are silently watching albeit excited to be staying home but are at the receiving end. These are the innocent children who deserve to be heard. They are the recipients of what transpires or whatever comes out of the boardroom negotiations between the government and the teachers union.

They say children are the cornerstone of any nation that has its future in mind. While making any decisions, the outcome should be positive or else we are self destructing. This is the same when handling the chalk masters’ strike. While negotiating for a higher pack is every worker’s right, the issue should be looked at from all angles. There are a number of questions that needs to be asked. Economically, is a higher wage bill sustainable in an economy that is wedge shaped? Do we value the input of our educators in shaping our children’s future well enough to listen to their pleas and motivate them? Still on questions, is the laptop project the best bait to get the government to listen?

The jubilee government’s manifesto in line with the vision 2030 has to ensure that the social pillar is strong enough to keep teachers and other workers off the street. Social unrest is a product of disgruntled workers. While that is the case, the level of motivation they ought to receive should not be at the expense of the economic growth. Most importantly, they have to strike a balance that children attain the best education to guarantee social development and empowerment something that can be attained through quality education.

Just to put you in perspective, the current class 1 children will be finishing their 8.4.4. education by then and joining the work force. The question is, does the laptop project present an opportunity to have an innovative ICT oriented economy come 2030? With the Konza City project taking shape, there may be need for a workforce that is not just computer literate or well at home with the products of Silicon Valley but rather giving them run for their money.

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Parental Delight

I am sitted at the kencom bus station where a Kenyan with the same ancestral roots as the guy in Whitehouse would have described as outside Hilton. All in all, it is a common jobless hangout for new and old members of the yellow pages’ let-the-legs-do-the-walking team.

 Well, an idle mind could be the devils workshop but today I was sitted all by myself looking at my life in retrospect as I pondered what I may have done inappropriately. Anyway I am a loyal citizen who would stand at the sound of the whistle, wait for the green light, pay my taxes (at least I do through the VAT) and observe the obvious of a citizens duties and obligations to their nation. This is as per now.

 Back to my retrospective state where I discovered that things were slightly different from what they are right now. I was a teenager at some point in life. This may be my alibi to explain the recurrent offender I had turned into.

 Was the world really against me with my parents on the enemy’s side? I knew not. Things were tough as far as laws at home were concerned. Having to report at home by six was enough to motivate a prison break design plan. Weekends were not the best when it was mandatory to complete chores and having to deal with cheerful noises of the other kids at a distance. If that was not enough who would have loved to be woken up at 6a.m to go to school? All this torture culminated into the daily choruses of, “oh Daddy we love you and we want the best for you. Education is the key to a better future” I did not want to hear any of that. I was so preoccupied with thrill that came with boarding the imaginary flying teenage carpet.

The exit from wonderland came like an answer to a question long thought of. The university of Nairobi was having its 46th graduation ceremony. Not that I had attended but the town had a gown-decorated entourage and caravans of people and it was a must-know for anyone who cared.

 Of particular interest to me was this old woman who was beaming with ecstasy and deep sense of contentment as she walked hand in hand with her graduate son. She sure deserved to be happy on this day assuming that she had sold the only cow she had and had endured exploitations at the tea farms with meager wages just to give her son the gift of education. This was an old lady who must have been in her late sixties judging from her strides and her posture but the walking itself was punctuated with the energy of a teenager and the pride on her face would have been palpable even to Bartholomew the blind guy.

For sure this must be the deepest desire of any parent. There was only one scene I was waiting for- this was for the lady to take a loud speaker and standing on the tallest of the  stone city sky scrapers announce to the entire world that her son was indeed a graduate.

I was reminded of Simon who on seeing baby Jesus said ‘now that I have seen the lord, let your servant rest in peace.” It sure must have been a source of inner joy and satisfaction for such an old person who had seen it all.

If I had to offer my hermeneutical interpretation of the verse, “Children obey your parents for this is right…” it should have ended with, “…that you may be their source of delight in old age”

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Belittling Eyes

We are dwarfs in their eyes
Note that they say so
Isn’t true nothing but lies
They have belittling eyes
Not that God made us so
They say so
Why do we allow so?
They have caged our souls
We roll with them
We think we the same
Wanting them us not to blame
Don’t we know they have belittling eyes?
Birds of the same feather flow
But they aint with us
We victims of their laws
We fit because we lie low
We better redeem ourselves
Because until then we will be dwarfs
Because they have belittling eyes
That makes the giants in us die
We are all uniquely gifted
With our talents we can all be lifted
On our own we need to stand
It’s time we left them as they have little minds

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VOTER APATHY BREEDS UNSTABLE SOCIETIES

Saturday 10th July 2012 was a day like any other day to a son of Mumbi.  Like any ordinary day going home is a routine exercise in the sense that everything happens as it did the previous day except for this day. The routes and the events right and left would replicate the iindexmages stored at the back of my mind owing to a stable and sane memory state; just a collection of the normal activities around the neighbourbood ranging from mama mboga winding up the last remains of her weekly vegetables stock, the now sprouting chapatti vendors and the late night kiosk on the right corner down the home stretch. This was what I was used to on my way home past 10 pm.

I had gotten accustomed to this place to the extent that I forgot my earlier fears when I rented an apartment in Nairobi’s east lands. I left the library after a day’s studies and passed by my girl’s place to say hi before heading home. One story led to the next followed by an endless discussion with her sister. Before I knew it, I was getting to 9pm so I had to leave.

I boarded a matatu and was drowned in the music blasts. This is the tout’s way of saying, “thank you for the contribution, we hope you enjoy the trip home” Really! You want me to relax seated on 1000watts of speakers in elevated the back seat?  Eventually I alighted at the stage some minutes past ten and was again seeking to carry on where the last musical hit had been left. I kind of loved the last oldskul hiphop mix so I took out my phone and started struggling to locate my earphones.

I reached into my pocket and tried to get the now tangled earphones. As I finally plugged it into the output, I scrolled to my favourite playlist with tracks from Lupe Fiasto and Immortal Technique on play back repeat mode.

Meanwhile, the road heading to my cocoon was relatively deserted except for one or two people and a lorry that was heading my way. Part of the entourage trailing behind the lorry was three fellow nocturnals still enjoying the hype that comes with the contents of the Mututho bottle. These were drunk young men possibly in their mid twenties howling at the top of their vocal codes. It’s unfortunate the talent recruiters could not categorise any sound coming out of their mouths as music as this would have saved my day.  Well, you would not expect that they hugged me and offered to escort me home. They passed by and on seeing the light from my phone, they developed moth instincts and sure wanted a piece of whatever was emitting the light. They thus responded in kind.

I was horrified from this experience as it was something I hear from people. I had never been mugged before. Just like any other ‘phone collectors’, they went about their exercise in a manner that left me pleading for my life, identity card and something I could not say I had-my laptop. “ Hii ni nini. Ni laptop?” one of them asked. Luckily, I had some confidence left in me so I smiled and said they were books and I was coming from college.  He tried pressing to confirm as the others left with my phone and the Ksh. 400 I had in my pocket. They threw back my wallet after I pleaded with them to leave me the I.D.

‘East lands’ is my hood and I am proud to be associated with the place. After all who would not call her mother mum even if she is crippled? I am not writing this expecting the response the likes of Livingstone had back home when they were ‘discovering’ lakes and mountains next to the African villages. Millions of people have experienced mugging as it is what describes life in most cities. Mugging, and other forms of social ills, is a product of disfunctional societies. The question one would pose is who is to blame. I am to blame just as many middleclass citizens who could not leave the comfort of their offices on January 17th to go and nominate a candidate who would save us from such misfortunes.

Voter apathy breeds unstable societies. Unlike a time when only men would vote, the current constitutional dispensation gives even prisoners the right to contribute to shaping society.  There was a joke on social media when Jimna Mbaru failed to clinch the TNA ticket that his votes from twitter and facebook had not been counted.  That explains the thousands of followers who were never converted to real voters.

Kenyans will soon be voting for their first county governors.  The main reason I am personally excited about the governor’s position are the prospects that come with it. This is a management position something different from the political posts. A society’s leadership is key in eradicating the negative elements bred by underutilized potential. It is the responsibility of every person to participate in the nomination and eventual election of leaders. The recent case of many working people shunning the exercise explains the high levels of crime, lack of amenities and basic necessities like water, sewerage, schools, hospitals among other things. It is unfortunate that the ratio of civilians to policemen is nothing to be proud of. It is the same case with teachers to pupils in public schools. This is as a result of bad leadership that cannot be eradicated by the compliant wananchi alone while the middle working class are in the comfort of their offices in anniversary towers among other towers in the city.

The elite may bask in the glory of their jobs and well fenced secure homes in up market but all is not well with the sprouting slums around every suburb. You will maintain the suspicious look on every slum dweller simply because you never took the time to vote in people that would improve the living standards of fellow mankind. There can only be peace, tolerance and coexistence when everyone is able to afford a meal, live decently and have a roof over their heads.

Einstein sums it all by arguing that “ if we do not change our perception of each other, the days of civilized society are numbered.” It is everyone’s responsibility to do their best to maximize not only their individual potential but to also give back to the society at the communal and national level when called for.

Nairobi is the regional economic hub. We do not need management experts to address issues of mismanagement and exploitation of the donor and government funds but people with the heart and interest to advance the African development agenda.

We have lagged behind far too long because of the two parties of interest; the aspirants and the voters.

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ETHNICITY RUNS DEEP;Obama ni wetu

OBAMABefore you pitch your arsenal camp at my door step, let me delineate ethnicity. The dictionary defines ethnicity as a quality or affiliation resulting from racial or cultural ties. There is nothing wrong with having strong feeling of pride when the son or daughter of your fore fathers stands on the podium to make a valedictory speech. That just explains the fundamental principle that makes any family be united beyond blood ties.

Ethnicity runs deep in any grouping of people. We all want to protect our own from any form of attacks, slander talk or physical harm directed their way. It is normal and the way to go. But then there is a caution to take note of when the loyalties blind us from pointing out any weaknesses when evident. It gets worse when our ethnic block becomes the only one that deserves the best at the expense of others. At the end of the day we all are human beings and thus the overall umbrella should be anything for the sake of humanity. We need to always have the bigger picture at the back of our mind.

7th of September 2012 was a great day for majority Kenyans. This one does not come as a surprise to any all rounded person who is exposed to the most recent happenings at the international levels. The son from K’ogalo has been reelected for the second term. That should be good news for any Kenyan. Ask any K’Ogaloan what they would do given the chance and they will seek an acknowledgement from the American people; our fore fathers brought forth an American president. For those of you who unfortunately are not Kenyan, that is one of the best feelings about being one. Yeah, I said it!

It goes without saying that we are proud of ourselves even though we may never have raised the guy directly or offered him a platform to practice his well known oral prowess but at least, he came from the bosoms of one of our own. Our sense of pride is justified to some degree.  Now that is our ethnic ties to the white house. Even without prior knowledge of his past term’s performance records any Kenyan will kill in defence of the democrat in white house.

Flash forward march 4th 2013 and Kenyans are piling at their own polling stations. The picture may not be the best to inspire one to believing in the future based on past accounts but we still trust that Kenyans will rise from the shackles of negative ethnicity and vote for the level headed, progressive and development oriented leadership. Good leadership is married to justice, democracy, transparency and accountability.  Leaders should be willing and open to a people’s accountability concerns.

Integrity may be a foreign word as far as the political class goes but hope is that there exists among these, a person who will unlock the potential in this great nation. We have a coastline, rich agricultural highlands, a hardworking work force, an up-and-coming population, a world wide mobile money transfer, I.T savvy youths (look for Kenyans on twitter and we will be on the same page), and for those who are yet to visit where every international tourist has, we have the Maasai Mara national game reserve.  Did I mention that we have a fresh new constitution that is inclusive of the interest of youth, women, the disabled and everyone else? We are giants in slumber land. Only sound leadership can awaken the potential in us and walk us to the land of economic giants.

Out of the 42 or more tribes, there should be one ethnic orientation; KENYA. The interests of the nation should be what justifies our voting patterns and not negative ethnicity.  We should want to identify with people who share in our national dreams, feels the plight of the common man who is hard hit when the paraffin price increases by a single shilling, one who has a track record of progress and a heart for the national interests right from the beginning, one who won’t play games with our lives or attach importance to youths getting identity cards when the electoral commission opens its doors for business.

That is where we should direct our ethnic ties. These are the people that when we go down into our family history books, let it be said that we voted for a better Kenya. When history is written, let our names be among those who voted for progressive leaders who had no links to impunity (did that name find its way into the dictionary from Kenya? At times I think we made it up) or nepotism or negative ethnicity.  Forgive my soliloquy in the brackets.

The late Saitoti’s “There comes a time when the nation is bigger than an individual….” speech should be our version of the Luther’s “I believe….” We are looking forward to selfless servant leadership, a harbinger of the awakening of the sleeping giant.

God bless the land of Obama’s ancestors. Congrats Mr. President…..wewe ni wetu!

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