COVID-19 IN KENYA:NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM

Photo credit:www.vision2030.go.ke

A lot of things have happened in the past week .

We are almost at 10,000 infections,we lost the first medic to the virus a female Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki and children in primary and high schools will be resuming school in January 2021 having lost a whole academic year.

This was also the week the president reopened the borders of Nairobi,Mombasa and Mandera counties which were under total lockdown .This saw a mad rush from Nairobi as thousands who had lost their jobs sought refuge in the rural areas .In a survey that wa done by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics,it was revealed that an increasing number of Kenyans are having difficulties meeting their monthly rent payments.

This is not surprising ,quite a number of businesses have closed down or scaled down their operations and sent their employees on unpaid leave or let them go altogether.For these people living in the city with all the accompanying expenses of food,transport and rent was simply unsustainable.

In previous posts,I have mentioned that the current situation we are in should not be wasted,we could do with more trade between neighbouring countries in the region or in Africa ,promote regional tourism,as well as work towards making Nairobi a worthy capital for an emerging market economy.

With the human capital flight to the rural areas and with the closing down of schools ,hospitals being swamped with patients this may be an opportunity for us to relook and prioritize the sectors of agriculture,education and health in a manner that allows us to be better prepared for future pandemics because certainly the Covid-19 one isn’t the last.

Education

When the Ministry of Education introduced the National Education Management Information System in 2018 it was so as to have accurate data on the number of students in both pre primary,primary and high school who were estimated to number about 11.5 million.These are the number of students from both public and private schools who will miss an year of school who 2 years later should number closer to 13 million.

Private school owners who follow the national curriculum and who use the fee paid by parents to run school operations are already crying out for government assistance.These schools which have only increased over the years as the government cannot keep up with the growing number of children in need of school enrollment have thousands of teaching and non teaching staff on their payrolls.They are no longer able to keep these staff on their payrolls and some have been let go while some school owners are pondering deregistering their schools for good.

For the first four years of my primary education,I attended a government funded school in Nairobi where my mother was also a teacher.We had text books provided by the school,our classes rarely went beyond 40 students per class and the only things my parents had to buy out of pocket was school uniform,exercise books and pencils and pens for me to carry to school.

Enrollment in public schools rose to the staggering numbers we see today where classes can have upto 80 students when free primary education was introduced by the former president Mwai Kibaki during his first term in office in the 2003 school year.Since then we have seen government funded schools struggling with high number of students per class,inadequate funding and lack of learning materials and in some areas lack of classrooms especially in the far flung areas .Despite all these some schools continue posting stellar results during the national school exams which says more about the tenacity of the students and teachers more than the educational system.

The current closure of schools due to the pandemic is an opportunity for government to relook funding in the education sector.Kenya as an emerging market economy has its greatest asset in its human capital .

Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development… For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.

KOFI ANNAN

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines human capital as the knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes embodied in individuals that facilitate the creation of personal, social and economic well-being.

The long term economic growth of Kenya will largely depend on the quality of our human capital which is a direct result of our education system.A country’s education system and institutions are designed to meet its needs.Kenya as an emerging market economy needs to invest more in its education system and not just through government pronouncements on policies.The policies should be backed by action through money being availed to schools,more construction of schools in remote areas,hiring of more teachers and giving them favourable terms of service .

Funding in schools should be of the highest priority if we are to become an industrialized,middle income economy that provides a high quality of life to all its citizens by the year 2030.

Health

The 2010 Kenyan constitution ,pronounces itself this way in Chapter 4 on the Bill of Rights…

1) Every person has the right–

(a) to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care;

No story this year was more tragic than the tragic loss of life of Kenya’s King of Swahili Professor Ken Walibora who passed away at the Kenyatta National Hospital which is Kenya’s largest referral hospital while he awaited to receive treatment.Professor Ken Walibora story is just one among many of thousands of Kenyans who have lost their lives due to a failing health system.

Having done internship at Kenyatta Hospital many years back,I can say that a large number of Kenyans go there to receive specialized treatment,but it is also the first port of call for anyone in Nairobi who has been involved in an accident,found ran over by a car,knocked down by motorbike rider or any health emergency.Kenyatta National Hospital numbers are overwhelming but we also have have to admit that we have hundreds of unemployed medical personnel.

Every year, we see either doctors or nurses on strike demanding better working conditions and better pay.Health with Kenya’s 2010 constitution was devolved to county governments and some counties still seem to be struggling at understanding their role on providing healthcare a basic right that is enshrined in the constitution.

When the current President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that one of the conditions for easing of the lockdown measures depended on counties being prepared with each county ordered to have at least 300 beds,we suddenly started seeing buildings coming up,ordering of ICU beds ,hiring of health workers.The rush to set up isolation wards and units would not have been necessary had we invested in our healthcare system at both the national and county levels.It took a presidential directive and a grant from the national government to counties for us to see changes in the health sector that would ensure Kenyans who contracted the virus could at least be assured a chance of surviving it.

Agriculture

“Agriculture is the most healthful,most useful,and most noble employment of man.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Outside of the capital city Nairobi,Kenya remains an economy that relies largely on the agricultural sector.At one time I opined that the agricultural sector was being threatened by the real estate boom that was sweeping through the country .

At the moment we have seen the mass exodus of city residents who can no longer find work or have been sacked trooping to the rural areas.

Seeing the flight of human capital back to the rural areas is an opportunity to reinvigorate the agricultural sector.We should not waste this crisis as it holds the potential to create opportunities for both the domestic and international markets and offer employment to the thousands who have been affected by job loss.

Looking at the people who have decided to venture into the agricultural sector today,the people with the new ideas and inventions, we see them getting younger and younger .It is safe to say that the average Kenyan farmer isn’t just the 60 year old in the rural area,it could be the 30 year old female project manager running her strawberry farm just a few kilometres outside of the Nairobi Metropolitan area.

What the agricultural sector should be looking at is the hiring of extension workers whom farmers can rely on for information on good agricultural practices.Currently most people are sing the internet to get this information on good farming practices or hiring a consultant to help them with running or managing their farms which is not affordable for everyone.Agricultural extension workers hired by government would be able to provide advice and help to farmers for free and it would do wonders for a sector that has been dormant for years.

For a sector that keeps on giving to the Kenyan economy, we have invested too little in its growth and for it to keep giving back to us,we need to invest in it.We need funding provided for the hiring of extension workers,better and sustainable land use,better road networks for farmers to get their produce to the market and we need better management at state bodies in the agricultural sector.

These might not be all the areas that need relooking or re examination during these time but I believe they are crucial if Kenya is to become the middle income economy it expects to be according to Kenya Vision 2030.

These are the building blocks of that vision,as an emerging market economy we cannot grow if we have no human capital to rely on and if that human capital is hungry and unhealthy there is no hope whatsoever that Kenya will achieve the economic growth to ensure its citizens a high quality of life.

This crisis should not be looked at as all doom and gloom,despite what we keep reading,there is hope,hope for government to create the conditions that would make Kenya a truly prosperous nation.If we could ensure better management and use of the revenue that goes to government we can make Kenya a globally competitive and prosperous nation for all.

Published by Santina

Founder of African Lifestyle Brand -Maridadi,I have interests in Technology, Society &Culture,Lifestyle and I am working on taking African brands to the global stage,looking to working with individuals and companies that know acknowledge Africa's potential and the amazing individuals that call it home!

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