By Lukoye Atwoli
Published in the Sunday Nation, 15 March 2009, Page 19
Another chapter was written a few days ago in this sad phase of our history as a nation when the permanent secretary in the ministry of education, Prof Karega Mutahi, revealed that free education funds were channeled towards famine relief. The greatest success of the NARC government thus came to a shuddering halt as schools began sending children home for lack of funds to run their programs.
This comes at a time when the so-called free secondary education had also registered a resounding failure, with some schools charging more school fees than they were charging before the subsidies were introduced.
In any civilized society, the welfare and education of children and youth takes up a huge chunk of time and resources because such societies generally have leaders and populations that are forward-looking, and are able to plan several decades in advance. Indeed that is the hallmark of the so-called developed nations.
As we talk about vision 2030 and the industrialization plan, neglecting the education system for whatever reason is abandoning our future to uncertainty and inevitable turmoil. The current government is not only palming off the responsibility of planning for the future to some other as yet unknown entity, but also actively working towards making it extremely difficult for future governments to achieve anything positive.
By interfering with or otherwise neglecting the education system this government is telling all and sundry that it has run out of ideas to generate revenue or plan for emergencies, and will instead feel nothing about raiding children’s funds to deal with other perceived emergencies. It is behaving like the cold-hearted parent who comes home with food during a famine and insists on eating the choicest pieces of the meal first before throwing the left-overs to the children.
The government cannot pretend that it saw no other avenues of raising cash for famine relief when our MPs, Ministers and other ‘constitutional office holders’ continue to enjoy tax-free perks and ride in huge fuel-guzzlers paid for and maintained by the tax-paying citizenry.
The Office of the President budget balloons untouched despite official reluctance to engage meaningfully with aggressors from neighboring countries who are busy annexing portions of our country as we wring our hands and mumble about diplomacy. As our children stay at home for lack of education funds, money is being allocated for non-existent projects while even more is siphoned away in the name of shady operators in the maize and oil industries!
At the same time government functionaries are busy worrying about who should be paid more between the Vice-President and the Prime Minister. Before the dispassionate observer has had time to digest these goings-on, it is revealed that investigations into Anglo-Leasing scams have hit a brick wall and the stolen money given up for lost! The Goldenberg affair is already being referred to as a ‘ghost, and indeed one would be hard pressed to comprehensively inventory all the scams, past and present, that are bleeding our treasury dry.
The way we treat our children is the mark of how far we have come along the evolutionary ladder from the Neanderthal days towards a stable civilization. That we choose to let children starve and go without education is an indictment against this generation, and it lays the foundation for the future disintegration of this country.
It has been stated repeatedly in this columns that our politicians have no vision of a future beyond the next elections. The events of the recent past vindicate this position, and if we continue along this trajectory, it may be fair to ask Kenyans to start preparing for the inevitable Armageddon.
The children whose education we are treating so cavalierly will turn into semi-literate managers of their inheritance, and they will deal with it in ways we can hardly imagine. The ‘leaders’ who are creating this sort of future for our youth will not live to enjoy their retirement in peace, for they shall be haunted by the hordes of jobless youth whose idea of morality will not go beyond filling their empty stomachs.
Indeed we got a taste of this during the demonstration by university students this past week. We should not feign surprise and ignorance when such ‘peaceful’ protests turn into looting sprees interspersed with acts of mindless violence, for that is what they are learning in the ‘university’ on the streets and in their homes.
Unless and until our country’s leadership start demonstrating that they value education as the foundation of development and progress, we shall continue groping in the dark, wondering why we keep lagging behind other countries.