Editorial January 1st, 2014
As we begin the New Year, it is not uncommon to look back to what has gone before and to look ahead to what may be. 2013 as most years do, has had positive and negative occurrences, and while wars, terrorism and natural catastrophes tend to stick in our minds, it is perhaps more important to count our blessings.
In Kenya we have celebrated 50 years of independence. Half a century is not very long when the age of a country is considered. We are in many ways still in our democratic infancy. But we are a very precocious child. Our most recent election was, despite many expectations to the contrary, on the whole peaceful and orderly, and some may even say dignified. Our new president has made it his business to further the aims of uniting our many disparate factions into a co-operative, if not harmonious, nation. In his words, the theme of his administration for 2014 will be “Reconciliation and Unity towards inclusive growth”.
There are signs that this is not mere rhetoric. All of us can see the changes that have and are happening, and there is no need to detail them here. Suffice it to say that there is a demonstrated political will to promote unity and reconciliation. This is tangible even amongst Kenyans in the Diaspora. People can feel, however slightly, a definite optimism growing even as our country moves into its next 50 years.
As we look forward then, this is a perfect opportunity to pledge ourselves, as our president has called upon us to do, to embody Unity and Reconciliation in our own lives. For unless this happens, all the political will in the world will come to nothing.
MamaHappyness.com has as its own goal, to promote a better Kenya through and by the personal development of individual Kenyans, by the efforts of each of you, my esteemed readers.
Personal development, individual growth, necessarily involves the evolution of our compassion, tolerance and love of harmony. These are the building blocks, the foundations of the kind of Unity and Reconciliation that is so desperately desired, and so crucial to our continued development as a nation.
We would like to echo the sentiments expressed by our president, calling “on all Kenyans to play their part in making our shared dream of growth and prosperity a reality”. And it is our view that ‘playing our part’ means becoming a better person, taking seriously the most important task in which anyone could engage; that of Becoming your Potential Self.
Editorial September 23rd, 2013
As they stood on the platform at the Wesgate Centre press conference, I watched as Kenyatta, Odinga, Mudavadi and others addressed the nation, and I could not help but notice how all of their faces reflected exactly the same grave concern, the same shared sense of grief. Gone was any hint of political posturing, showmanship and rivalry. As I looked I did not see Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kalenjin, Kamba or any other tribe. I did not see Christians, Muslims, or Hindus. I did not see men or women, black or white. I saw something amazing, something beautiful, something powerful; I saw Kenyans.
The hospitals put out an urgent call for people to donate their blood, and queues of people quickly formed to answer. And no matter what language these people spoke, what heritage their ancestry, what form of worship they practiced, there was something quite obvious the cameras depicted so visibly; all the blood they gave was the same rich red.
This horrific attack, so incomprehensible, so full of hatred and destruction, has had an effect that the perpetrators certainly did not intend. It has united us. The mighty Kenyan Lion has awakened. The conflicting divisions that had weakened him and put him to sleep have transformed into the strength of a diversity united, and now his fearsome roar reverberates through the land.
The heated and rancorous arguments that so often characterise our politicians' interactions, that flow so poisonously in our social media, now seem like the squabbles of children, and Mother Kenya must now say to them "I am not interested in who started it!" as she requires us to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to forgive each other our trespasses.
It is so hard to find meaning in the senseless deaths that have befallen us, really it is up to us to ensure that they have not died in vain. Our political leaders have for the time united in solidarity, but this change will last only if this unity becomes permanent in us as a people. Not just now, in the face of this tragedy, but going forward as we heal. This is the time that each one of us can feel the true Kenyan spirit, and in order to honour those who have died, those who have been maimed and traumatised, we can, we must burn that spirit so deeply into our hearts that it will forever override our differences.
Kenya is such a unique country with it's multiplicity of cultures, tribes and religions. But as our president so rightly pointed out, this very diversity is our strength. It will only remain so if each of us takes these words to heart.
You who are reading these words, it really is up to you. If you are using social networking, blogs or articles to attack other tribes, other religions, just stop it! Let us move forward, let us find a different way of being together. Use these social media to advocate for co-operation, unity and forgiveness.
Change will not come from our leaders, it will not come from political groups, it can only come if you change yourself. Our leaders will only ever reflect the will of the people they represent. Not everyone who reads these words will take this up, but if enough of us feel this, if enough of us make the decision, as Ghandi said to "Be the change you wish to see in the world", then there is hope, then there is meaning, then the Kenyan Lion will continue to stand guard over his homeland.
Inagural Editorial Sept. 2013
I have always been struck by how much we are attracted to reading bad news. Murders, muggings, wars and natural disasters are guaranteed to grab the headlines of almost all news media, and we eagerly read them, usually with a sad shake of the head.
This is natural human behaviour, there is something in us that looks for ways to project our own internal darkness out into the world. But we do not have to accept this tendency. Instead we can focus on the positive, limit the amount of negative influence we allow into our minds, and actively seek out the uplifting influences that are also all around us.
International news agencies reporting on Kenya often present such a negative and dangerous image that sometimes I'm surprised that we get any tourists at all! So now that I have my own platform I am determined do something to work against this tendency. I propose to actively seek out stories that detail the progress that is being made everyday by Kenyans working hard to make things better. And it is not as if I will be only reporting on nice things and ignoring everything else. The recent fire at Nairobi airport is a good example.
Many reports focused on the negative: the amount of destruction, the delays of the fire crews, the disruption of flights, and the looting. I would report on the same event but would highlight the fact that no one died due to the co-operation of all those present helping each other out; that despite the omnipresent traffic congestion the fire crews and military did manage to arrive and deal with the blaze; that given the level of severity the fact that flights were resumed the same day was impressive. I wonder if Heathrow or JFK airports would have matched that feat?
So you can see that even the bad things that happen can be presented in a way that appeals to our common humanity and decency. And there is more that we can do individually. For instance, when we find ourselves reacting with anger to what we read, we can take this as an opportunity to look into our own hearts for the part that would like to behave in the very way that provokes our anger. True, most of us may not actually behave in a criminal way, but the anger we feel with the corrupt official, or the violent mugger, is also an anger with the darker part of ourselves that we project onto them. To recognise the shadow side of our selves in this way does two things. Firstly the anger diminishes and is supplemented with understanding and patience, and secondly self-knowledge grows and make a firmer, more integrated sense of identity that is more likely to act with compassion and non-violence.
I want to close by drawing attention to a positive story coming from the World Economic Forum (WEF) which released its Global Competitiveness Report on the 4th of September 2013. According to their findings Kenya has ranked as the most improved African country on the Global Competition Index. We are ranked at number 31 in the world, up 10 slots from last year's index.
Kenya is making progress, and although there is much work still to do, especially in the areas of education, security and corruption, we are moving forward and a new spirit of progress and development is spreading. We all need to do our part in nurturing this trend, and I invite you to join me here on MamaHappyness.com as we connect with each other in this endeavour.
19th September, 2013
The Ministry of Education has begun the deployment of laptops to several schools chosen as the pilots for the one-laptop per student program. The initiative has received the support of Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association (KEPSHA) who stress the importance of ICT skills in today's global economy.
Critics have pointed to the expense of the project, and the fact that a large portion of the country's educational facilities lack the infrastructure to run laptops. Speaking at one of the primary schools today, the Education Secretary argued that there are ways to address this. "You can learn under a tree....using god-given natural light, solar powered laptops...." which will be made available.
As to the expense, the government believes that an investment in ICT education is essential in the technical marketplace that underpins the global economy, and will make Kenya a leader in the region and the continent.
Breakthrough in Teacher Strike
Nairobi, Kenya 13 September 2013
A settlement has been negotiated to end the teachers strike that began in July. The deal includes pay rises and increases in allowances for travel, will result in a payout reported to be Ksh16 billion. Part of this amount is to cover back pay from 1 July, but how much of the payout covers arrears is yet to be calculated. According to Kenya's Standard newspaper, the average monthly salary is around Ksh12 billion.
The real winners of this deal are the children, who have missed several weeks of their schooling.
Most teachers will see pay rises, but some teachers at the high end of the scale will face a cut. The raise in allowance for transport is intended to match the allowances given to public servants, and will be phased in over 2 years. Further negotiations are taking place between the Teacher Service Commission and an unnamed insurance provider to put comprehensive medical insurance in place for teachers.
13 September, 2013
The African Union (AU) has written to the International Criminal Court to demand a halt to the trials of William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta on the grounds that a previous request from the AU to transfer the trial to Kenya should be determined should have been ruled on before proceeding with the trial.
The letter claimed that the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda ignored procedure. According to reports in the Star, the letter reads:
"...This leaves the African Union with no option but to ask that until the request of the AU is considered and clearly responded to, the case should not proceed.." The AU as well as many individual African leaders have been supportive of Kenya's elected leaders and a feeling of solidarity is thought to be generally shared by most of the population. Just last week Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan lent his support, saying "I believe that any law whether local or international as well as Treaties and Conventions should be instruments for the resolution human problems and not to compound them.."
11 September, 2013
Scientists are optimistic over a 3 year study that showed a new vaccination against a strain of virus in monkeys similar to HIV, seems to have cleared the virus from thier bodies. SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) is 100 times more virulent than HIV, and the vaccination was effective in 9 out of 16 cases.
Researchers are now hoping to find the means to conduct human trials. The methodology used will seek to clear the virus in those already infected rather than to prevent infection. This would be a major advance in the fight against HIV.
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