Long before I set foot into kindergarten, I knew how to write days of the week, months of the year and count numbers up to a thousand. I also knew how to write most of the basic words like table, carpenter and church, and read Tom and Mary books. All thanks to my father.
If you would want to meet the most enthusiastic parent, who respects education and its ideals, then it is my father. He gave us a foothold in the world of education from the very foundations of it. He created a consistent supplementary homeschooling, featuring sit in sessions of mandatory dictations and writing.
I grew up in Nandi Hills and we were under very strict rules. My father set up a 6 PM curfew. Everybody was to be around the table from this time reading, as we waited for him to join. Though we detested the curfews and the stringent rules, now we can understand it was a reflection of his concern for our safety and long term well being. And which helped us to experience structure.
My father has always wanted us to achieve what he did not achieve himself. Instead of preaching water while drinking wine, he stepped up to do something about it. With time, we became interested in learning because he was interested, and that interest rubbed off.
In a society where parents do not bother to attend school meetings, discuss exam results with their kids, check their books, teach them; a society where kids stuff report cards under chairs or wash them in pockets, where nobody bothers to monitor and remind kids to revise at night and on holidays, my dad proved otherwise.
He attended all school meetings, signed whatever was to be signed, photocopied whatever was to be photocopied, filled what was to be filled, commented where it was necessary, reprimanded where it was due, checked our books, questioned blank pages, led dictations – he is the one who taught me days of the week and months of the year even before I begun kindergarten.
As I gracefully navigate my semi-adult life, there are lessons exemplified by my dad, and which the progressive generation can learn.
Your child’s education, is not something you would leave up to fate. Its not something to entrust entirely in the hands of school teachers, majority of whom are not motivated enough to teach with zeal.
Is this generation going to do what my dad did?
Life has advanced so far, and become so complex, that even the most ordinary parents require a great deal of wealth to lead a family to a direction that even approaches completeness. Meaning, parents will dedicate most of their time to jobs in order to achieve that objective.
Again, there is temptation by ‘modern’ parents to support in the conflating of purpose and meaning of education with glamour, entertainment and fashion, will there be a place for real parental coaching like my father did?
It seems obvious to say but parents play a huge role in their child’s education. Thy are a child’s first and most important teacher, they are important educational resources. Their support is crucial factor to really get the best out of them. Only with their participation can wonderful results be achieved.
We are living an age of information overload, both beneficial and unfortunate news brought to us proportionately. How terrible is that?
The year 2017 will remain a useful milestone in my life and that of many Kenyans. Give it a name: The Year of Unrewarding News Update. If we have to think about the massive campaigns, political melodrama and everlasting elections witnessed in Kenya, the fortunate among us will recognize the hazards of living with the overabundance of useless news report – what I like to call trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. And which reveal how really toxic news can become.
What we’ve had as news qualify to be labelled bleak, total bulls**t. We’ve been made to graze all the headlines and tweets and blog posts. And listen to numerous TV shows and radio host talks. But one fact remains that what we’ve been able to see is uninspiring, boring political bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. Not the kind to spark change in a young soul.
At a personal level, I have to admit I have been at a point in my life where paring down news became a necessity, sifting and triaging useful information from a sea of irrelevant, mere entertaining collection.
Every page of our newspapers has been covered wholesomely by the seamy stories of politicians. Politicians aggrandizing their political might and affluence and folly in public spaces. Either way, whenever we switch to listen to local radios hosting folks who could teach us how to plant blue gum trees during winter or use jik to scrub floors, what we got in return was a local MCA or MP unreasonably defending his political party or declaring the number of wives he has and which between the two will likely qualify for the Parliamentary Perks for Wife Maintenace, if he wins the ballot.
We have seen it all. Weiredest news around the world. Cheap-to-produce kind of reporting featuring sensationalists and attention seekers desperate for limelight. Politicians wanting to pluck each other’s noses. Tossing themselves on the ground in front of the controversial statue of a little naked boy holding fish in the supreme court grounds. Poor, godforsaken Kenyans threatening to sell their only property to mobilize funds for politicians’ campaigns. The split-second, even puzzling migration of politicians from one coalition to the next, and then back. The ndaani ndaaani ndaani and yaliyo ndwele sipite catch phrases.
Some news have been utterly annoying, especially those tending to report how badly my candidates were losing on the ballot, ( I’m a manager and I somewhat stopped discussing my political affiliations publicly) panicky stories that spurred the release of cascades of chronic stress, aggression and uncontrollable nervousness.
Unfortunately, news like these can’t, in any way inspire any young person to go one step beyond in life. They are those kind of information which will never help any individual rise to his highest level of soul development and unfoldment of talent. They can’t allow you in any way to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your family or your schooling.
It is for those reasons I stopped reading news, or least to say, I started to employ intellectual discipline to sort every kind of information I came across. I so became a one-sided minimalist that I learnt the death of Kitui West MP, Francis Nyenze, almost after his burial!
Instead, what should replace those stories are optimistic news – slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. News about how a stubbornly determined boy defied odds to launch an amazing entrepreneurial startup. A story of a young promising girl who graduates top of her class. A news on how a Masaai heardsboy rose from the most forgotten parts of the world to Harvard university. Tale of a group of youth spreading gospel on ending gender based violence or even the story of a Kenyan girl who is on her way to becoming the youngest PhD holder in Biomathematics.
Convincing you to withdraw your reading of news may sometimes not be the best idea ever. But the bread and butter issue is to learn to develop what I call intellectual discipline – the ability to say no to certain news, to wade through the noise expertly, discern the facts and analyze perspectives. With pessimistic reporting, one of the most powerful tools we are left with to harness is the single-minded pursuit of mastering how to seek the beneficial from a minefield of bleak information.
All we do is put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage if we don’t handle rest in peace news report.
This year, lets move from here to there, I mean lets go OneStepBeyond.
NOTE: This post originally appeared on magazine Reel, where I formarly wrote.
Welcome to my column, OneStepBeyond. I can’t withstand anylonger the clamour by my readers to pen down a few inspiring words for them. I have been busy. The past few weeks have been some of the most packed, the most fluid that I have experienced at Egerton featuring my painstaking journey with campus elections.
I was vying for the post of Director Academics. And lost. I came second. And it is not prestigious not to win in a political duel. I saw a gap in Egerton’s academic circle and named it a need. I then abandoned the bird’s eye view that lets you see everything from above, from the sky. I assumed the worm’s-eye view, trying to find whatever comes right in front of me-smell it, see it, see if I can do something about it.
After sensing that human need, I responded to conscience by applying my talent and passion to meet that need- first personally, then in building trust and searching for creative solutions to problems, and finally by committing the capacity to fill the needs of Egerton through vying.
I did not know I would have a beautiful campus experience until later. I talked myself out of it a couple of times. I had an ominous feeling. I knew it was not going to be easy. It was a foolhardy undertaking. But I pressed on since it was a resolution I made at the start of the year, and it was only fair if I could walk the talk.
At the beginning of every year, I set for myself certain resolutions. On this one, I decided to do one thing that scares me – vying. I had to do it regardless of the outcome. Now for a period in my life, I have done what I am good at.
While many people, including my elder brother, congratulated me on taking on a daring project, a couple vilified me for not winning! That is the crop of youths we are saddled with.
In 2009 the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a fabulous TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story .” It was about what happens when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative: when for example, after the elections, I am treated as pitiable, as a failure.
Drawing from her talk, my point is that each event or individual contains a heterogeneous compilation of stories. If you reduce people to one, you’re taking away their humanity. If you reduce a situation to one, you are missing on the other important thread.
Those who never won at the elections got a greater experience than that of a comfortable inaction. They have emerged heroes and heroines in their own way! They know what it takes to mobilize, influence, negotiate, convince and cause quarters to want to do what they request. That’s a better public relations experience.
Concerning those who compete in activities, if you fall short of your goal, pat yourself on the shoulder and move on. Stop blame game. Aim at those things that are before you. Try different things, for you do not know which one will prosper. Either this or that
I dispense with the culture of blame and the mindset of victimism that is so much perverse and entrenched in our society. When people are loosing, they clutch on straws. They point their God-forsaken fingers to whomever they think led to their short coming. They become system apologists.
A system poisoned by the culture of blame and the mindset of victimism has got a sly habit of precluding the practitioners from achievement.
Indeed we ought not to pose clandestine and maim excuses when things do not add up as we expected. Accept the change and move on. Once a change has begun, it can not be reversed.
I talk to young campus students about what they would love to do with their lives in campus. Majority tells me they would concentrate on bookwork. But a few tells me they would get involved in other activities too. But they would not want to do campus politics, because they can fail, and they don’t want to lose money!
This is sickening. We just don’t know what we are capable of doing. Waiting for success to knock on our doors can be a grandiose dream. You have got to keep trying at it. Contest an election and lose, that could be a better experience. Take risk, jump up and grow wings on your way down. Success is of a life long attempt to acquire it. Go beyond your comfort zone. Thanks.
Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. – Benjamin Hardy .This will be our syllabus.
Being aware of our beginnings is an important leadership lesson. My story begins as a class eight graduate. I spontaneously developed a habit I could not understand its full meaning until later: I begun to voraciously read and study tiny, severed pieces of newspaper I picked along the road. What other people used to wrap mandazi and cigarettes turned out to be my reading materials! It became my individual means of becoming literate.
I considered them immensely valuable in terms of appraising my understanding. They treated me to short blasts of unbiased factual reporting and debate and a fair bit of opinion. They reported real-life events that were of actual importance and emotional value to me, and this aroused my curiosity. I became aware of important and relevant topics that were being discussed in the society.
I occasionally met new words and got enthralled by how journalists, politicians, analysts, experts and commentators weaved words together, which prompted me to record and wonder about those phrases that caught my eyes and stirred my imagination. These group of writers provided a wide range of various text types and language styles – which is one of the most important features of newspaper-based activities. They engaged me in interesting and enjoyable activities, which further encouraged me to find the true power of reading books and real print media resources.
Reading these pieces of literature helped me escape the constrictions of living in a fiercely disconnected environment. For a rural kid like me, they took me on a trip to brilliant minds and places and exposed me to what was hidden beneath life. They became my only chance to experience life beyond own neighborhood and culture, letting me meet and begin thinking about other people, other perspectives, other lives. It helped my brain to advance quick enough to not have my dreams smashed into submission by society and imploded by reality?
I took on the task, in the most primitive form I could afford, to gain knowledge and insight for the sake of my own benefit. There was no curriculum holding me accountable to self-education but the initiative I took to read these tiny pieces of newspaper was something I considered a gift to my future. Investors say that anytime you invest you are putting either time or money into something else to achieve something greater. And here I was, investing knowledge into my brain to deliver for me commercial values. Is there credence in that? An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
The formal education I received in school gave me the tools I needed to become a life-long learner, but it is continued learning that gave me the tools to become a life-long doer. In a very great way, self-education helped me to stop accepting who I already was and to begin living in a way that embodied who I wanted to become. I fashioned my life to strive for some of the things that reflected the person I wanted to become.
It was beautiful to realize I could improve and advance in life through the pursuit of mental excellence no matter where I currently stood. What I demanded of myself was the development of faith and the willpower to pursue what I thought would enhance the quality of my life. My general understanding was this: I could not afford money and things that came with it but faith and the willpower to pursue your dominant desires and dreams is a function of choice. I had inherent ability to make just the right choices that could catapult me to those dreams and desires – the choice to self-education and learning.
Every single question I had about life was answered in those tiny pieces, and they helped me open up my mind, my thoughts and my world through the help of those who came before me. The simple truth is that we all need to learn from those who have gone before us. We don’t have enough inherent knowledge to reach the top. I may have been every bit pitiable, even poor. But I didn’t want poverty and low social milieu be a justification for making excuses and being lazy, this is a habit of system apologists – those who are losing it all. When people are losing, they clutch on every straw. I could lie to myself but I could not lie to my goals and future and dreams. I could either take action to pursue them or let them die and accept who I was. So, against the tolls of poverty and want, I understood that I, as an individual, deserved reparations and therefore initiated my own destiny through reading newspapers.
By creating a system that allowed me to read a small amount every day, I was reading a staggering number of ‘real books!’ It was a small ritual that resulted into exponential gains.
On the contrary, I learnt one thing that is retrogressively shocking: how rural populace run their lives on distorted information. They select, organize and interpret information they get from radio in such a way as to support their attitudes, beliefs circumstances, emotions and feelings. They spin-radio facts to fit preconceived beliefs to reduce dissonance. Once an individual begins to propagate – in his own way – information he gets from the radio, he become an authority and a model citizen journalist. The information categories that were most distorted were those relating to government and policies, politics, religion and employment.
Folks were (and still are) fanatical about their tribal kingpins. What these people say is final without much interrogation or critical analysis. As young, innocent people, we believed whatever our adult environment discussed. Their points of view were final and an actual representation of what was on the ground. They once told me that Kibaki, former president, killed his son for advising him to leave power for Raila in 2007. Looking back, I lived in a world that was fairly competitive, we faced the same existential and practical challenges and only proper and adequate information could keep one ahead of the pack.
The distortion of information was not going to empower a young soul that wanted to amount to much and needed real knowledge and information for solving practical problems being faced, unless one devised own system of seeking firsthand information.
Majority of children in my village lacked basic literacy skills even after eight years of primary education due to limited information services. Which not only restrained us from exercising legal and moral rights but also limited the opportunity to productively participate in socioeconomic development.
Information we got seemed to only revolve around the holy grail of color and numeric yet, literature does much more than basic facts or social rules we got in school and home. It could have been amazing if we got the opportunity to see materials that reflected the world around us – and the broader world too – featuring different races, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, classes, ages, and so on, and also exploring political, moral, physical, and emotional issues.
If you went to town, kids our age spoke good English, wrote better essays and we always felt inferior whenever they came back upcountry for Christmas.
My reading culture got more intense in college. Whenever I return home for vacation, I notice how different I am from the rest of the population. This is due to socialization I’ve received from the many materials Ive read in the library. I come to see how superficial and futile are most peoples thoughts, how narrow their ideas, how mean their sentiments, how perverse their opinions, and how much of error there is in most of them. However, I don’t want anyone to notice my brilliance, lest they say I’m proud. I remain in the village, act in the village, do whatsoever is needful, and yet remain transcendental, aloof, detached, a lotus flower in the pond.
Entertainment and distraction
Entertainment and distraction is the enemy of creation and learning. They will keep you in mediocrity. – Benjamin Hardy
I stand in opposition to systems that tend to devalue self-education and its ideals but glorify entertainment and distraction.
Its always easier to enjoy watching Wilbroda on TV or movie compared to reading a book. Most people cling to instant gratification, because it feels good in the short run. However, the opportunity cost is huge. When you spend an hour on mindless TV watching, you could have read a book which will potentially increase your life by a great percentage. In other words, you sacrifice that amount of self-development to watch pointless cat videos.
Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. -Benjamin Hardy
The path to self-education is very unpopular. Odds are, once you begin to invest in your brain, you will find it is a lonely road and pretty much less competitive. You have no need to rush to the library to reserve new arrivals in the display section, you will get them even two weeks later! But you must rush at the centers that serve English Premier League to get space!
I push for self-education and personal development. I have in fact developed a compassion for those who fall by the wayside. I try to intervene individually partly because I have become a writer, but mostly because of the leadership and motivation I have received from books, which make me my brother’s keeper.
The power that be in Self-education
Whatever may be said in praise of entertainment and distraction, the fact remains that it is not possible to rise to a life of meaning and contribution without learning and self-education. The power that be in learning and self-education transcends limitations and captivity. Books are for reading. They are meant to be sources of knowledge not relics to be preserved.
I read constantly. But I’m only a recent self-reader. I’ve only been here for a short period. I don’t suffer any delusion of grandeur. I’m not at the center of it. I have just begun. Its the most important thing you can ever do with your time, because its an opportunity to tap into the collected knowledge of the entirety of human history — while sitting on the couch, lying on your bed, traveling in a matatu, cooking in the kitchen. Through reading, you understand things within the society and then you knowledgeably speak out.
When you are knowledgeable and you speak out, people pay attention to you, you begin to meaningfully contribute to change. A person who does not read is an empty vessel that is vulnerable to manipulation, they run their entire lives on rumors. In almost every discipline, reading is one of the few keys to advancement. It allows you to expand your mind, stand on the shoulders of giants, and be mentored by the greatest people in history. Success and reading go hand in hand. Never let school, entertainment or distraction interfere with your education.
Actively educate yourself about topics which can bring you to your greatest height and put all your heart into it.
Why is it that so many successful people, billionaires, CEOs emphasize on self-education. Why is it that Bill Gates, with his amount of wealth, reads 500 pages every day, yet he should be busking in the beach somewhere in Bali sipping some mojito, dip into a breakfast of grilled coelacanth drizzled with ambrosia and lightly coated with flakes of gold? There must be something behind these covers, lets find it.
Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become. -Hal Elrod
Craft and ingenuity make a master in any field. Whether it is washing a pile of clothes or reading for an exam. Your ability to prevail in adverse situations will be made successful by this simple idea of improvise, adapt and win. The ability to improvise, adapt and win comes very critical when tough times visits our door steps, regardless of how tooled, well-stocked, provisioned or conditioned we are.
Good news is; we can improvise anything: situations, environments, a material among others.
I have experienced near academic and social life disaster but turned them all around into incredible victories only through the idea of improvise, adapt and win. I have also made some decisions in life (not bad enough to destroy my life) but have turned them all around as well using the same principle.
This incredible principle served me well while campaigning in campus a year ago. Here is how: I was at the intersecting oppression of class, CATS and campaigns – the urge of life. After classes, I sold my campaign literature to students until very late hours; and I’m burnt out and I want to sleep. To improvise, I pulled an all-nighter to sharpen my accounting and math skills to pass exams. Staying the whole night studying, which is only a temporary coping mechanism, solved so many things. It is not to kill me, it is to make me successful in my wretchedness.
If you have a bad environment, moving to a better one might cost you a great deal. Instead, you can improvise and adapt to your current environment. You can so act upon the environment in which you are now, as to cause yourself to be transferred to a better environment. Do not wait for a change of environment. Do not wait to go to Australia to become powerful and productive when you can achieve the same right here using this simple principle.
To survive a challenging situation, you will need to apply your four intelligences. I will refer to Stephen R. Covey’s work:
Physical intelligence: Our body is a brilliant piece of machinery that outperforms even the most advanced computer. In a challenging situation, we can survive by leveraging our capacity to act on our thoughts and feelings and to make things happen.
Mental Intelligence: Awaken the ability to analyze, reason, think abstractly, use language, visualize and comprehend.
Emotional Intelligence: Self-knowledge, self-awareness, social sensitivity, empathy and ability to communicate successfully with others. It is a sense of timing and social appropriateness, and having the courage to acknowledge weakness and express and respect differences. Emotional competencies make up two-thirds or more of the ingredients of a standout performance.
Spiritual Intelligence: This represents our drive for meaning and connection with the infinite. It help us discern true principles that are part of our conscience. This is uniquely human and it is what we use to develop our longing and capacity for meaning, vision and value. It allows us to dream and to strive.
I might add a few instructive words from a wise man who said in the book of survival ‘To live through an impossible situation, you don’t need the reflexes of a Grand Prix drives, the muscles of a Hercules, the mind of an Einstein. You simply need to know what to do’. And that thing is to practice the power of the three words – improvise, adapt and win.
Both Sandra and Fridah are students at Egerton taking Gender, Women and Development Studies. The former is a first year, the latter a finalist. Here in an interview with OneStepBeyond they defend a course perpetually misunderstood by many folks.
Why did you choose this course?
FRIDAH: I would be lying if I say I intentionally chose this course. I didn’t know what it entailed and the term baffled me as well. It was my last option just to get done with the whole process of career choice. I always wanted to be a lawyer or a news anchor. But ¹K.U.C.C.U.P.S, gave me a placement in the course. I even tried an inter-faculty transfer but three weeks into the lectures I fell in love with the course. And disregarded the outcome of the transfer.
So why did I love the course? I love working with the society and that is the vertebral column of the course. I love the law, and for one to be an effective gender expert, the law ought to be in ones finger tips. So yes…I love the course since, in a special way it entails what I would gladly do even without getting paid – fight for the minority and give back to my community.
SANDRA: Over the years, it has been noted that gender issues are the main cause of deterioration of the economy in the society. After a deep contemplation, I decided to choose the course Gender, Women and Development Studies for a better economy and along it a better society.
Gender is a term baffling to many, majority think it is synonymous with women. Clear the air please.
FRIDAH: What many people do not understand is that there is a difference between sex and gender in the field of our study. Sex is the biological difference between a man and a woman that is, act of being male or female. Gender, on the other hand, are the culturally and socially constructed attributes and roles ascribed to human beings on the basis of their sex. Like men don’t cry..they are macho, providers… While women are just emotionally weak beings, who are nurturers and their place is in the kitchen. So gender is not women… It’s about both sexes. As a course, its inclusive of: The disabled,the aged,the marginalized. Its very wide and diverse.
SANDRA: Gender is a term that has been wrongly understood, defined and perceived by the society. Academically, gender is the socially and culturally constructed differences of either male or female. It should therefore be noted that in its study, we not only focus on the women but both women and men in the society.
What is the place of the male child and men within the frame of Gender, women and development studies?
FRIDAH: I begin by saying that the term ‘women’ was recently removed from the courses’ name, therefore it’s now GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES. I began by saying that gender is about both sexes. For any community to embrace change, it should be understood that women are also important in the society, men have to be on the same page in this. This is because they are the policy makers, and they occupy the central position in leadership for any community. They therefore are the greatest agent in spreading the gospel of women emancipation from discrimination and insubordination by culture as a result of socialization. Therefore they are very important in the study.
SANDRA: The main picture or portrait that comes out when the male child is mentioned during the study is that they have dominated the society in various aspects such as beliefs, norms and rights. But this course gives the male a favorable and positive attention a much.
Discredit the idea that Gender, women and development studies is a walk over, unimportant field of study as many may put it?
FRIDAH: I have heard many say, “Gender is for lazy people, you guys have fewer units hence you should all have first class honors. It’s a walk over, it takes no effort in passing” and many other belittling statements. Let me make it known that so far, there are no first class honors in this year’s class. That is cumulative of first and second year’s transcripts. Third year’s transcripts are not yet out. There are a few people with resits too. Clearly, if it was so easy passing this course, the above shouldn’t be the case. Gender requires a lot of research, being at per with emerging issues and current world, reading so many theories, more than ten legal instruments which are wider than the constitution. Which need to be read, understood, interpreted, criticized, analyzed individually. The constitution and the list is endless. I would say being in a Math class is easier than being in a gender class. In addition what’s easier? Being in an office dealing with numbers, or being in a community dealing with different people with different problems and sitting in late night meetings formulating laws that affect the society, the country and the world? Besides, every field of study has its challenges and gender is not an exception.
SANDRA: It’s quite saddening when you find out that the people who criticize this course are the same people who lack knowledge on the same. They are even incapable of defining the term gender to be precise. Gender, women and development studies is equally important as medicine, engineering and other noble courses. In the study of gender we get knowledge on gender issues, position of women in the society and how gender and development associate. As we all know knowledge is power and therefore the knowledge of gender as a study gives us the power to change the society and minds of people.
Media portrayal of women leaders in Kenya such as Ida Odinga, Rachael Ruto and Margaret Kenyatta tie their identity to their prominent husbands…how wrong is this?
FRIDAH: Its definite that the women mentioned above will automatically have their identity tied to their husbands which is counter productive in my opinion. Behind every successful man there’s a woman. Therefore, if the prominent individual does an unquestionably impeccable job, the woman will get the credit even though they may not have contributed even a minuscule effort in the success. Likewise, if the husband does a shoddy job then the wife will still share in the mud. The two are in a marriage no matter bad we want them to be two distinct individuals, they share everything. However, we have seen these women having their own initiatives. Which one way or another still gives credit to their husbands. A good example is the beyond zero campaign by Margaret Kenyatta. Which gave birth to the mobile clinics to bring the child mortality rate beyond zero. This is a personal initiative but still gives the husband more credit than she.
SANDRA: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a feminist, in one of her Ted talks said that it all starts by teaching our daughters that they all matter just as much as boys. Why teach your daughter to become a good wife and not a CEO and yet teach your son to become a good leader and not a good husband? The media is wrong when it identify’s a woman as a wife to a prominent person because they believe that the woman wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her husband. They forget that for some reason, women are also capable of being prominent and own titles. A good example is Wangari Maathai, she was great and prominent with no help of a male figure.
What might be the gender logic behind setting lower cut-off points for ladies and slightly higher for men by K.U.C.C.P.S?
FRIDAH: We call it the affirmative action. In this context, it is set to ensure that no sex is discriminated against in terms of education. For the longest time in history the boy child has been the dominant figure in the institution of higher learning. This was so as there were many barriers that hindered the girl child from getting to that academic level, and some of these barriers are constant till date. These include but not limited to:
Biological factors such as the menstrual cycle. Most girls in the marginalized areas are not privileged to have sanitary towels. This meant they stayed at home during that time of the month for at least for days every month while the boy child is in class. How much time is this girl losing from school. If not for the pads, then for the tremendous pain experienced during this time, the girl loses her time from school
Talk of domestic chores..when the boy child gets home and does whatever after school, the girl has chores to do. Cook, fetch water, collect firewood etc. No spare time for studies.
Boy preference, most parents especially less civilized would prefer the boy in school to a girl. After all won’t she get married and her academics will end up benefiting the husband?
FGM for communities that practice it. After the practice, the girl is ready for marriage and her education is cut short.
That to mention just but a few. Hence, the lower cut off points was meant to bridge such gaps. To ensure as many girls as boys attain university and college education. Once the gap is bridged then the affirmative ceases to have power. Hence this is not a forever practice.
SANDRA: K.U.C.C.P.S sets lower cut-off points for ladies to bring about what is known as gender equity. Over the years, it has been noted that the male perform better than the female and therefore K.U.C.C.P.S lowered the cut-off points for women to enable them get entries to university. In this case therefore, gender equity leads to gender equality.
Are you a feminist? What exactly is feminism? Bashing men?
FRIDAH: Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, social movements that have a common goal; to define and establish political, economic and social equality for both men and women. It’s about seeking same treatment for both sexes without discriminating on either. Personally, I am not a feminist since I do not believe in equality but equity. Equality wages war on men as it goes against the status quo of both societal and biblical beliefs. In a great way it appears to victimize the woman and make the man responsible for all the misgivings of a woman. Which I do not entirely agree.
SANDRA: No. Feminism is not bashing men. It is the advocacy to change on how the world or society perceives women. It is not accompanied in making women stronger because women are already stronger. Rather,it involves putting the women’s rights on the ground of equality.
What a man can do a woman can do better. If a man can kill Osama, a woman should capture him alive. Is that what the statement means? Walk us through in light of gender equity and gender equality.
FRIDAH: What a man can do a woman can do better in my opinion is a saying that is overrated. Truth is, there are cooks that are women, but better male cooks, a good woman hairdresser but great men hairdressers. I believe anyone can be the best at what they do if they give it their all. But the truth of the matter is; there’s that which men are best at. Who in their homes change a bulb when their brother is around or work on electronics in the presence of a male figure? Do we not believe in men doing a better job in such areas? It’s not because a woman can’t, its just that they are geared towards that, just as women are geared towards nurturing. If it’s the reproductive roles, a woman will do an amazing job. She is wired that way. She is affectionate, loving, nurturing, she’s emotionally supportive. Does that dispute that men cannot thrive in such duties? No? It’s great if we would appreciate our special abilities. Allow the men to thrive where they are most comfortable and vice versa. This will create a harmonious living where we appreciate and support each other without competing. In my opinion Equity is key, fair and just treatment to all men and women. Equality honestly is not achievable and the quest for it is a lost battle.
SANDRA: “What a man can do a woman can do better” is just but a statement that is put to uphold and remind the women that they are capable of achieving whatever a man would have and even better. We’ve seen countries with female presidents being better than ones with male presidents such as President Joyce Banda of Malawi (April 7,2012-May 31,2014).
Comment on the progress of Kenyan women in terms of their legislative influence such as tenure, leadership positions and prestigious committee memberships.
FRIDAH: I feel as a country we are doing a good job. Though we have not attained the required threshold of 2/3rd gender rule. Legislative role is fundamental to the country and having women in such positions ensures gender sensitive policies. So far, we have three female governors yet we had non in the previous government. This shows women’s leadership abilities are being recognized and appreciated. We have women senators and Nakuru prides to have ours in the senate. In a nutshell, women are no longer staying in their comfort zones as before, they are coming up and defying societal expectations and orientations to take up the challenge and proving worthy of the positions they take. Of course there are a few who are corrupt and tarnish the good image that has taken long to build, but hey…every family has that one black sheep.
SANDRA: The late Wangari Maathai said that the higher you go the lesser women you find. Kenyan women are fond of fearing to take charge in leadership positions and prestigious committee memberships, not because they don’t stand a chance but because of the view from the society.The society views women as mothers and wives but not leaders.
Finally, how important is this course to the continent right now? What are its contributions?
FRIDAH: Women are the core of every success, a home, a family and or a country. Therefore, it is important for them to be empowered economically, in terms of agriculture, leadership, education, environment and development as a whole. And gender studies is also about the above. This will lead to development in areas that have been ignored for a long time. They say educate a woman and you will have educated the whole community. Hence, gender studies allows for the unreached women to be reached and for the men to be in a position to support women in this great revolution.
SANDRA: The fact that the course deals with cultural change, women empowerment and gender mainstreaming is already an evidence of it being important and progressive. The field of study widens our way of thinking about both men and women. It enables us to do away with cultural practices that destroy our society and also empower women in leadership all over the world.
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¹ Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement System
Visiting Nairobi, as a first timer, is a pure baptism of fire. Surprising emotions always surface at the thought of the ‘real world’ in which we have newly entered. It’s usually a blend of anticipatory anxiety and excitement. The former outweighs the latter. It is a feeling of loss, of uncomfortable and unforseen struggle – It is this awful trepidation.
Stepping into this city, you are not the same person you were when you emanated from home. You are a total freak. You get to know parts of you you didn’t know existed. You look upon the new place as a curiosity and then also wonder if there is like a snake that might bite you.
Our greatest fear remains taking a step and not knowing where our foot will land. Furthermore, it is kind of a sacrilege to ask just anybody for directions. Those relatives who stay in Nairobi should come for us from the stage. Do not leave us all in the hands of vague directions – the number on the matatus we should board and the colour of kitambaa a ¹mama mboga in our supposed destination wears.
If possible, conduct city walk tours to us. Show us Mama Ngina Street from somewhere called Hilton. Take us to see the statue of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. You must also not forget to conduct some cultural orientations, we want it the way only a teenager can want something!
To you, coming from the city centre into the suburbs where you live is as easy as pie. But to us who lived their lives in the village, getting lost is something that happens to the best of us, the rest of us, the most seasoned travellers of us. We get disoriented sometimes.
You’ve never heard something like Jericho School of pickpockets yet there exist a slew of these professionals. They don’t come individually. They come as disgruntled party members looking for clearance to run as independents. It is an invasion.
These are folks whose part time job is body building, you freak at the sight of their muscles. They are not your yesterday’s ragged rascals, they are highly refined operatives, who are fashion conscious and well fed. They know how to tell the difference between someone from Kisumu and one from Kindaruma North.
Our abounding fear is always this impending firsthand experience with gentlemanly goons – “working middle class men”, doing some off-duty errands. You wonder where to keep your phone, before they can dip a huge chunk of their Mathare hands into your pockets.
Acting a Nairobian
To survive the pickpockets and muggers, you’ve got to fake it till you make it. Act like a nairobian. Pretend you are singing some random Sauti Sol song with hands flying high in the air. Be doing something rather than standing still creating an impression you are lost or waiting for someone. If you spot a male – with descriptions akin to pickpockets – greeting you in public, thrust his fist with yours mid-air – I mean give him very strong ‘gottas,’ ensure you are mumbling some words like ‘ fiti fiti mzae.’ And do remember this rule number one: wear close-to-dirty, unappealing old clothes.