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November 18, 2018

Mr President, Don’t Just Do It, Do It Right

FOCUSED: My daughter Nduku belongs to the iPhone generation.
FOCUSED: My daughter Nduku belongs to the iPhone generation.

There comes a time in every politician’s life when the funfair must end and the brutal task of getting on with it must start. A time when the niceties end, the media take off the kid gloves and put on the boxing gloves and we get ready to rumble – for four years.

Brutal stuff. That time for our newly elected President is now. President Uhuru is expected to name his proposed cabinet today and tomorrow morning we might just have him for breakfast.

He will arrive in Parliament tomorrow to a warm or icy reception. There comes a time when that chick who writes for the Star says those dreaded words: “President Uhuru, we need to talk”.

 Boss, on the laptops: don’t just do it, do it well

 I’m with Gado on that fabulous cartoon. However, I’m not going to rumble on about how it’s not do-able and how it’s not a priority or where is the logic in it – you’ve heard that before. I want to suggest you take some bold steps to ensure Gado never has to run that cartoon again.

 I listened to the presentation made by the young men of Lenana School on the issues of our education system, what’s needed to get us to Vision 2030 and equip us all successfully into creative, thinking, ambitious individuals who will take this nation to greater heights. I was thrilled to note that even they don’t care much for the free laptops – our real needs are bigger. The presentation from those young men should be sitting on your iPad. I sent it.

 Allow me to put it into perspective. If you had promised Vitz to all young women aged 18-25 so that they wouldn’t need to walk through rain and mad, or spoil their shoes, or have to struggle in matatus, the country would have ground to a halt.

Chicks would have tattooed your name across their chests, named all their unborn children after you and come to the inauguration and screamed themselves hoarse.

They would have liked you on Facebook and changed their relationship status to read “in a relationship – with Uhuru.” It wouldn’t have mattered if they had no homes, no food or didn’t know how they would fuel or service the Vitz. Heck, I would be faking my documents to ensure I was 23 just to get my Vitz.

 Is it a priority? No. It’s a “nice to have”. Same thing with the laptops. It’s a brilliant idea but I believe you need to defer it. Hear me out. I’m not rubbishing the idea; I’m saying don’t just do it, do it well.

 Our budget needs to put money in education and a good chunk needs to go towards hiring more teachers, training teachers (who can use technology), paying public school teachers better, building more classrooms, giving classrooms a roof, windows, desks, books and even sanitation and then rolling out the laptops.

Buy yourself some time to get the logistics right. We haven’t yet sorted out the distribution of sanitary towels to ensure that young girls can go to school and stay in school.

Trust me when I say that a young girl in standard seven or eight needs a sanitary towel as much as she needs a pen. It’s an instrument of learning.

You might not understand, so speak to your wife Margaret and get Rachel Ruto in the room as well – she’ll draw you a picture. My plea again – hold off on the laptops until you get certain fundamentals right.

 My promise - I’ll back you. It’s not an election promise that you didn’t fulfill; it simply means as a leader you can say, I want to get this one right. You still have pregnant women who are about to either cruse you out in the maternity ward in a few weeks or name their babies after you. Don’t just do it, do it right.

 Mr President, you are no longer campaigning; you are now our leader and leaders don’t say what people want to hear. They tell them what they need to hear, even when they don’t want to hear it.

They make tough decisions, they bomb countries, send other people’s children to war, raise taxes and sign Bills into law that change lives. Yours is a horrible job – but it’s your job.

 What you don’t want is those laptops to be sold to buy food, sold to get shoes for kids or worse still thrown away. Kibaki had it right – free education.

What he really needed to do was also upscale our primary school facilities. Even if it’s free education, it must be quality education. More classrooms, more teachers, better paid committed and motivated teachers and a better curriculum. Your laptops will crash under the weight of untrained, uninformed, technologically-illiterate teachers. Don’t just do it, do it right.

 Don’t let these laptops be seen as toys. Give yourself time to ensure that the software and apps that will go into those laptops will be beneficial.

Education software is expensive, but without the right software and apps, those laptops are toys. Ensure that the laptops will be instruments of learning.

Task the ministry to get the supply deal to ensure that when the laptops arrive they are loaded with great learning aids. Give the youth a chance to write the apps that will go onto the laptops – hey, there’s an idea, you can thank me later.

 Give the education sector a chance to write and approve the software that will go onto the laptops. From Maths, to the alphabet, to mini dictionaries, their multiplication tables and formulae.

Make sure they hold a small app with our anthem, a school-friendly version of your manifesto and our constitution and even a 30-second YouTube message from you. Make sure they come loaded with pictures of the magnificence of this country – not the mountains and lakes – no, the stuff that speaks of our future.

There’s a lot to be done to ensure that when these laptops arrive they will truly change how we learn. In fact, they should enhance learning. Then line up the trucks, flag them off. Don’t just do it, do it well.

 Let me reiterate, the laptop is a fab idea; it just needs to be thought-out well and rolled out even better. If you must delay it, so be it. I can see your dream through my daughter’s eyes.

At two years, my daughter operates my iPhone with ease. She knows where the pictures sit, where her items on YouTube sit and all her apps are about learning – ABCs, counting, numbers, songs, animals, instruments, cars, planes etc.

Annoyingly, she also knows how to take the phone off “airplane mode”. I used to think I could save myself some money if she couldn’t access YouTube, but when the phone says “disable or cancel”, she chooses disable. I weep. She can’t read, but she knows what gets her what she wants. If your phone isn’t “touch”, she tends to give it back with the words “not working”. The iPad may be bigger than her little hands, but she doesn’t care; she’s all over it.

 Let me say it again - I can see your dream through my daughter’s eyes. Her future is digital, technology is her language, but can you imagine what she will be doing and what her technological needs will be by the time she is six?

The laptops must not be a gimmick, they must not end up as waste, they can’t be toys, they can’t be seen as the item that will sink your presidency.

So if you must defer the idea by months, a year or two – go right ahead. You are no longer campaigning and this isn’t your money (yeah, yeah your dad’s face is on it); it’s ours. Give our children laptops by all means. However, don’t just do it. Do it well. Do it right.

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