As country, we love to point fingers at young people — drinking, spoilt, directionless. I keep wondering when as parents or adults over 35, we will look keenly at ourselves and accept that those children have a lot to do with us.
Come on, we have gone full circle. We blamed the media, then we blamed teachers, then we blamed media alongside the neighbour’s kids, then we blamed teachers and media as a unit, then we blamed teachers and drugs and the devil and we are about to start blaming the internet, we just haven’t formulated the words yet.
The only people we are yet to blame and focus on is ourselves. Last week, I was forwarded an item that seemed to be making the rounds on WhatsApp. I read it and said: “finally”, an adult willing to say what no-one wants to say.
I have no idea who the originator is, but it makes for great reading, food for thought and debate. I would however like to direct young people (under 30) to read this. Very often we give you the impression that we don’t get it wrong or we haven’t gotten it wrong, so the problem automatically must be you. Rubbish.
We the 'steal it, don’t make it' generation have everything to do with what’s wrong with Kenya. All those stories about government and graft, they are about us. Incidentally, government can’t be corrupt alone. How? We facilitate the eating as “private” citizens. Sitting here on our high horses telling President Uhuru off for being corrupt while we happily partake of it. I am shame-faced enough not to have filed a column last week. I have to think it through, but I will soon be able to pen our nastiness as private citizens in grand corruption. Today I will focus on our young people (under 30). The people we have willingly and happily failed.
The musings of this amazing person, in the article making its rounds on WhatsApp, truly touched me. I’ll begin with the lines that truly hit home:
If we want our children to bring about
the desired change we have been praying for on behalf of our dear
country, then we need to change. As parents we need to begin now to
teach them to work hard, so they can stand alone and most importantly be
content, and not having to "steal", which seems to be the norm these
I’d like to add a little something to this. Can we please allow our children to put on their shoes before the age of seven. I say allow because they can. We simply won't let them. Apparently, love is all about crippling your child’s progress. Can we teach them how to take their plates to the sink. Can we please allow them to make the bed and tidy up after themselves. Nduku must put on her shoes. The shoes either have Velcro fastening or they simply slip-on, there is no reason under heaven why my daughter cannot put on her shoes, panties, leggings and her t-shirt. No reason. There is no reason why she can’t put her toys away or why she can’t take her plate and cup to the sink. No reason. The number of brats I see still having their shoes fastened for them at the age of nine, 10, 12 is shocking. Teaching our children to work starts with the things they do for themselves.
Now back to the narrative:
"30 is the new 18", which seem to be the new age for testing out the world in Kenya today. That seems to be an unspoken but widely accepted mindset among the last two generations of parents in Kenya. At the age of 18 years, a typical young adult in anywhere in the world leaves the clutches of his parents for university. Chances are that's the last time those parents will ever play "landlord" to their son or daughter except of course the occasional home visits during the academic year.
21 years and above or below, the now fully grown and independent-minded
adult graduates from university, searches for employment, gets a job
and shares a flat with other young people on a journey into becoming
fully fledged adults. Am I saying that every parent should wash their
hands off their children at age 18?
No, not at all, but for the love of God, why is a 30-year-old still at home? Why? I’ll tell you why, because you failed as a parent. A baby elephant must get up on its feet from day one to reach its mother’s tit. Why are we still bottle-feeding people with wisdom teeth? The narrative goes on:
We have Kenyan children who have never worked for five minutes in their lives insisting on flying "only" first or business class, carrying the latest Louis Vuitton ensemble, Victoria 's Secret underwear and wearing Jimmy Choo's, fully paid for by their "loving" parents.
I often get calls from anxious parents, my son graduated two years ago and is still looking for a job, can you please assist! Oh really! So where exactly is this "child" is my usual question. Why are you the one making this call dad/mum?
The number of times I have told a parent who calls me to ask for an internship for their child to get the so-called ID bearing child to call me themselves is shocking. If your kid doesn’t care enough about their lives to make the call and deal with my hectic schedule, then your child doesn’t deserve a job. Yeah, I said it. We have learnt the hard way at Radio Africa that when papa or mum gets the lazy brat the position, they don’t care about it. But when the youngster hustles to get it, they treasure it, hang on to it and never once thinks they are doing us or their folks a favour by being here. You’re on notice, if you want something for your kid from most of us who work and not steal for a living, let the damn ID bearer make the call themselves. I don’t mind you facilitating the call, but the follow-up is down to your child. Period.
Back to the narrative:
I am yet to get a satisfactory answer, but between you and me, chances are that big boy is cruising around Nairobi with a babe dressed to the nines, in his dad's spanking new SUV with enough "pocket money" to put your salary to shame. It is not at all strange to have a 28-year-old who has NEVER worked for a day in his or her life in Kenya but "earns" a six-figure "salary" from parents for doing absolutely nothing.
I see them in my office once in a while, 26 years old with absolutely no skills to sell, apart from a shiny CV, written by his dad's secretary in the office. Of course, he has a driver at his beck and call and he is driven to the job interview.
We have a fairly decent conversation and we get to the inevitable question — so, what salary are you looking to earn? Answer comes straight out — Sh200,000.
I ask if that is per month or per annum. Of course it is per month. Oh, why do you think you should be earning that much on your first job?
“Well, because my current pocket money is Sh100,000 and I feel that an employer should be able to pay me more than my parents".
We have a youth population of tens of millions of who are being "breastfed and diapered" well into their 30s. Wake up mum! Wake up dad! You are practically babying your children to death! No wonder corruption continues to thrive. We have a society of young people who have been brought up to expect something for nothing, as if it were a birthright.
Preach I say! This is where I want us to put the effort of our debate. Most adults are busy looking for a reason to justify why they didn’t do their part and who they need to blame for their children’s failure to launch.
The WhatsApp narrative ends in an awesome manner. If you deal with nothing else, please take this small paragraph and slip it into your wallet and look at it from time to time.
I want to encourage you
to send your young men and women (anyone over 20 can hardly be called a
child!) out into the world, maybe even consider reducing or stopping the
pocket money to encourage them to think, explore and strive. Let them
know that it is possible for them to succeed without your "help".
If you are Adelle Onyango or Lynda Nyangweso or Chipukeezy’s age, listen to me. As adults, some of us are selling you a pile of crap about everything that is wrong with this country. Most of us, sadly, are what is wrong with this country. Yeah, I said it. Kwani the problem is a creation of the people of Burundi? It’s us. Ignore us. Here’s the last part of the narrative that is brutal but beautiful in its honesty.
Because of the challenges we faced in our youth, we are where and what we are today, this syndrome — “my children will not suffer what I suffered is destroying our tomorrow”. Hard work does not kill, everything in Kenya is going downhill, including family settings. It is time to rebrand our children, preparing them for tomorrow. We are approaching the season in Kenya where only the RUGGED will survive. How will your ward fare?
If the present generation of Kenyan pilots retire, will you board a plane flown by a young Kenyan pilot, if trained in Kenya? Which way Kenya? Which way Kenyans!