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January 21, 2019

Love, sex and marriage feature in the top 10 Big Reads of 2018

Clockwise from top: A scene in banned lesbian love film 'Rafiki'… A couple shows off their wedding rings… Men dressed in mock pregnancy attires participate in a family planning campaign called 'Form ni Gani' on April 17 last year…
Clockwise from top: A scene in banned lesbian love film 'Rafiki'… A couple shows off their wedding rings… Men dressed in mock pregnancy attires participate in a family planning campaign called 'Form ni Gani' on April 17 last year…

The feature pages of the Star (Big Read) served up unforgettable stories in 2018. They explored the shocking stabbings in Jamhuri High School, the peculiar cases of polyandry around the country, and the unlikely tale of a politician upholding principle at the highest echelons of power, among other stories.

Today we highlight the best features in 10 categories: Education, Health, Sports, Business, Environment, Crime, Spotlight, Social Dilemma, Inspirational and Taboo. Stories are selected based on uniqueness of angle, style of writing, depth of research and response of readers.

Links to all the stories are provided below, along with the byline, intro or excerpt, and an unedited comment that sums up the general tone of reactions, noted under the reader’s username.

1. BEST EDUCATION FEATURE

Bias or rules? How prayer time row led to stabbings in Jamhuri School https://goo.gl/NY6GKh  

By Julius Otieno

Intro: Jamhuri High School is a school divided. Muslims and Christians in the school do not share toilets and libraries. In the dining hall, Muslims have a special partition. And religious divisions simmered for a year before they spilled into the public two months ago. 

Sample Comment: In a school all student are equal.No special treatment or special facility.Those who want to have special treatment can have their own schools — samuel

Muslim students are confronted by police in Jamhuri High School during the scuffle between Christians and Muslims in January last year

2. BEST HEALTH FEATURE

How cancer pain is pushing patients to use marijuana https://goo.gl/23Jrcu

By Monicah Mwangi

Excerpt: On the side of her bed was a container with a few cookies. We would later learn they were weed cookies. "A friend of mine came to see me and found me in too much pain. During his next visit he brought me weed cookies and told me they help kill pain, which I can now confirm," Grace said.

Sample Comment: Weed, if legalised should be a controlled substance that only doctors can prescribe — samburu

3. BEST SPORTS FEATURE

My 400km run to raise funds for cardiac centre in Vihiga https://goo.gl/Q2ggHL  

By Joseph Jamenya

Excerpt: All my friends, colleagues and relatives pledged to support me. What I didn’t know is they offered their support so quickly because they suspected I could not make it to Nairobi, what with my 118kg body weight. 

Sample Comment: (Via Facebook) When you are determined ,like JJ' you are sure of a good finish .You have set a good record .You challenged us that if we want to do something ,we only need to be positive and step the right foot forward as we begin — Mtange Imbalambala Allan

Journalist Joseph Jamenya (in red top) is received by friends and his team on Waiyaki Way in April last year

4. BEST BUSINESS FEATURE

Why I abandoned degree for mitumba business – graduate https://goo.gl/Sjuxyd

By Abel Muhatia

Intro: Selling second-hand clothes might not be a dream job for many graduates today. In fact, many view it as a job for the uneducated. This, even as 50 per cent of the jobless 1.4 million Kenyans who make up the country’s labour force attribute their state of joblessness to few job opportunities in the market, as reported in Brighter Monday’s Kenya Job Market Report 2017.

Sample Comment: In this day and age, all degrees are just useless papers. Job markets even in the developed world are saturated. We Africans are better off teaching children how to reclaim land, grow their own food, how to harvest water, how to acquire land, and to build your own shelters without money. There are very hard times ahead for Africa and degrees will not save us — socksdonthavetomatch

5. BEST ENVIRONMENT FEATURE

Village where sand harvesters don’t let the dead rest in peace https://goo.gl/Xyz3CG  

By Habil Onyango

Excerpt: “The dead have rested enough. Life needs to continue and people also need to earn a living,” Rose Akoth told the Star during a visit to the site. 

Sample Comment: It is not necessary for every county assembly to enact its own sand harvesting law. What is needed is a national law, which counties can domesticate — marsmars

6. BEST CRIME FEATURE

We want to quit but fear being targeted: Mombasa juvenile gangsters speak out https://goo.gl/RHJF1R

By Brian Otieno

Intro: The room is full of youngsters in smart dressing, seemingly from a lavish lifestyle. But the scars on their faces tell a different story, one of narrow escapes from the jaws of death. When Blacky (not his real name) speaks, he reveals two missing teeth, perhaps testimony of painful beatings on the wrong side of the law.

Sample Comment: Do the police not have enough bullets? — Wambugu Mkenya

7. BEST SPOTLIGHT FEATURE

Why more women are marrying two husbands https://goo.gl/uKbuue  

By Joseph Ndunda

Intro: Kenya has in the past two months been treated to the spectacle of women with two husbands… Although only Rael and Maureen have opened up on having two husbands, lawyer Jemimah Keli says it is possible there are more women in such unions, despite the risk of public condemnation. 

Sample Comment: the society is evolving and soon our future generations will know none of this sijui ati men are not supposed to cook...who said that?? Ati men can be polygamous but women can't halafu you say ati there is equity or equality or whatever you may want to call it?? — Dorcas K 

8. BEST SOCIAL DILEMMA FEATURE

Women shun contraceptives to increase libido, keep husbands https://goo.gl/StK5Df    

By Ernest Cornel

Intro: Mombasa resident Khadija Mohamed (not her real name) has seven daughters between two and 12 years old. And she is two months pregnant. She uses the withdrawal method, which she admits is not so effective, but… “My husband’s desires come first. He can opt for another woman if I’m not satisfying him,” Khadija, whose husband is customarily allowed to marry up to four wives, said.

Sample Comment: These women need counselling!! — Stargazer 

9. BEST INSPIRATIONAL FEATURE

Ex-VP Joseph Murumbi’s Legacy of Integrity serial https://goo.gl/rr5Wfc, https://goo.gl/9uQ8qg and https://goo.gl/Ce2Qvx 

By Karen Rothmyer

Excerpt: Having concluded that the country had made a wrong turn away from a concern with the poor and the ideals he believed in, Murumbi told an old friend that he could no longer be ‘part of corruption in this country’. Tribalism, too, which was to take Kenya to the brink of disaster years later, had already become firmly entrenched, and he wanted no part of it. Today, Murumbi stands as a symbol of what Kenya could have become, and still could be.

Sample Comment: What a powerful piece of journalism. What a stand up guy. These are the peopel who should have shaped Kenya's ideals from the beginning. Men of integrity, purpose and vision... I salute men like Murumbi and cant help but wonder where Kenya would be had we stuck to the ideals of men like him — Kilo November 

Joseph Murumbi (in glasses) welcomes Jomo Kenyatta (2nd R) and the Kenyan delegation to London before the Lancaster House talks in 1962

10. BEST TABOO FEATURE

‘Rafiki’ film opens the door for homosexuals to open up https://goo.gl/EixJGX  

By Nancy Agutu

Intro: “When I am around men, I feel insecure and vulnerable. I feel like they have bad intentions because of my past experiences with them. But when I am with girls, I feel more comfortable…” This is the experience of Catherine Wanjiku (not her real name), who has opened up about her homosexuality after the ban on Rafiki film was lifted by the court. 

Sample Comment: Wanjiku is a case showing the poor help victims of domestic and sexual assault receive in terms of counselling and healing to move on from traumatic experiences — Dennis Angelo

And it’s a wrap! See sidebar for the runners-up in each category, as well as honourable mentions. 

Congratulations to the writers singled out for exemplary works, and thank you to the readers who took time to give their feedback.

Do you agree with our picks? Which one did you like most? And what kind of features would you like to see more of? Let us know in the comments below.

Compiled by the features editor, a narrative journalist whose latest works include ‘Handshake’ and Brexit through the prism of a wedding in England http://bit.ly/GgiFest

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