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January 21, 2019

MACHEL WAIKENDA: Starting off on the right foot

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

In a field one summer’s day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. A group of ants walked by, grunting as they struggled to carry plump kernels of corn.

The grasshopper wondered why the ants were working so hard and laughed it off when they told it that they were saving for winter. The weather soon turned cold. Soon the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger and went begging from the ants.

We are now firmly into the New Year and as such, we need to outline Kenya’s priorities in 2019. Starting the year on the right footing will ensure we get it right the first time, and squarely put our focus towards development.

The Big Four agenda brings me to the first priority I believe we must focus on. And this is getting decent jobs for millions of young people who are leaving our various institutions every year.

If we successfully implement the Big Four agenda and specifically manufacturing and food security, we are set to create a large number of jobs that will absorb most of these young people.

Talking of training, in 2019 we must focus on basic and tertiary education with a clear goal of ensuring we get the best results. On basic education, we must ensure there is a smooth rollout of the new competence-based curriculum.

Already, it is clear from the pilot that it is making a difference in the early development of pupils. Therefore, the confusion witnessed in December marked by contradictory statements by Education officials should not be allowed to recur as implementation starts.

On tertiary education, we know that out of 663,811 candidates who sat their KCSE exam last year, only 90,377 attained the university cut-off grade. In other words, more than half a million students need a form of tertiary training to advance in life.

We must, therefore, prioritise the full implementation of the technical training colleges to absorb these students. We must ensure these institutions are properly equipped with the necessary infrastructure as well as tutors to help these students acquire the relevant skills.

Moving on to matters governance, we are also about to do the national census this year. It should be a priority to ensure the process is above board and issues that cropped up in the last one are not allowed to derail the process.

The national census is critical for the country’s planning, especially in the distribution of resources, as well as electoral matters, specifically the boundaries review expected next year.

But even as we think of boundaries review, let us remember that we have an IEBC with only three commissioners and without a CEO. Ensuring we have a proper electoral and boundaries commission in place is a priority we must deal with.

Since late 2017 and early last year, we have known that the IEBC is in shambles but we have done nothing to correct the situation. Even the agitators for a referendum on the Constitution are not telling us how this is to be done without a properly constituted electoral body.

Therefore, the time to reform the IEBC, including putting in place new commissioners who can build trust with the public, is now. We cannot wait for last-minute appointments like we did the last time.

The last priority that I believe must be on our list is the fight against corruption, which gained great momentum last year. We must enhance the fight against corruption and ensure all institutions play their part.

We must also work hard to safeguard that which is in the hands of county governments and public officers in the national government to ensure people do not steal. Citizens must demand the highest level of accountability from all public officers.

Let us focus on these priorities and we will have laid a firmer foundation for 2020.

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