NEW SOCIAL ORDER

Covid-19 a chance to reset our society

Historically calamities have forced nations to break with the best, imagine their world anew.

In Summary
  • Many countries are assessing their weaknesses and looking afresh at their governance system in order to put in place a new social contract.
  • A legislator earns 20 times the salary of a graduate teacher. We must address these inequities urgently.
Nyambare sub-location community health workers unit perform a skit at Kimende Primary School on Friday.
Nyambare sub-location community health workers unit perform a skit at Kimende Primary School on Friday.

The global coronavirus pandemic, which has caused unimaginable devastation and hardship, has brought our way of life to almost to complete halt. Having claimed more than a million lives, the pandemic will have profound and lasting economic and social consequences in every corner of the globe. It has reversed the moderate gains made by the international community in eradicating poverty, hunger and disease.

Historically pandemics and calamities have forced nations to break with the best and imagine their world anew. The Bretton Woods Institutions were crafted in response to the devastation of the world wars. The American New Deal was a response to the great depression. Closer home the 2007-08 PEV helped us to reflect inwards as a nation and gave birth to the 2010 Constitution.

The world over, Covid-19 has made crystal clear the fault lines, weaknesses and widening economic and social disparities in our society. The pandemic is  a call to rethink our society, its priorities and the very structure of our economy in order to shape  a future that is more equitable, resilient and adaptable.

Many countries are assessing their weaknesses and looking afresh at their governance system in order to put in place a new social contract.

In Kenya, our leaders’ morality has been severely tested. It’s pitiable and unconscionable that state and public officers have used the pandemic as an opportunity to loot public resources given to Kenyans by international institutions. As a result of this moral depravity, the international community will have little faith in our governance system. 

Firm and decisive action needs to be taken to bring to account culpable individuals to restore the confidence of the donor community and to sustain a credible and lasting initiative to combat future calamities.

The pandemic has also proved that our risk management and resilience systems are weak, exposing the nation to severe losses and tragedies. As a nation we have lost more lives to floods and hunger in the last two years than we have to the pandemic.

The nation oscillates between two extremes. In the dry season thousands lose their lives to starvation and government appeals to the international community for relief food. In the rainy season we lose lives to floods. The state must put in place measures to mitigate these easily controllable tragedies.

The climate crisis facing the nation may be seen as a slower moving crisis than the pandemic but its long-term effect is likely to be far more threatening. Kenya has lost more lives to the ravages of famine and floods than the pandemic. Urgent measures need to be put in place to address the effects of climate change.

The pandemic has also taught us that we take for granted the gallant efforts of our care workers such as medics, teachers and cleaners. There is a remarkable mismatch between the social value of what certain essential workers contribute to our society and what they earn.

We fail to adequately value what really matters. Huge sums of money are allocated to the military, intelligence, executive and legislature at the expense of quality health care and education. A legislator earns 20 times the salary of a graduate teacher. We must address these inequities urgently.

The pandemic has also exposed the inadequacies and weaknesses of the EAC. It’s just a paper tiger. The states of the community adopted adversarial, ‘my country first’ attitude and there was no coordinated approach to the calamity. The community must be reinvigorated and policies to combat future calamities.

The climate crisis facing the nation may be seen as a slower moving crisis than the pandemic but its long-term effect is likely to be far more threatening. Kenya has lost more lives to the ravages of famine and floods than the pandemic. Urgent measures need to be put in place to address the effects of climate change.

Education ministry bureaucrats must also learn a lot from the pandemic. Information technology is now a critical component of any education system. However, vast areas of the country have no access to the internet as a result of either inexistent or poor network. Even in areas where there is network electricity supply is patchy and inadequate.

The ministry must also be cognisant of the poor economic background of many students who are not able to afford computers and mobile phones. The sum of this is that the ministry must roll out measures to militate these inadequacies and roll out the structures and equipment needed to reach as many students as possible.

Covid-19 is the first pandemic of a connected, interdependent global community. It is a wakeup call to every nation since it will not be the last pandemic or disaster. As a nation, we must focus on the lessons we have learnt from the pandemic to act as a springboard to enable us to fight future tragedies, catastrophes and pandemics with vigour and unity. We must learn the right lessons from the pandemic for the future.

Director, Northland Professional institute