TRUE LEADERSHIP

Precious school tragedy brought out best and worst of our leadership

Such tragedies, unfortunately, happen all too often on our continent and beyond.

In Summary

• While this is not a tragedy unique to Kenya, we are lucky enough to have strong leadership to help see us through this difficult time.

• The President has shown that he takes the future of our Kenyan schoolchildren seriously.

Red Cross rescue workers at Precious Talent school on September 23, 2019.
Red Cross rescue workers at Precious Talent school on September 23, 2019.
Image: VICTOR IMBOTO

All of Kenya is still recovering from the disaster that struck the Precious Talent Top School.

Eight innocent school children lost their lives, with dozens more wounded on that fateful day.

The sight was heartbreaking, with children crying while waiting for rescuers, debris everywhere and bodies lying beneath the rubble.

Sadly, this is a tragedy which all too often repeats itself across the African continent.

A similar tragedy occurred in Nigeria less than half a year ago and many others remain unreported.

While this is not a tragedy unique to Kenya, we are lucky enough to have strong leadership to help see us through this difficult time. A leadership which puts unity first.

Although in the United States representing the country among the community of nations at the UN when the school disaster took place, Uhuru has been instrumental in dealing with the consequences.

He immediately pledged Sh1 million towards assisting the grieving parents and an additional Sh1 million towards the construction of new classrooms.

The President has shown that he takes the future of our Kenyan schoolchildren seriously.

Though he was in no way at direct fault for the building’s collapse, which occurred due to violations of planning regulations, Uhuru has taken personal responsibility for dealing with this incident. That is true leadership.

They say that in difficult times one can understand the true nature of a man.

If the collapse of the Precious Talent Top School reveals one thing about Uhuru, it is that he values unity above anything else.

This is not something new and has recently been on display through the ground-breaking Building Bridges Initiative, which emphasises unity as a guiding principle.

The Precious Talent Top School tragedy has once again demonstrated his dedication to unity under difficult circumstances.

Instead of turning this tragedy into one revolving around party politics, as often happens in other countries, our President has seen beyond party divisions and put the nation first.

Consequently, Uhuru sent opposition leader Raila Odinga to the memorial service as his representative, seeking to make sure that the parents received representation from the highest levels of government.

Raila also made a donation similar to that of Uhuru. The funds of both leaders, while they cannot bring our beloved children back, will prove important in dealing with the fall-out from the school’s collapse.

Uhuru has also taken charge of the details, immediately ordering the construction of a replacement school.

Valuing the importance of children’s education, the President wanted to guarantee the rest of the pupils' continuation of their studies as the new academic year begins.

In the words of one of the parents’ representatives, “everybody has spoken about those who died but not about those who were left behind”.

Understanding that many of these children indeed have nowhere else to go, with alternative schools over an hour away, Uhuru and his representatives in the Ministry of Education are working to minimise any further damage to students.

Such tragedies, unfortunately, happen all too often on our continent and beyond.

Development, after all, is a gradual process. However, when these terrible things do occur, dealing with them is a true test of leadership.

Being a political leader is about knowing how to help your people in their time of need. And the way Uhuru has addressed the events of the past week has been exemplary.

Many politicians, accused of showing up only when tragedy strikes, attempted to cynically take advantage of the school’s collapse for political gains. Some made empty promises they could never keep, while others only cared about making sure that they could not be held liable.

None of this is acceptable. Children died and if not properly addressed, this is an issue that might replicate itself time and time again.

To adequately deal with this tragedy, we must put political divisions and political gain seeking aside and come together.

Tragedy should be utilised as a source of strength. Let’s work our hardest to ensure that such tragedies leave us more united than we were before.

As the adage goes, “united we stand, divided we fall”. If we are successful in remaining united, we will see that no tragedy can break our national resolve.

That is the only way to honour the memory of those we lost.

Mr Cherambos comments on topical socio-political issues. [email protected]