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Thursday, 29 November 2012

No schooling for the herd's boy!

By Bett Kipsang’
 Even after the free primary education was introduced close to ten years ago, children among some pastoral communities have never had a chance to go to school. Reason being; to look after their parent’s livestock! I recently visited a village in Laikipia west to accompany my two other colleagues who were visiting a tomato farmer, call him ''John'', not his real name. Their identities are withheld because some of the subjects are minors.

Dam: Primary source of water.
John, a diligent farmer; in the area uses a motor engine to pump water from a nearby dam into his farm where he is growing maize, beans and tomatoes under irrigation. After going round to see how the water was circulating, we decided to go and see the source of that water.

Two boys and a girl were watering their livestock on the other side of the dam. They were aged between 7 and 14. 

The boys only knew little Kiswahili, but the girl hardly answered a question, meaning she did not clearly understand any other language apart from her mother tongue.

 I asked them if they had started schoolling and the eldest boy pointed at the other boy, saying, ‘‘This one goes’’. When asked why he did not go to school himself, the answer was rather shocking, ‘‘If I go to school, who will look after the cattle?’’ said the elder boy. He was so deliberate and sincere; to him herding livestock was all that life had in store for a young man of his age! 

Before long other children arrived at the dam driving their sheep and goats to drink water. We asked them if they were going to school and they responded,'No' except the grandson of the farmer we had gone to visit.

 The class eight boy was the same age as the others. I asked them what they wanted to do when they grow up. But to my surprise it was like the children had never imagined of such a distant future.

Then they looked at the camera on my friend’s hand, and they wanted to see what it was. To their surprise, they could see the photos of the farm, dam and their livestock. It became a captivating moment as they all jostled to view the photos. We showed them how to take photos, and they curiously took hold of the camera and started taking each other’s snaps in turn. The camera could have been the only technological gadget they had ever seen, probably apart from the radio and mobile phones which are common in most of the households.

 On our way back a discussion ensued as to what really lay in the future for such kids. Not only was primary education free, it was also compulsory, and parents who failed to take their children to school risked arrest and prosecution. But to our surprise, children grazed livestock in broad day-light without the fear of the arm of the government catching up with them.

‘‘So the free primary education is not accessible to everyone?’’ I thought. Even if education was not free, these children would not have had a chance because their parents value livestock more than anything else. Livestock alone could not by any means guarantee these little kids a succesfull and happy future!

A teacher from a nearby primary school told the LRV  that his school has less than fifty pupils from class one to eight. He reported that pupils from the community who remain in school are ussually very bright. Some of them have livestock and seek permision of absence during market days so that they can go and sell their stock. Though livestock are owned by men,the teacher reported that grazing of livestock in the community is the role of women. A woman who has grown up children is counted as lucky because her children will help in grazing as the mother attend to other duties, and that is why most children are not in school.

LRV contacted another teacher from a different school who sought anonimity, because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of that school. He reported a story whereby children from the same family take turns between school and the grazing field. One child could go to school for one year as the other one looks after the livestock. The following year, they exchange roles and the one from the grazing field goes to school as the other one goes to look after livestock for one year! These children keep on attending the same class for too long untill they are too old to concentrate in studies.

The big question is; How can such children compete with their educated age mates when they grow up? ‘‘Maybe they will only be watchmen and casual laborers to the other schooled boy!’’ said one guy who was in our company.  You are tempted to laugh, but it’s a true painful story! I can now understand why some communities will attach a lot of value to hundreds of heads of livestock, even much more than life.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Officer slain in the ‘valley of death’ laid to rest in Ng’arua

By Bett Kipsang’

When the family of Charles Rono woke up on Sunday, they were by far not prepared for the sad news awaiting them.  The country and the world had woken up to the worst incident in the history of Kenyan police force. Tens of officers had been felled by cattle rustlers in Suguta Valley, Samburu County which has since been referred to as the ''Valley of Death''.

Charles Rono, 29 was among the ill fated police officers who perished in the line of duty at the valley. He was married to Patricia Jemutai, 24. And they were blessed with two young daughters aged 2 and three months old.

 The late officer joined police force five years ago and served at the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) in Gilgil and Maralal, until his death which occurred as him and fellow officers were pursuing cattle rustlers. It is reported that 41 other officers perished in the incident rated the worst in the history of the Kenyan police force. 

When the news of the fallen hero started trickling in, the entire Mithika Sub location in Ng’arua division was submerged in deep sorrow and the family got soaked in tears to moan a beloved son, husband and father of two. The sad news had changed the bearing of the young family forever. When LRV visited the area on Tuesday, family members and neighbors sat in somber moods as they waited for the arrival of the remains of their beloved son.

 Plans to bring the body home from Gilgil were first thwarted when some families and relatives of the slain officers could not positively identify the bodies, forcing the exercises to delay so that the CID could conduct forensic verification.  

The elder daughter of the deceased was busy playing with other kids. They jumped up and down from the plastic chairs which had been brought in to be used by hundreds of mourners who will gather to pay their last respect to her dear father. The girls are perhaps too young to connect with the reality of losing a dear father and breadwinner. They will only grow up with a faint mirage of memories of who their father was!

Their mother Patricia Jemutai is faced with a daunting task of bringing up the two girls and meeting their educational needs. This may prove difficult unless the government intervenes to secure the future of the young family in honor of the gallant officer, who lost his life in the front line while enforcing law and order in the country.

Hundreds of mourners gathered at Mithika village home on Wednesday, to pay their last respect to the fallen officer.

 Groups of people gathered and communicated in low voices each narrating what they have heard about the Sunday occurrence in the doomed valley. 

 The tales were heart-rending. A man who did not want to be identified reported that some police officers could not be identified because their bodies decomposed in the scorching heat and some were devoured by wild animals like hyenas. It is reported the bodies remained for up to two days before they were collected. 

The man told LRV that after the attack some police officers made desperate phone calls for rescue but died of over bleeding when their rescue was not forthcoming. 

This adds up to the grim statistics of the growing trends of insecurity in the country. It calls for drastic measures to be taken by the state to contain the situation and protect the lives of both citizens and security officers from criminals.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

New classrooms at last for Bondeni

By Dennis Kipkirui

Hon.Nderithu Muriithi unveils a new classroom block
At long last pupils of Bondeni primary school, Laikipia County have a reason to smile. This is after new classrooms were commissioned on Monday by area MP and Industrialization assistant minister Nderitu Muriithi. It took seven months for the school to realize the dream after the roof of the former classroom was blown away by storm. Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV)did a vigorous campaign which drew a lot of attention and the school managed to get CDF funds which initially had proofed hard to come by to construct the new classrooms.
There was joy and merry when the MP officially unveiled the plaque as a sign of completion of the four classrooms. Ironically these were the first permanent buildings for the school after it was started in 1978 by then area MP Godfrey Gitahi Kariuki (famously known as GG and also vying for senator-ship in the County). Although many of those who attended the function saw it as a political mileage given that this is the electioneering period in the country, it could not escape attention that they were grateful to be remembered by the incumbent regime after being forgotten for many years. The MP promised to build more classrooms if elected in the up-coming General Elections.

View of new classroom block constructed using CDF
Earlier the event had received much publication after a vehicle had gone round to announce the coming of the MP. Many parents turned up to receive the guest. He urged them to elect him so that he can complete the projects he had started. He is currently vying for the post of senator in a United Democratic Forum (UDF) party headed by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi. 
Pupils learning in former dilapidated classroom

The MP is fighting off the alleged announcement made in the area by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta who heads The National Alliance (TNA) party purported to be enjoying massive support in the area. It is alleged that Uhuru cautioned those MPs not in TNA that they will not be elected for any post unless they join his party. The remarks have attracted many condemnations especially from MPs from central province who are not in TNA and those from Eastern Rift Valley. It is worth noting that TNA is finding inroads in the area. This is shown by massive defections witnessed recently by County Representative aspirants in UDF to TNA. Muriithi asked residents to elect him given his unmatched development record in the area. Pundits however argue that he is among the under-performing MPs the area has ever had.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Man ekes a living with brush

By Maryanne Wangare 
He started crafting guitars and cars while still in primary school, where he also did `Art &Craft’ as a subject. He also took part in different art and drawing competitions, gaining more knowledge in that field of study and emerging the best. Unfortunately, his single mother could not afford to provide for him giving him hard options in life.He dropped out of school during his second term in standard eight due to lack of school fees. 
Waweru writing graphics [Photo: Joseph Kanyi| LRV]

 He went out for job hunting and did menial jobs in Molo so as to earn a living. He left Molo in 2001 and headed to Eldoret where he secured a job in a Hotel. He used the savings he had from the job to buy nine gallons of paint then went back to his home but ironically was chased by her mother and siblings.
Mr. John Waweru or` artist Waweru’ as he is commonly known by the people of Sipili Division in Laikipia West District is a 31yr old artist. He was born in a family of six and raised by a single parent.

After an acrimonious encounter at home, Waweru thought of going back to Molo but headed to a different location this time round Londiani, Kericho County. He started drawing graphics and making frames for pictures making a great deal in business. Once again, fate chose him destiny and ended up in Sipili. This came in form of displacement after the 2007/2008 post-election violence that rocked the country where over a thousand people were killed and hundred thousand displaced. Waweru embarked on the same work of drawing graphics. Lucky enough another business idea came and he found himself in the business of making rubber stamps.  

Waweru with his tools [Photo: Joseph Kanyi|LRV]
Any challenges? As it is always said `Behind every success there are some challenges’, Waweru faced hostility from his competitors. Many challenges came along the way such as unsatisfied clients who could end up paying less for services rendered. Marketing posed as an obstacle in his way to success. He only renders services in Sipili and its environs. Expansion has been hard to come by. This has lessened his opportunities to access many customers. With all the challenges he has faced he still works hard to improve his business.
Alongside his vocation is a curio shop in Sipili market which doubles up as his office. Painting and drawing is the only source of income for the father of one. However, he has managed to provide for his family with his meager savings.

To those who want to succeed in business, Waweru advices “management is the key thing in any job or business. Without a plan and budget in your business all won’t work for you who want to start a business. For one to be a successful business person trust is needed. This goes a long way to winning the trust of your clients. One should also know what the customers like and give a variation of prices. Business does well in any other place as long as one is ready to risk. Utilize your talent and use it to mould your future because you might gain a better living through it”.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Good Governance in a Democratic Society

By Regina Nyokabi

Good governance entails the upholding of democratic principles where all must be heard in turn. It ensures that the voice of the disadvantaged, such as the poor, is given an opportunity to be heard.  All citizens regardless of their color, religion, sex, age or political persuasion have equal rights, unlike in Kenya where the voice of its people is not even heard and put into consideration .The poor are instead oppressed, their land grabbed and then they are stuffed into unfriendly environment with poor health and public facilities like schools, police stations, making the place amount to a slum. We even have a lot of displaced individuals who are suffering in their camps from hunger and harsh weather conditions like floods and strong winds, while those responsibly assigned to cater for them are looting the resources to help this needy people for their own selfish gains.

A good government ensures that the need of its people are prioritized and addressed without favorism. It must be seen to be the greatest advocate of social responsibility. It should shield its people from vices such as injustice, nepotism, greed, corruption, inefficiency and neglect. Here in “uhuru” land, the government prioritizes their own interests and if they will consider its people, they base it with favorism which reflects on tribalism, racial and gender discrimination thus its people suffer from the vices of moral misconduct.

A good government recognizes that its people are its most important resource and invests in them. It does this by facilitating provision of resources to meet human basic needs such as shelter, food, health, and education, contrary to Kenya where members of the government use public  money to serve their interest ;money which is supposed to run various projects for the benefit of its people.
A good government must have a vision for the future; It must invest in the youth and involve them in different activities such a government also recognizes the importance of the family unit as a source of governance and development. Kenya goes wrong after abandoning the youth who are the future to their own devices. The government here does not involve the youth in beneficial activities thus the youth end up in drugs, immorality, lawlessness or join militia groups.

In good governance, there is recognition of the roles of both men and women and tries to make use of their capabilities for the good of the society. It ensures that both participates in decision making and gets access to and control over resources. It should ensure a balance in votes using appropriate measures by considering gender, ethnicity, religion, age, socio-economic standing and disablement. Gender discrimination is the core issue in the government circulation in Kenya. Rooted in our traditions, the girl child is deprived of her rights to education, inheritance and leadership while the boy child is prioritized and given almost everything. The whole concept has ruled in Kenya’s governance where they believe a woman can’t lead or rule men in particular. That makes me believe that most of our African men are very proud and their ego high, what they need is to get off their high horse. Women are denied a chance in leadership with an excuse that they are generally weak and they should submit to the rule of the male gender a concept borrowed from the domestic family unit.

Good governance has no room for selfish use of public resources to benefit one or a small group of individuals. The people responsible should use public resources without wastage. They should report what they do honestly and the report should be available for the public to see. The government officials here; ranging from the smallest governors, the husbands, from the family unit, all the way to the National Finance Minister, have created room for their selfish use of resources to their own benefit. How the Finance Minister is used is their secret. Making them a bunch of thieves who resources and leave treasuries empty and ruined. That’s why civil servants organize strikes and carry out demonstrations for an increment in their wages and Mr. Finance  Minister is like; “we don’t have money so you better resume to your respective duties,” Yet the government ministers and members of parliament request an increment on their bounty salaries and the idea is passed  almost immediately.

 As a parting shot, good governance should show a high level of concern, among its people and high level of networking linkages and efficient communication among its organs. Kenya’s government should learn that freedom and justice reassure people that they are well governed.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Farmers form a marketing organization

Dennis Kipkirui

Farmers in Laikipia County met on Tuesday to chat ways of marketing their produce to improve their livelihood. The meeting was prompted by a maize marketing problem that has hit the County for many years and hampers improvement of their livelihood. Laikipia is currently harvesting their maize and already the prices are sinking low due to influx of brokers.

In a meeting held at the DO’s office Sipili they agreed to form a farmer marketing organization to help them market their produce. The organization dubbed Laikipia Produce and Marketing Organization is primarily tasked with bulking and marketing produce on behalf of the farmers. Members will also get other benefits that include credit services using warehouse receipting system where they will access funds as they wait to sell their produce in a favorable market.

The meeting held on Tuesday was a follow-up on one held a forth-night ago. Earlier one hundred farmers had met and formed the organization affiliated to Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN). The meeting was attended by different players in the agriculture sector. Participants evaluated several reasons that had made many groups to collapse after successful formation.

One major problem identified was leadership. Mr. Joseph Chege, Co-operatives Officer challenged those who have led different groups for a long time with no tangible results to resign. “If you have been leading a group and members are not satisfied by your results. It will be honorable for you to resign. The more you cling on to power the more you create mistrust among your subjects.” He also asked them to desist from using short-cuts to become rich. Many farmers had confessed to rushing to making quick and costly decisions. A case was mentioned of a highly hyped mushroom project t once started in the area. The project saw many people abandon their activities and start mushroom farming which later evaporated to thin air.

 The farmers were also challenged to develop their own strategic plans that will include the lifespan of their group, objectives of the group and their outcomes within a given period. This will help change the lives   of most farmers in Laikipia who have been troubled by the low income they get from their produce.

 It is projected that if farmers take this new mode of marketing seriously they will have better ways of marketing their produce plus a better profit in-return. Ultimately, there will be a tremendous change in their livelihood.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Agony of a family after son’s disappearance

By Maryanne Wangare

He has been away for the last 5 years, last seen towards the General Election. He is being traced in the eve of another General Election. He never voted because he had just applied for the Identity Card and could not wait to have it save for the waiting card he left with. His kinsmen later collected the vital document ironically to help in tracing him.

Shadrack Foiyo Kiptanui being traced
Shadrack Foiyo Kiptanui, 28 disappeared in July 2007and has never been seen nor heard of since then. His disappearance has remained a constant heartache to the family and his ageing parents. Mr. Samwel Kiptanui, 73 and Mrs. Rachel Muthoni, 70 have never heard of their son since he left their home-stead in search of a job. The parents who are recovering from the effects of post-election violence after being displaced in Keringet, Nakuru County and sought refuge in Laikipia are still in awe of their son’s disappearance. 

When they visited Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV), offices seeking for help, the only form of identity for their son is an old photograph and a new Identity Card collected on behalf of their son which was issued in Ng’arua. Shadrack, appears to be 5 feet tall with a light complexion in the photograph. 

The lad is said to have dropped in class eight and opted for menial jobs. He initially worked in a wholesale shop in Karandi. He is said to have also worked in Kamuru both in Laikipia County. 

Efforts to trace him have hit a snag. He last called in 2010 using somebody else’s phone and claimed to be in Garissa. When the owner of the phone was contacted he denied knowledge of the person being sought.
The last born son and the ninth child in Kiptanui’s family of eleven children have caused more jitters with worries of youth initially recruited by the Al-Shabbab militia group being wiped out by Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. 

LRV is asking members of the public to pass any information regarding the whereabouts of Shadrack Kiptanui to help his family unravel the mystery.