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January is coming, so let me say right now



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After the festivities and mingling with family members – some of whom at least we were delighted to see – the holiday fever is now subsiding down. Back to reality. And January is coming.

I often say that Kenyans are resilient, they know how to persevere; in fact, it is second nature to them.

No matter what is happening in the country, if there is a way to get to work, they will go, to the point where some will walk up to four hours a day.

Through political noise and numerous strikes in every sector imaginable, we continue to endure.

People will constantly and obsessively talk about how difficult things are, but still go on with living their lives the best way that they know how.

So Christmas is one of the times where majority are not working and we take our holidays very seriously.

Now schools will open as early as January 3; it was initially the 2nd, and people complained that they would not have time to return after their holiday break in the village.

I remember coming back to school the second week of January, thinking why the hurry to enforce learning in a confused system anyway?

There are more important things to be concerned about this January for school going children. Such as, since we now know the curriculum won’t be rolled out, what happens to those parents who were in pilot schools?

I have friends who had already paid for learning iPads they have never seen. Or schools that purchased books worth up to half a million shillings only to be told that the books won’t be needed.

The bigger question, what happened during the entire year, did students learn anything? And what about the switch, is it that easy to do one thing for one year, say you are going back to the old way, but only for a year, and return to the new again from 2020.

There’s a song by the Backstreet Boys that my father liked to sing: “Quit playing games with my heart.”

I would remember it every time I thought my relationships were going off, as it gave me the courage to leave.

But what happens when the government plays games with not just your heart but your mind as well?

These are young minds to be moulded, yet they are coming up in this confusing environment. And parents keep paying, and it’s not cheap.

But everybody talks about change, wanting change – even though actual change is slow and painful.

Teachers are vehemently fighting against delocalisation with justifiable reasons such as security.

But this highlights another burning issue in our country: Marginalisation.

Every child has the right to education. And though teachers speak of harassment from community members, our Constitution prizes diversity.

Children spend most of their lives in school. With the civil-rights movements in the US, one of the first actions was to integrate schools.

Black students were mixed with white students. Integration was enforced as a matter of policy. And it was uncomfortable and difficult for everyone.

When our teachers cannot mix because the environment is hostile, then how do we expect our children to do so? Diversity is first witnessed at school.

Time is passing while our leadership puzzles over which step to take next, not realising that millions of young minds are dependent on every move because it literally determines their future.

As we start the New Year, we can hope that things will be done differently in the education system, not for anyone else but the children.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW

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