Recently, a lady writing to the Editor of the Daily Nation1, imagines that she is on a train journey to Kisumu in the year 2063. While on this journey, she reflects on the sweeping positive changes which have taken place in Kenya since the beginning of the 21st century. At the end of her letter she asks a very pertinent question: how did these thoroughgoing changes come about?
Many thoughtful people, still only dreaming and hoping about a better tomorrow as we come closer to the new millennium, have this very question on their mind. How indeed is it possible to bring about a drastic change from the painful and trying circumstances in which we find ourselves at the moment? How can corrupt people become honest, how can robbers stop their violence, how can selfish leaders start thinking about others, how can greedy employers become just?
The longing for change, for a better tomorrow, is especially strong among our young people, those who have most to gain from a change for the better in the next century. So Wajibu asked them how they see this problem, what are their solutions to the mess in which we find ourselves. In cooperation with the editor of The Nation's Saturday we organised an essay competition and asked them three questions:
What is your vision for the Kenyan society in the 21st century?
What needs to change in this country to realise this vision?
What will you personally do to realise this vision?
Many young people took up the challenge to express their views on these topics. In this issue of the journal you will find the ten best answers to the questions posed. In these essays there is much food for thought for all of us who share the aspirations of the young for a society in which "justice [shall indeed] be our shield and defender."
There are a few points I would like to make after reading the essays. What one senses, first of all, is that in a society which does not put all that much stock by the opinions of the youth, the young people who wrote were happy to have a forum where their views and their feelings could be expressed. Some of the young people are deeply angry and justifiably so. Yet, the overall sentiment that comes across in the essays is an expression of hope that change is possible. Evident also is a willingness among the young to tackle the problems that are at hand. A number of those who wrote are involved in voluntary activities with the handicapped or with those who are disadvantaged in other ways. Still others are engaged in efforts to do something about the bad state of our environment.
In perusing the answers to our problems proposed by our young people, what I found significant was that (with one notable exception) very few of our youth pointed to religion as a source of answers for our difficulties. A change of attitude, yes. But not a pointer to religion as providing the strength for effecting that change of attitude. The conclusion one is bound to draw from this is: in spite of the fact that a large majority of Kenyans profess one faith or another, their religion appears not to be a significant factor in influencing their behaviour. And here indeed must be sought the answer as to why we got ourselves in this mess in the first place. Religion is for many of us a veneer, something that is fashionable. In no way does it appear to make us stand out from others who profess no faith of any kind. In fact, those who do not adhere to any religion sometimes put us to shame when it comes to the question of upright behaviour.
So how can corrupt people become honest, how can robbers stop their violence, how can selfish leaders start thinking about others, how can greedy employers become just without the motivation for change which religion can provide? The answer is that they cannot.
So then, where is our source for hope? Our hope, as I see it, is that our young people may still find, here and there, some role models, people like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa and others who, although not famous like these, have yet integrated their faith and their lives in such a way that they have been able to do their part in making this world a better place to live in. Our hope is that our young people will not only find more such models, but that they themselves will set examples for others to follow.
G. Wakuraya Wanjohi
1. 9 November 1999.
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
Elizabeth Akello (20) attended Lwak Girls' High School School. At present she is a first year student at Kenyatta University. She came first in the competition.
Sammy Carlos Baraza (32) is a software tutor at Friends School, Kimilili. He came second in the competition.
Paloma Njeri Gatabaki (19) is a student in her senior year at The United States International University where she is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations. She attended St. Andrews Turi Secondary School in Molo. She came third in the competition.
The following seven people received an honourable mention:
Sheila R. Ahono Bosire (21) attended Moi's Girls' School in Nairobi. She is at the moment taking a correspondence course in creative writing and journalism with the Writers' Bureau in London. She received an Honourable Mention.
Tabassum Yusuf Dawre (19) is doing her A levels at Muslim Girls' Secondary School.
Tom Maina Kabau (19) attended Lenana and Kagumo High Schools. He hopes to join university next year and do an undergraduate degree in law.
Rachel Kitonyo (20) is a first year university student. She attended Alliance Girls' High School.
Bernard K. Mogaka (22) is a graduate of the United States International University where he pursued in International Business. Presently he is the Marketing Manager at Thorntree Communications.
Masita Mokeira (21) is a student at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and also does volunteer work with Ungana, the Young Friends of AMREF.
Macharia Mwangi (29) attended Njiiri and Alliance High Schools and is a graduate of Kenyatta University. He teaches English literature at Kahuhia Girls' High School.
Contributions to Future issues of WAJIBU: Special Appeal to the Young
Wajibu is always looking for people to contribute articles to its various issues. This time we would like to make a special appeal to the youth who may have developed a taste for writing for Wajibu as a result of the recent essay competition. For first time contributors, we would like to point out the following:
1. We do not pay our contributors;
2. Every issue of the journal deals with a specific theme: we expect our contributors to have made a special study of the theme if they are not already experts in the area;
3. The deadline must be adhered to;
4. There is no guarantee that unsolicited articles will be published;
5. We expect the articles to be computer produced, and a diskette made available to the editor.
Following are the themes which we hope to cover in the year 2000. (We reserve the right to change the order of publication of the themes.)
The Decade for a Culture of Non-Violence (Vol. 15, no. 1). In this issue we hope to cover such topics as: the origin of the Decade, Kenyan participation in the Decade, the Teaching of Non-Violence in educational institutions, etc. Deadline: 24 January.
Alternative Economics: Economics as if People Mattered (Vol. 15, no. 2). We will cover the topics of globalisation in production, self-reliance, voluntary simplicity and the problem of monopolies, among others. Deadline: 24April.
Coming to Terms with Death (Vol. 15, no. 3). Living as we do with the AIDS pandemic, death has become a common visitor in many families. How do we prepare for death, how do we cope with the death of loved ones will be some topics discussed in this issue. Also covered will be "Rituals associated with death in various ethnic groups" as well as "Burial customs." Deadline: 24 July.
Advertising, Propaganda and Ethics (Vol. 15, no. 4). "What is the difference between advertising and propaganda?" "The cost of advertising: where does ethics come in" and "Advertising and culture" will be some of the topics covered in this number. Deadline: 23 October.
Of course you are free to add your own topics to each theme.