by Masita Mokeira
A vision for Kenya. Oh yes! A vision so simply put forward, but that is where the simplicity stops. For if this vision were to spread its wings in its entirety and soar, then so strong would it be, strong enough to create a revolution. What Kenya needs in the 21st century in a nutshell is good governance, because with this everything else falls into place. The people of Kenya deserve better medical and health facilities. A healthy nation is a productive nation; if all people are strong and healthy they can create a sustainable workforce for the growth of the economy. What of the infrastructure? The presence of sound infrastructure in the 21st century will bring with it a world of opportunities for Kenya. Foreign individuals and governments alike will be encouraged to invest in the country and this will bear fruit in terms of increased foreign exchange reserves, employment opportunities and therefore higher standards of living. Education also is crucial for we cannot hope to compete globally when clearly the human resource element is lacking. Better educated persons will create a more intelligent and dilligent workforce, one that can come up with ways which our country can use to its advantage.
Our wildlife, for example, must be preserved for it is our pride and if we lose it through our own ignorance and neglect, then we loose an essential piece to the jigsaw fit.
A vision is a hope. Therefore, this vision carries numerous hopes for Kenya in the 21st century, in the day to day lives of the people. A hope for eradication of corruption, which is a social vice that mars justice, a hope for an overwhelming atmosphere of peace and unity, so much so that senseless violence, torture and killings will be totally eliminated; a hope of liberty where people will be free to choose, free to express themselves and where their basic rights are adequately catered for; a hope for a convergence of lifestyles, a mixing of people from all walks of life, all tribes and all races. Lastly, a hope that all the people of the nation will carry in their hearts a sense of patriotism.
At the point in time when all these hopes that fall under this vision will be accomplished or realized, then and only will the words of our National Anthem ring true in our ears:
Justice be our shield and defender,
May we dwell in unity,
Peace and liberty ...
In common bond united,
Build this our nation together.'<BR>
When all is said and done, if there exists no plan of action, a vision is just that: a vision. Almost everyone has a vision, if not for their country then at least for themselves. But visions remain mere elusive dreams and fantasies when there are no aspirations to take the necessary subsequent steps. For this reason, a vision just as the one presented for Kenya requires positive steps of action in order to realize it.
So, what needs to change? The mode of leadership for one: our leaders have to become a shining example to the people. They must start focusing on making policies and decisions that are for the good of the nation as a whole, and avoid the selfish, individualistic approach of leadership, which leaves the victims dissatisfied, demotivated or with a sense of rebellion and vengeance. More so, our leaders must learn from their mistakes and those of others. When people make mistakes and things go wrong, the one good thing that can come out of this is a lesson learnt. Such lessons are valuable in the process of picking up the pieces. It was once said that "History must repeat itself, because people pay such little attention to it the first time," and this is what keeps on recurring in our country, as people fail to take note of and acknowledge their mistakes.
The government needs to stop ignoring the public's efforts that are geared towards economic growth and stability, increase the welfare of the people and conserve the natural resources that the country is endowed with. Instead of shutting the people out, the government should work tirelessly with them, encouraging them, motivating them, guiding, correcting and supplementing their efforts as need arises. Why government involvement is so important is that, although we have so many non-governmental organizations, volunteers and charitable groups, all with a very noble cause, little impact is being felt. It is not because they are not doing their utmost, the simple fact is that there is only so much that can be accomplished if the government does not take a stand on certain issues. We need to ask ourselves "What effect will the environmentalist groups have by way of their awareness campaigns, peaceful demonstrations and conservation efforts?" The answer is a lot, but not enough if the government turns a blind eye to the evils of destruction and in some instances, even partakes in them. How can our economy grow, how can it develop rapidly? As far as international trade is concerned, the terms of trade favours manufactured goods more than raw materials and agricultural produce. Thus an underdeveloped economy like ours is disadvantaged. The state thus needs to make policies that can see Kenya moving from the exportation of raw materials and agricultural produce to the exportation of highly technical goods and services. By so doing, we will be creating a comparative advantage for ourselves. The great economists of our time have said that the problem in underdeveloped economies is not that of lack of real resources but that of lack of financial resources with which to mobilize these real resources. The people need to be encouraged to save money that can be used for investment purposes; this is essential to success. Another way of raising funds is through donor support. For this to materialize, however, we must believe in our cause and our abilities; we must find out who the donors are and how to have access to them. When we do, we must present a worthwhile project or product. We must remember to say thank you for the support we receive and be absolutely accountable for the funds. In this way we can always come back to them and ask for more. Lack of accountability leads to suspicion and mistrust, and developed countries will not be willing to give to us. The general mismanagement of funds must be dealt with: corruption needs to change to accountability.
Where education is concerned, Kenya needs to lay a lot more emphasis on non-formal education. Non-formal education is any organized educational activity outside the framework of the formal system to provide selected types of learning to particular sub-groups in the population, both adults and children. It can also be defined as a low-cost, out of school, pre-employment entry institution designed to offer post-primary vocational training and/or work experience to youth. Emphasis on the formal education system is not and will not be the solution to the education problems of Kenya. It is extremely expensive and so shuts out the majority who cannot afford it. Kenya is a country with people of diverse cultures and ways of life and as such the formal education system fails to provide adequately for this, hence it becomes irrelevant to many people. Unlike formal education, non-formal education is a flexible dialogue method of communication. Non-formal education is rooted in real life. It is low-cost and therefore affordable. .
Finally, everyone must have a sense of duty instilled in them. We cannot go on leading lives driven by selfish desires and motives, but instead have a genuine concern and care for our friends and neighbours. Our people must avoid at all costs being swept into a whirlwind of activity whose driving force is the evils of society such as greed, so much so that there is no time for neighbourly concern; we must never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed. We can make a good team through commitment, co-operation, communication, contribution, and in effect, sustain our nation. Factors that will guarantee sustainability are such that every individual must be committed, have a clear understanding of the country's goals, objectives and policies, and have a sense of belonging and ownership. Individual values must be shared and everyone must be economical, efficient and effective in their use of the available resources. Also, there must be a collective responsibility and participation; free communicationž vertical and horizontalžand respect for individual ideas; individual growth through training, delegation and promotions; positive attitudes and sound leadership traits; harmony between stakeholders; effective use of time and readiness to take on challenges. A great philosopher once said, "Only in winter can you tell which trees are truly green; only when the winds of adversity blow, can you tell whether an individual or a country has courage and steadfastness."
As I put down my thoughts on paper, I realize that I too have a vital role to play in all of this. It will do no good for me to point fingers at other people when I am not taking any action myself. What I am currently doing as a means to realizing my vision, is volunteer work. I am doing this as a member of a young group of people known as Ungana, young friends of AMREF. I want to carry this spirit of volunteerism into the 21st century and find a means of recruiting more people to our noble cause of volunteer action and creating awareness. Volunteerism has provided me with skills and knowledge that I will undertake to share with anyone so that more people can be equipped to handle the situations that warrant the use of such skills and knowledge: fundraising, working with the blind, basic life support, team building and leadership skills. On completion of my course in the University, I wish to venture into the entrepreneur sector which will enable me to provide other people with job opportunities. Meanwhile I plan to volunteer some of my time to provide the children in homes with non-formal education so that they too can have a chance at education. I must strive to keep on equipping myself with more and more skills that will make me a worthwhile citizen to have around.
Kenya in the 21st century - "Can our dreams come true?" The verdict is yours.
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