Free education must also be made compulsory


Published on 09/12/2008

Mike Owuor

The warning has been sounded: All those parents in Pokot and Turkana districts who stop their children from going to school will be in trouble in January. Last week Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor told The Standard of the launch of “Operation Enda Shule” (go to school), that would ensure no child is denied education. This, PointBlank thinks, is just what the doctor ordered.

“We will arrest and prosecute parents whose children are not in school,” the PC said. We hope “Operation Enda Shule” will be replicated throughout the country when schools re-open.

Battlefield

Despite the hiccups, the free primary education programme has offered a learning opportunity to thousands of children. But the Government seems to have neglected the “compulsory” aspect, providing a loophole for some parents and guardians to deny their children the chance to learn.

Changing this attitude, by force if need be, should be the next battleground for the Education ministry, Provincial Administration and other departments. Go on PC Noor, we are behind “Operation Enda Shule”.

Burning issue at City Mortuary

A reader who works near Nairobi City Mortuary, says “something strange” has been going on for the last couple of months and would like Town Clerk John Gakuo to assure him it has no health implications.

“Throughout the day staff at the morgue burn substances that have an unpleasant smell. At times black smoke comes out of the chimney and is blown towards our office. In fact Bwana Town Clerk, if you touch my face as I write this letter to PointBlank, you will feel some particles left by the smoke,” he says.

Although our reader and his colleagues try to shut the windows and doors to “lock out” the smoke, this is usually a futile effort.

“I have also witnessed some bags being offloaded from a truck on several occasions. The bags, which contain white powder, are then poured into a pit outside the incineration room and burnt,” he says. “Could the smoke be the cause of the coughs and headaches we suffer in the office?”

His request is that City Hall first clear the air on the “burning issue” by offering assurances that the smoke is nothing harmful, then find a better way of “burning substances without affecting everybody”.

Nobody can cast first stone

Mr J Wafula reminds PointBlank of the song, Shilingi Yaua Tena Maua, by Simba Wanyika, a Tanzanian band based in Kenya from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. It literally gives both sides of the coin, describing money as a source of both good and evil.

Wafula thinks the “curse of money” has taken over, and not many of us have the moral authority to accuse MPs of being selfish by refusing to have their allowances taxed.

“What else would you conclude about a society that has people who rush to an accident scene, not to help the injured but to frisk them for money and other valuables? What about those who exhume bodies to steal coffins? It appears we are prepared to go to any extent for the extra shilling, and MPs’ actions should not be judged in isolation,” says Wafula.

Selfish leaders

And he has a good idea who should share the blame for electing self-centred MPs: Voters who lend themselves to the highest bidder at the expense of selfless leaders.

“Let us not make too much noise about MPs’ taxation. After all, many Kenyans would behave even worse if they were in the legislators’ shoes,” he says.

Empower KPLC Tala office

Does the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) have plans to upgrade the Tala office to spare customers trips to Thika and Nairobi? Mr S Masaku says Tala residents spend too much time and money visiting other towns since the local office cannot provide most services.

“Sometimes when one’s electricity bill has a problem or power supply has been disconnected, one is advised to seek clarification elsewhere. It appears the Tala office has no access to a lot of basic information,” he says.

Well, PointBlank believes KPLC has the power to look into Masaku’s complaint, hasn’t it?

What is the status of Garissa accountant?

Mr Jelle Ibrahim Abdullahi’s case is one we brought to Local Government Minister Musalia Mudavadi’s attention on October 3 (‘Accountant’s pay agony’). Hired on a temporary basis by the County Council of Garissa in April 2003, Abdullahi said he was offered a permanent position three months later. In April 2006, he was promoted by the Public Service Commission to the position of Accountant II (letter reference No 151/LA/5).

Since then, he claimed his salary has not been paid. We reminded the minister of the issue on October 9 (‘Give your account of situation’) and October 30. We still await a response.

Point of Order

Taps have run dry in Tassia, says resident

Faith in Tassia Estate would like the Nairobi Water Company to tell her why she should pay monthly bills yet on a good week she is supplied with water only once. She first complained in PointBlank on September 9 (‘Estate where water is as rare as snow’), and to date the company has not rectified the problem.

“I live in a plot near Quick Pay Supermarket, and we have not had water for the last four weeks. Curiously, neighbouring plots have no such problems, with some selling water to us. I do not oppose any rationing programme, all I want is fair supply,” she says. Nairobi Water Company, what is the problem in Tassia.

‘Military option’ not best solution for insecurity

Although he admits there have been security problems in the border of West Pokot, Endebess and Trans Nzoia East districts, Mr Charles Chedotum says political leaders calling for a military operation against the Pokot have missed the point.

“This will only create tension, suspicion and hatred. What we need are peace meetings among neighbouring communities. In fact, we should focus efforts in securing the border with Uganda,” he says, urging Internal Security and Provincial Administration Minister George Saitoti not to be swayed by the leaders seeking a “military solution”.

Githurai road in deplorable state

The Githurai-Kimbo Road is “completely impassable”, say Mr John Mbugua and Mr Kariuki Karungu. And the sooner the Ministry of Roads repairs it, the better. For example, they claim, residents of Mwihoko cannot access other parts of Githurai, especially when it rains.

“Since we have various learning institutions, including a university, and a police station on this road, why has it been neglected, Minister Chris Obure?” they ask.

Is varsity fees order fair?

JKM, a parent at Nairobi’s Daystar University, is distressed that his daughter and “other students” have been barred from sitting examinations for paying their fees balance in September (two months before the end of the semester), and not at the beginning. This, he claims, is despite the university’s earlier assurance that those who clear the arrears would continue with their studies.

“The students have been told to return next year, as they are considered suspended. Our appeals to the administration as well as the Ministry of Higher Education have been ignored. What is the rationale behind this move? Can the Prime Minister listen to our cries?” JKM wonders.

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