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FRANCESCHI: Revising our outdated justice system (Part II)

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By LUIS FRANCESCHI
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In 1882, Thomas Alba Edison changed the course of humanity by illuminating the first 85 households in the world. Edison Illuminating Company had built the world’s first power plant, a direct current (DC) generating plant at the Pearl Street Station in New York.

Almost at the same time, Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-born inventor and futurist, came up with the first designs of an Alternating Current (AC) power supply. Mr Tesla was not interested in money; he was neither a businessman nor an investor, just an inventor with a passion for changing the world…making it a better place.

Mr Tesla sold most of his patents to George Westinghouse, an American engineer and businessman, who made the most out of them. Mr Westinghouse launched the first AC power supply to Manhattan.

This triggered the “War of the Currents”, which saw Mr Edison compete furiously for the prominence of DC against AC. A few years later, Mr Edison’s finances were exhausted and his company eventually merged with the competition.

This brought the war of the currents to an end, and eventually, the world of darkness was overpowered by light. There was no turning back to candles and gas …within a few years the world was, literally, electrified.

Last week, I penned off my column by asking a rhetorical question: What needs to change in our justice system? Almost everything; we need a system overhaul. The court systems, lawyers’ approach to practice, procedural law and legal education. But as the saying goes ‘Rome was not built in a day’…so this will take years. We must start now.

Justice was the word of the year 2018

Sam Muller, a Dutch lawyer, friend and innovative justice expert, brought to my attention a beautiful discovery. Mr Muller says that “The Washington Post reported on December 19 that justice was the word of the year 2018, based on data about searches on the online dictionary Merriam-Webster. Interesting. It seems there was a constant need for this word.”

Mr Muller concludes that “a movement is under way. No, not populism or Islamic extremism. A movement to get justice systems to produce better value.

To be more precise: to get ministries of justice, bar associations, universities – the threesome that have held the legal services marketplace in their hands for too long – to let go and innovate. The objective: to create a movement of funders and doers that will ensure that we realize Sustainable Development Target 16.3: equal access to justice for all.”

Mr Muller is right. Legal education, court systems and lawyering need to change their approach and practice. We have held justice hostage for too long.

Lawyers keep adjourning cases and delaying justice for their own personal benefit, teachers teach young lawyers how to do it, and judiciaries bow to it, in passivity, because the process would seem to be more important than justice itself.

2019 could be the year of light for justice. If we really want, we will find the ‘M-Pesa’ of justice, the ‘Uber’ of new generation justice systems.

Life has changed; university education has not!

The late Fulton Sheen rightly defined education as “the flow of information from the notes of the professor to the notebook of the student without passing through the brain of either.”

Life has changed; university education has not! The university model must change. Today, university’s outdated model is choking innovation.

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Universities are organised in rigid faculties or schools that ‘own’ their students, who must follow a rigid curriculum taught by boring lecturers, who dictate old notes to many people at once and then examine their retention capacity at the end of the semester.

The cycle is long and hard to break. Legislators pass laws that demand regulators to keep the status quo. Regulators demand from schools to stick to the rule. After all, their main job, by law, is to keep the status quo.. Schools comply by killing any possible innovation from any lecturer or student…and the mediocre cycle goes on…always in the name of quality. Anything that pleases the regulator is priority number one…no matter how absurd.

Who will think out of the box and when? Will we have to wait for Harvard, Cornell and Stanford to change so that we follow them blindly? Why in such a diverse world did we get stuck in one educational model?

In search for meaningful classroom experiences

I dream of the days when students will simply register as ‘university students’.

They will then assemble their own degrees, choosing subjects freely and combining courses (for example, object oriented programming and law or finance and hospitality or law and statistics), and put together their own degree that would be awarded upon meeting a determined threshold.

Some argue that the classroom should disappear. I say, it depends. In the classroom, students learn foundational principles, the order of things and priorities, tolerance, respect, the ability to innovate; they question or challenge the body of knowledge; they become part of a profession for they spend time with ‘classmates’ who share similar interests and goals.

The classroom experience contributes to character growth; it teaches us to live and interact with people who think differently. In the classroom, students learn soft skills and smoothen their rough edges. The classroom is not just an academic space; it humanises us.  

But a classroom with a boring or mediocre teacher is an unacceptable waste of time…and this happens too often around here. In the old days, boring teachers were a necessity for they had classified information nobody else had access to.

Today, information is readily available. So, if a teacher cannot put anything original on the table, he or she is out of place. Every teacher today is called to be a true neo-Socrates.

The teacher of the 21st century should be less a producer of information and more an organiser of knowledge. The classroom experience must be expanded and transformed to take advantage of new technologies, transport and communication that allow students to experience the world and interact with other cultures, peoples, teachers and institutions.

Faster, more pragmatic and deeper education

Legal education worldwide rides on an antiquated education system. Studying law should be one of the most exciting adventures in life. It is about justice, about solving people’s problems, about making society work better.

Some students feel this way, but many are lost in the process, and our rigid university structure isn’t helping.

Academic instruction in the modern world will be faster, more pragmatic and deeper. It will be more like executive education. These changes will affect legal education in its very essence.

We need to rethink our university education model. Our disjointed legal education will not thrive within a mediocre university system. So, the change starts down there…at the very core of what universities are doing and how they are organised.

Next week, we will go deeper into what is happening to legal education; then the following week we will examine the court system and finally, we will look at the practice of law.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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