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GIRL ABOUT TOWN: How I learnt to keep my foot on the pedal

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By SALMA OYIER
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Many people say driving comes naturally, and most of my friends had driving as one of their (immediate) goals after campus.

But for others, like me, the word ‘naturally’ and ‘driving’ do not seem compatible; I mean how can they appear in the same sentence? — they are like oil and water.

After completing university, most of my friends went to driving school, at least those who had not been paid for by their parents after high school. My campus mates’ goals were to get good jobs then buy cars as soon as possible. It was the sign of ‘we have made it’. And besides that, there were some lucrative NGO jobs that required driving skills; and hadn’t we all been applying for those ones!

And though I dreamed of owning a car, the thought of driving made me shiver, literary.

So I thought to myself, perhaps I just need a driver. If I can only work hard enough, I can buy a car and hire someone to drive me around.

Of course reality checked in, and many years later I could not even afford to buy a car. Then I started saving up and eventually got a better job that allowed me to save some more, and I too, like the perfect middle class person, started thinking that a car should be somewhere in the horizon.

I registered for driving lessons at one of those schools considered top-notch. The first theory sessions were great and made everything look easy-peasy.

Day one of my practical session, the instructor asks me to get into the driver’s seat. But, “I thought you are supposed to first show me how to do it before I try it.” How wrong I was. I eventually got into the driver’s seat and tried my best to pay attention despite my nerves as my instructor explained the various parts of the car and how they work.

Then he said “Turn on the ignition.”

“What?” I asked, not accepting that it was time to be behind the wheel.

He gave me that look, that no nonsense look — you know, the kind that tells you to stop talking and start doing because there’s no way out of this. And I had heard rumours about how he was a very strict instructor.

So, I turned on the ignition, stepped on the fuel pedal before releasing the handbrake, and I forgot all the lessons on balancing the clutch and the throttle — everything evaporated from my head as I struggled to remember what pedal I was supposed to step on.

Panic set in and I was sweating profusely as I kept shifting my foot from one pedal to the other and the car lurched forward then stalled with a sort of grunt. I froze on the wheel, tightened my grip until my pretty chocolate skin turned white on the knuckles; eyes bulging, body leaning forward. I moved my feet off the pedals as my instructor asked if I wanted to crash the car.

I didn’t want to leave my ‘safe position’. And I was stuck gripping the steering wheel for a while.

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The instructor kept talking but I could not hear anything. At some point, he called my name softly and asked me to relax before we continued. My eyes started tearing and I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. What was I thinking? Me, driving?

My hopes of buying a car were shattered at that instant; and the images of the various cars I had been comparing for a few weeks were shredded to pieces in my mind. And all I could see was just me looking like a rained-on cat, crying myself hoarse in front of a stranger and making a fool out of myself.

I have never cried like I did that day, and suddenly I felt an urgent need to go to the bathroom, in between having hot flashes and still being unable to control my tears.

After a few minutes, I collected myself and told my instructor I wanted to go home. He asked me to relax first in the car before I left.

Then he began this story on how he learnt how to drive, and his first experience was in a tractor. He had always been scared yet his family expected all boys to know how to use it for farming. One of his younger sisters made fun of him because she could commandeer that monster of farm equipment and he couldn’t bring himself to even get up on it.

But one day, when everyone was away, some devil lied to him that he could teach himself to drive the tractor and he climbed up and began doing what he thought he had seen his father doing.

He struggled for a while until he was able to lift one lever, but now the tractor was moving backwards towards the cow shed and he couldn’t figure out how to stop it, so he jumped off and it crashed into the shed and stopped by some beams. Luckily, he only grazed his knees and got a little dusty but he was quite shaken — not really with the timely escape from danger, but in fear of what his father would say, especially about his cows. Because his father loved his cows more than many other things.

Lucky for him, the cows were out grazing.

He first told his mother when she came home and she looked him up to make sure he was okay then went to inspect the damage. She did not say anything.

And sure enough, when his father came home, the first thing he asked was if the cows were okay. His mother said they were okay but their son was slightly injured. His father looked him up, then, with a scowl, said: “I did not ask about him; is he a cow?”

But in a few minutes, with a sly smile and pulling his son close to him, he said: “You are now a man my son. We need to properly train you or the next time you will destroy your mother’s house.”

I was really amused by the story and started laughing, though in hindsight I don’t think it was that funny. But yes, I laughed away the nervousness and Mr Instructor asked: “Shall we try again?” His smile was enough to make me try again. And this time, I moved a few inches forward.



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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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