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JACKIE OCHOLA: Young people need to know of existing options

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By DICTA ASIIMWE
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Jackie Ochola joined Andela in July this year after an extensive career as an engineer and a business leader.

Before joining Andela, she was the Country Lead for Nokia/Alcatel-Lucent. She is now tasked with overseeing all Andela activities in the country.

Ochola attended Gayaza High School, Wakiso, the oldest girls school in Uganda founded in 1905 by the church missionary society. She later joined Makerere University for her undergraduate studies.

She has a Bsc in Electrical Engineering from Makerere (1998) and an MCM Telecommunications Management from Coventry University in the United Kingdom (2007).

In her spare time she volunteers for career guidance talks to high school students. She dedicates her time to issues of science and technology, arts and culture, children, economic empowerment, education and human rights.

She says: “In line with this, I am an active old girl of my high school, Gayaza High school. I participate in all programmes that the Old Girls’ Association runs. I do career guidance at the school whenever we have career fairs. I also do career guidance in a number of other schools.
I am dedicated to this because I believe that young people need to know of the existing options out there. In technology especially, the options that would interest people keep growing, through career guidance, you provide options.

“I am also currently part of a team that runs a book project at the Butabika National Mental Referral Hospital. We speak to patients in the recovery unit about self-development, self-value and overcoming personal challenges.”

Andela software engineers are largely employed out of the financial capitals of the world like New York, San Francisco and London. But some East African companies like Safaricom get some of their applications developed by Andela, a company that operates the business process outsourcing model. Most of seed capital comes from Silicon Valley.

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What is your off duty passion?

Transformative leadership. I believe that everyone has it in them to achieve great things but are held back by misconceptions, self-limiting ideas, low esteem and self-doubt. So I help such people realise their potential.

But I also love a good laugh and enjoy conversation. I am in the tech world, but I am not a slave to technology. So it is not unusual to find me on a Saturday at 11am having breakfast with friends at a restaurant and chatting up to about 4pm.

What would you have been had you not gone into tech?

A teacher, I believe. When I am older and not as energetic anymore, I will retire into a teaching role or perhaps a human resources management role.

What is your personal style?

Classy, colourful, bright and decent. I prefer comfortably, clothes but I am more into style than comfort, with skirts and dresses above knee length but decent.

How do you manage your wardrobe?

I used to have a shopping programme to upgrade my wardrobe every six months. I had basic business suits and some bits of casual wear for the weekend. Lately, I am more into African wear and I tend to buy clothes whenever I find them. If I like it, I buy it. Currently I go to work in three quarter pants, or jeans and T-shirts because at Andela we are flexible about what people wear. I dress up for meetings though, so my wardrobe is varied, from formal to smart casual.

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While in East Africa, where are you likely to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Right now it would be Kampala because of work. But I like Nairobi since it mirrors my impatient personality. Nairobi moves more at my pace. It is also a city of options. If you are looking for a variety of restaurants, or a flight to any destination, Nairobi has a sea of options.

I guess then that your best destination in East Africa would be Nairobi?

Yes. I love Nairobi. Although for a holiday getaway, Zanzibar is my first choice. The island brings out the richness in life with its colours and tastes.

Do you have a must visit list?

Yes. I have done quite a bit of travelling and I have visited about 35 countries already. My bucket list has Italy, Singapore, India and Brazil. Italy for the food and fashion; Singapore for its transformative leadership and how it moved on from being classified as a Third World country in 30 years. And of course India for its monuments, the crowds and the fast economy. Brazil is on my list because I am curious about Samba.

What in your view is East Africa’s greatest strength?

A young and hungry population.

Do you have a best collection?

Books. I love classics. Shakespeare and Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book I reread) are my favourites. I like books that look into the human psyche.

What big read have you finished recently?

Thinking, Fast and Slow by American psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Currently I am reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It is about the evolution of humanity through the ages.

What is the most thoughtful gift you have ever received?

A car radio from my sister. It is the kind of gift that keeps giving. I think it was a birthday gift. My car radio was short range FM. Then she got me this long range one with a CD player. I have had it for over a decade now and it is still giving. I don’t know if she thought that much about it, but I have appreciated it so much.

What is the best gift you have ever given?

I receive gifts more than I give. But my younger sister was going to school in Nairobi and before she left, I found that the sweater she had was not warm enough. I told her Nairobi was really cold, and I had to force her to take my warm jumper because she didn’t think it was that bad. She called me when she got to Nairobi and thanked me profusely for saving her life. I think that was the most heartfelt gratitude I have received from one person.

Any film you have watched that impacted your life?

In Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. It taught me that life can be a struggle and that people that you trust the most can let you down. But just because everything has gone wrong for you doesn’t mean you should do the same to others. That people should strive to make others happy regardless of what is happening in their lives.

How do you stay informed in this fast-paced tech world?

I read a lot and subscribe to a number of newsletters on global trends and participate in different fora. For example, in Uganda we have the ICT association and I am a member of Toastmasters Uganda, where we have a diverse membership from different fields and backgrounds. I watch the news and follow social media keenly, but I also talk to people to know what is happening all over the place.

What item is never missing from your fridge?
Passion juice.

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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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