Christmas season is a moment of moral reflection and regeneration.
As some 2.4 billion Christians, out of about 7.2 billion human population, prepare to celebrate the 2018th birthday of Jesus Christ, the world is sliding into a profound crisis of values.
In Kenya, 2018 was marred by a string of mega-corruption scandals, spine-chilling murders and other heinous crimes, revealing a serious breakdown of national values.
This was a serious setback on Kenya’s aspiration for a value-based social order, immortalised by the National Anthem, itself a solemn prayer that expresses the aspirations of the founding fathers to anchor the new Kenyan nation on the immutable values of justice, unity, peace, liberty (human rights and freedom), prosperity, patriotism and hard work.
The jubilee administration’s real legacy is national unity and integrity based on solid national values — understood generally as accepted principles, beliefs and traditions that define both the good, desirable and useful as well as the undesirable and unacceptable.
It needs no gainsaying that national values are the soul of nations and civilisations.
In Pharaonic Egypt, the elevation of justice into the highest value gave us the iconic Scale of Justice that now symbolise the rule of law, human rights and principles of good governance.
In ancient Babylon, Hammurabi collected national values in a code with a very clear sense of good and bad, emphasising justice as the highest value and setting out physical punishment of the perpetrator.
In Ancient Rome, Marcus Tullius Cicero is remembered for his principled and brilliant fight against corruption and bribery that rocked the Roman Republic.
In Kenya, as elsewhere, the decay of values reflects a parallel crisis of capitalism, the worst ever, everywhere exacting a heavy toll on national values and creating dysfunctional societies.
Kenya’s millennial generation is the most affected by the crisis.
Like its global counterparts, it has fallen into what the Anglican priest Frederick Donaldson, once described as the “Seven Social Sins”: Wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice; and politics without principle.
In our age of knowledge, the university in Africa has a major role to play in promoting a value-based society where leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, lead a life of integrity and respect social order.
This week, three events demonstrated the role of the university in creating a cohesive nation based on solid national values.
First was the University of Nairobi’s 60th graduation ceremony officiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday, and where Deputy President William Ruto graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Plant Ecology.
Ruto joined a special class of African leaders to ever achieve a PhD while in office or before clinching national leadership, including Professor John Atta Mills of Ghana (1944 — 2012).
By maintaining a delicate balance between a hectic schedule as Deputy President and research over a period of six years, Ruto demonstrated the values of hard work; perseverance; devotion; dedication and sacrifice as part of our national heritage.
The event also highlighted the need for national leaders to respect institutions and the regulations governing them.
Naturally, Ruto, who enrolled for his doctoral studies in August 2012, would have liked to graduate in 2016 before the heady 2017 election.
He worked patiently to meet the requirements of the University.
On the graduation day, he was seated by 7.00am when the event started, and patiently sat with his classmates, chatting and taking ‘selfies’ as they waited for the conferment.
Despite being the second in command, when President Kenyatta arrived to officiate the event, Ruto stayed put and calmly on his seat.
He stood patiently in the sun in an academic procession of 99 graduands as he waited for his name to be called before he walked to the podium for conferment of his degree.
During the event, President Kenyatta underscored the mission of the university to “produce academicians who impart knowledge to create cohesiveness … a united and prosperous nation”.
The second event was the “Stakeholders Forum on National Values and Principles of Governance” held at Kenyatta University, my alma mater, to which I was a guest speaker on December 18, 2018.
The event was part of Kenyatta University’s commitment to promote national values.
And as the Vice Chancellor, Prof Paul Wainaina, a philosopher and educationist, noted the institution has used diverse platforms to create awareness of these values among its students, staff and other stakeholders.
These include the appointment of a national values committee, which has undertaken activities to create awareness and spearhead the mainstreaming of national values in the university and conducted a nomination to identify and recognise national values champions within the university.
The third development points to the need for the university to help resolve the moral crisis facing Kenya’s young people.
Recently, President Kenyatta appointed the 91-year old former vice president Moody Awori to be in charge of the Sports Fund, sparking outrage online as young Kenyans accused the President of reneging on his promise to include youth in his government appointments.
The president subtly dismissed young people in Kenya as thieves who cannot be entrusted with public funds, arguing that older men will prevent cartels from stealing the money at the Fund.
This stoked the ire of young people in social media, feeding into the acrimonious debate on the moral disposition of the millennial generation.
We need to support the universities and the education system to be useful instrument in building a moral society.
Prof Kagwanja is the Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
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.
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.
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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.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
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
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
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.
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.
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.