Doreen Kessy, 30, is the chief business officer of Ubongo Learning, a five year old Tanzania-based social enterprise focusing on edutainment.
Ubongo is among 30 enterprises worldwide nominated for the Next Billion EdTech prize in recognition of the innovative use of technology in impact education in low income and emerging economies.
Ubongo provides localised fun content for children through a multi-platform educational media, and so far reaches over 10 million households in 31 African countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
The programmes are disseminated through television, radio, the Internet as well interactive cell phone services which engage their audience.
One of the popular programmes is the educational cartoons Akili and Me and Ubongo Kids, animated shows featuring African folk stories, songs and characters.
Akili and Me teaches early literacy, numeracy, English as a second language and motor skills to three and six-year olds, while Ubongo Kids teaches seven to 14-year olds numeracy, science and life skills through animated songs and oration.
Kessy say of Ubongo; “We believe that it is critical to invest in children’s minds, equipping them with life skills that will help them become successful in life.”
Ubongo Learning is funded by partners such a the Human Development Innovation Fund, Omidyar Network, the Grant Challenges Canada, the Goodal Foundation and Data for Local Impact innovation challenge.
Co-founder and chief executive office Nisha Ligon says; “We are looking beyond winning the $25,000 EdTech prize and we are proud that we have been recognised as one of the organisations having a big impact on education. It is both incredible and quite frankly, encouraging.’’
Keesy believes Ubongo’s presence at the education conference and prize-giving ceremony in Dubai on March 22-24 will open more doors for the organisation.
She spoke to Caroline Uliwa about her off-duty passion.
What’s your off duty passion?
I am into interior design. I think energy is a currency and you need to be in an environment that really helps you thrive and flourish as a human being.
And for the same reason I’m passionate about working out because it says I love me and I am willing to invest in me. I always say I am committed to Doreen first because if I take care of myself, then I can take care of other people.
What would you do if you weren’t a business manager?
I aspire to be a life coach. I like to motivate others to be the best version of themselves.
What is your personal style?
My hair is a big statement and I have never had weaves or anything else because I really like to make a statement with my natural hair.
It might not match the typical corporate look, my work and not my image speaks for itself. I have been asked whether I am an artist or musician because of my afro hair.
While in East Africa where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?
At home, meeting up with friends for lunch or perhaps at a good beach hotel reading a good book when in Dar es Salaam.
Best destination yet in East Africa?
I like different places for different reasons, and I’ve been to many places in East Africa but Zanzibar is an all time favourite.
I’d go island hoping just be on a boat all day, listening to music, eating good food and chilling out. Then there is Nairobi.
Saturdays in Nairobi would find me in Karura Forest where I rent a bicycle and go cycling. Then I’d go for a two-hour yoga class at the Africa Yoga Project. That is a perfect afternoon. It sounds crazy but I plan my trips to Nairobi around these activities.
Do you have a bucket list?
Yes. On the list is Madagascar and Thailand. I visited Seychelles last year, and the trip turned out to be life changing. I would love to go back soon.
In your opinion what is East Africa’s strength?
It’s interconnectivity. All you need is an East African passport and you can get through all East African Community countries without a Visa.
Our diverse yet merging cultures aided by Kiswahili that is spoken widely in the region makes it easy for us to understand each other.
What is your best collection?
I have many mugs and fridge magnets from different countries I have visited. I try to make sure it’s particular to the country’s or city’s culture. This is how I remember the places I have visited.
What is the most thoughtful gift you have received?
I was recently given a recorder because the giver knew that I wanted to start a podcast. I thought that was so lovely and thoughtful. But I also just love it when people gift me a spa voucher and I have received several.
What is the most thoughtful gift you have given?
Taking care of my siblings. My family used to live in the US, and when I was in my 20s and attending college, I also helped take care of my five siblings by attending parent-teacher meetings or dropping them at soccer practice.
I was also working part time, doing community service and taking a full load of classes. This was not only a gift to my siblings and parents but to me also because I’m stronger today because of that experience. I had no rest day.
What big book have you have read recently?
Michelle Obama’s Becoming. It is amazing and I am glad she wrote it because many women and young girls look up to her.
She helped me answer many of my own questions for example when she is talking about her career struggles.
On her early professional life practicing law and hating it at the same time. This resonates with me.
I graduated from university and worked in a bank but I hated it because I wanted to have impact and change people’s lives not make a few people rich. Her story tells us that to succeed you have to put in some work.
What film has had the most impact on you?
When I was working in Washington DC, my mother stumbled upon the first episode of Ubongo Kids and shared it with me and my first thought was that it was exactly what I needed when I was growing up and never had. So I decided to quit my job and come back to Tanzania and make sure this quality educational content gets out to as many children as possible and that is how I ended up here. The video changed my life.
What never misses from your fridge?
Real cacao powder which I buy from Ghana and I use it for my morning smoothie. I put it in the fridge because I don’t want it to go bad. I also always have a choice of hot chilli sauce.
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.
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.
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.