Growing up as a curious little boy up in the mountains, I had fantastic views of stuff to puzzle over.
I could see distant mountains and dark forests, I could see the northern plains all the way to Egypt, or so it seemed, and at night I could see the occasional lights of distant cars.
My first intellectual puzzle was the concept of a storied building. The nearest town was almost 10 kilometres away and I had never been there.
I spent many hours staring at my mother’s favourite cupboard, which was mounted high on the wall, and I came to the conclusion that tall buildings were like that cupboard.
How people moved from one shelf to the next remained a very serious problem until I took my very first ride to town.
We lived in the shadow of the mountain and so, until just the other day, TV signals never got to us. There was the radio, some old books and the occasional newspaper.
We lived in a world without information; an information desert. My first book (probably written before the Big Bang; it was very old) was “King of the Undersea City” — about a boy and a submarine.
I don’t remember the plot but I loved it and read it for many years; it is the text with which I learnt to read.
Another thing that was missing from our lives was government. Besides a school, where the teachers had something to do with it, there was a sub-chief’s (as assistant chiefs were then known) camp at the shopping centre.
I often saw it because it was near the coffee factory which we frequented.
People sat on wooden benches in front of a timber house with iron sheets and accused each other before a severe man in uniform.
The chief’s office was in yet another shopping centre further away, which I had never been to. Nearby was the dispensary where I was born. All the other services were provided by the people.
While in central, Rift Valley and other parts of the country scouts were deployed to scour the villages for youth to be recruited into the forces and parastatals, we were on our own.
Many of the men had gone to make their fortune in Nairobi, the former White Highlands and other towns but, generally, if the community required anything, it came together and built it.
We lived off the land, forest, streams and mountains as we had done for hundreds of years. Of course, we couldn’t keep big herds anymore; our grazing lands had become farmlands for British settlers.
We couldn’t hunt in the forest, though some of our cattle were grazed there and we farmed off the shamba system.
The terrain did not allow for expansive farms. We had always bunched up into dense communities, separated from the next by precipitous gorges cut into the mountain slopes by rivers.
By the 1980s, farm sizes were quite small; today they are very small. Typically, the lion’s share of each plot would be under cash crop — tea or coffee or both — a small portion was set aside for growing food and the rest was the homestead, usually with some livestock.
For of the size of the plot, the land had to be worked intensely. If you relied on the two seasons of rain, you would never feed yourself.
So, since Independence, villages, or clusters of villages, would come together in water projects. Villagers would raise money for pipes and other materials, pay the government for God knows what, build the intakes and lay the pipes.
With the crash of the cash crop economy in the 1980s and 1990s, market gardening and dairy farming became the dominant economic activities and water one of the key factors of production.
Without water, millions of villagers in multiple counties cannot feed themselves, leave alone pay for the other services that the government does not provide.
To me, knocking down these water projects, put up with harambee money, looks like just another case of State gangsterism — where the government gives little to the people but destroys their development. The government isn’t always right.
Corrupt officials plundered the forests these communities had protected for ages and illegally settled folks in there.
All those settlers have since been removed. It will take only a little bit of encouragement for the communities to help to restore the natural resources destroyed by the mismanagement of the past two decades.
If you drive communities that have been self-reliant and independent into economic desperation by violent means, and especially where the law has not been broken, you will breed resistance and rebellion.
The government can’t license water abstraction, unilaterally cancel the licences and destroy the water systems and invite the owners to re-apply. It should identify the lawbreakers and take action on them and their water.
As a Nairobi resident, I am infuriated by the bullying of the Speaker of the Nairobi County Assembly, Ms Beatrice Elachi, by MCAs.
I don’t know the Speaker but I think she is doing the right thing by insisting on financial propriety in the running of the assembly.
It is a disgrace that neither the police, governor, political parties or civil society have strongly come to her rescue.
So far, only female politicians have stood with her. If you don’t stand with a public officer who is under attack for doing the right thing, what right do you have to expect good government?
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.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
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.