By midnight tomorrow, everyone born in the year 2000 will be 18 years old.
It will mean that individuals born at the turn of the millennium, in a year welcomed with bated breath as many feared an apocalypse and a collapse of computer systems, are henceforth adults before the law.
They are now free to partake of everything meant for adults, cast votes and even give birth to the next generation of Kenyans.
The story of Kenya’s 18-year-olds is an interesting slice of the country’s history.
They were born in a year when the local mobile telephony providers were launched, when Kencell (the predecessor of today’s Airtel) and Safaricom were making baby steps that later translated to the phenomena they are today.
The 18-year-olds were just a year old when President Daniel arap Moi assented into law the Children’s Act which, among other things, outlawed corporal punishment; meaning this group has grown up in a Kenya where caning a child is an offence.
They were also a year old when the Education ministry struck out subjects like art and craft, home science, music and business education from the primary school curriculum, meaning a number of them entered their teens with little or no knowledge on tending to their clothes or whipping up simple meals at home.
This group was two years old when President Moi left power after a 24-year reign, and with it came many changes like free primary education and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) that would help build schools and even pay fees for needy learners.
In 2006, when the majority of this group had left the enclaves of their parents to get pre-primary education, Kenya adopted an earth-shattering piece of legislation — the Sexual Offences Act.
The Act prescribed punitive sentences for people found guilty of sexually abusing children. For instance, it stipulated that anyone who defiles a child aged below 11 should be locked up for life.
In 2007, when this group was just starting primary school, post-election violence almost tore Kenya apart, threatening to deny them an education and a future.
Hundreds of thousands born in 2000 have now completed secondary education and are looking forward to the next phase of their lives.
In this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations, some 279,482 eighteen-year-olds made up 27.96 per cent of the 664,479 candidates who sat the examination.
Some of the individuals born in 2000 joined primary school a year earlier, because 10,217 of them sat KCSE in 2017, which was 1.66 per cent of the 615,591 candidates.
Juliet Otieno is by no means a representative of the born-2000 group, but having turned 18 on August 5 and having emerged the best student in this year’s KCSE, she epitomises the aspirations of this group.
Juliet has grown up seeing people with mobile phones. The phones used to be bigger, pricier and fewer at the year of her birth. Back then, the handsets in the market also had ubiquitous antennae sticking out of them.
By 2014 when she was finishing primary school, 78.3 per cent of Kenyans had phones, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. A good number of the handsets owned by Kenyans then were smart phones, with the ability to perform more advanced tasks that were hitherto reserved for computers.
We asked the Pangani Girls alumna to imagine life without mobile phones.
“I think it wouldn’t have been as easy as it is in the world today”, she said. “Mobile phones have created a global village, where you can communicate with people very easily. You can exchange ideas very fast.”
Japheth Mudumah was also in the KCSE class of 2018. He sat the examination at Kakamega School, topping his class with an A- of 76 points. He turned 18 on the day Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed released this year’s KCSE examination results.
In Japheth’s view, it must have been a dull life for those who grew up without mobile gadgets. “It would be boring without phones. Now, if I want to communicate with my friends, it’s easy. Without mobile phones, life would not be that easy, because we need to communicate every day with people from other parts of the world”, he said.
What about growing up without corporal punishment? Was it a reality?
Japheth said he has witnessed situations where teachers still use canes, adding that the rod is necessary sometimes.
“At some point, I think it’s useful because it brings the students back to line”, he said.
But in Juliet’s view, caning should never be in the picture. “Banning corporal punishment was a good move because, I think, it is not an effective mode of punishment. It instils plain fear and at times the behaviour or attitude may not change. I think counselling is a better mode of correction than corporal punishment”, she argued.
Juliet’s father, Mr Paul Otieno Were, and Japheth’s uncle, Mr James Okal, both aged 50, also shared their perspectives with Lifestyle regarding the youngsters.
Mr Otieno said the fact that children born in 2000 have grown up in a digital world has positives and negatives.
“At their age, they know a lot of things that the children of before 2000 did not know,” he said.
“Sometimes there are the negative aspects. For example, the kind of literature they meet could be distracting to some extent”, added Mr Otieno.
Mr Otieno argued that growing up without corporal punishment may have had an impact on this generation.
“Even if you didn’t cane them, that element of fear brought some discipline”, said Mr Otieno, a teacher.
Mr Okal said abolition of practical subjects in primary school was a mixed bag.
“I could say there is something lacking in them. And I can also say it’s just okay because, during our days, all the other subjects were there but it was hectic work. We were doing nine subjects and you were to perform in all of them. It was a bit hard to pass all of them”, argued Mr Okal, an electrician.
Developmental psychologist John Samson Oteyo, who has a background in teaching, also weighed in on the realities of the children born in 2000 and what the future holds for them.
“There is so much that has happened after 2000 that has affected the development of children”, said Dr Oteyo, one of the lecturers at Kenyatta University’s department of psychology.
Among the changes that have happened, as those born in 2000 grew up, Dr Oteyo argued, is the increase in the number of television and FM stations.
“I grew up at a time when there was only one TV station”, he said.
The most recent one, he said, is sports betting that has caught Kenyan youth by storm.
Dr Oteyo took us back to the situation in the year 2000.
“There were a lot of myths about it; about the end of the world and such”, he said.
Newspaper reports of that year make for interesting reading.
One story in the Saturday Nation of January 1, 2000, reads: “Public and private organisations in Mombasa were on high alert yesterday in anticipation of the dreaded millennium bug”.
On New Year’s Eve, one of the stories in the Daily Nation read: “All crucial systems are at the ready to assault the Y2K millennium bug, authorities declared yesterday, amid reports of panicky withdrawals from banks”.
Another story on that New Year’s Eve edition read: “Teams of Kenyan computer experts will be working through the night, alert to the faintest hint of breakdown in, among others, the country’s electricity supply, telecommunications, hospital equipment, air control consoles, automated bank services, public water system and the railway network”.
None of the foreseen troubles happened. The predicted end of the world, Dr Oteyo said, provided an “evangelical” feel to the onset of 2000.
“It was accompanied by a liberal style. There are many things that used to be viewed as taboo but nowadays are no longer being taken as taboo”, he said.
Asked whether there are effects on the generation that has grown up with mobile phones all along, Dr Oteyo said one adverse consequence is that parents can no longer control what their children access.
“Obviously, that will have a negative influence on these children”, he said.
He also noted that the fact that this generation is wont to communicate via acronyms on mobile phones will affect their language.
The positive thing about the generation that has grown up surrounded by phones, he said, is that their creativity is likely to be higher.
With regard to growing up with a law against corporal punishment, Dr Oteyo said there was a gap in legislation. The Education ministry was right in recommending guidance and counselling, he argued, but it failed to institutionalise counselling in schools.
“These are children who have been brought up in an environment where there is no use of the cane, but the alternative equally has not been developed so well to ensure that positive gain of discipline of these children is there”, he said.
“Teachers will then resort to other methods which are negative, like hurling insults at these children. And mental violence is more dangerous than physical violence that was use of the cane”, added Dr Oteyo.
On the aspect of growing up without practical subjects in primary schools, he argued that TV and the internet provide many learning opportunities.
Asked to give a prediction of the future of the individuals born in 2000, Dr Oteyo said: “The future is bright or gloomy, based on the decisions these emerging adults make”.
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.