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MWALIMU ANDREW: Happy emotions as this column turns 10 years!

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By MWALIMU ANDREW
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I grew up in Munyanza village, a small, evergreen hamlet in the small intestines of Kakamega County.

It’s a lovely place, where once food is set on our tables, we wash hands in River Yala.

In the past few years, Munyanza has seen some development and that is why I call it Mwisho wa Lami; otherwise when I was growing up, it was Mwisho wa Dunia — literally.

I loved Munyanza. I still do. Growing up, other than herding cattle, committing juvenile mischief, and swimming in River Yala, I loved reading.

I read everything I could lay my hands on: school textbooks, the Bible, magazines, novels, and newspapers — the Sunday Nation in particular.

I literally consumed Wahome Mutahi’s “Whispers” column so much that I collected all Whispers articles I could get and filed them.

While I enjoyed the stories from the slopes, where the Son of the Soil was born and bred, I always thought there were some interesting chronicles from Munyanza — sorry, Mwisho wa Lami — that; if I met Whispers, I would tell him to consider featuring in his acclaimed column.

Like the story of Ratiko, the village doctor whose only qualification was that he served as a messenger at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for long.

Or Hitler, whose many years of dedicated service to quench the throats of Mwisho wa Lami men and women is legendary.

There were the stories of the local primary school, and the teachers in particular.

There was this one who took 20 years to complete his house as he personally carried sand and koto on his bicycle; that other one who was always on interdiction, and yet another so mean he wouldn’t donate his saliva to a dying man …

Unfortunately, Whispers died before I could meet him, and share with him these stories that I thought were funny.

Six years after his demise, I convinced some friends of development at Sunday Nation that I had some interesting stories from Mwisho wa Lami.

When the first piece appeared, on March 28, 2009, I was a young teacher just two years into the Teacher Service Commission (TSC) job; I was ambitious and never thought I would still be teaching in three years.

There would be an opening for an Assistant Chief’s job in two years. Who knew? I could even contest for an MCA position.

My father Dan — but we always call him Caleb here — was proud of me then, for he still had hopes that I could end up being something.

My mother Agnetta loved me, just as she still does. I was still staying in my parents’ compound, eating from mother Agnetta’s kitchen like a calf sucks from the mother’s udder.

I had no plans to start a degree course, and only owned a bicycle! A Raleigh bicycle that I had acquired on hire purchase.

I was yet to meet Fiolina, nor was Sospeter born. But I had met Catherina. I had known Catherina socially, professionally and biblically, although Branton would arrive two years later.

I had not yet met Bensouda, and I wish I had never met Kuya. Nzomo, Sella, Lena, Erick were just names.

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Friends and enemies, it’s been 10 years of me sharing Mwisho wa Lami stories. Ten years of my life being out there in public; and I am so honoured that you have stayed with me.

I am still an ordinary schoolteacher; in the same school, same village. That however is the only constant, a lot other has changed.

I am now a married man who held the only fresh wedding in this area.

I have one great son called Sospeter, plus another rascal called Branton, whom I accepted as my CSR contribution to humanity, despite the boy not being mine.

There are rumours about some other child that people say looks like me, but you know this world is full of enemies of progress.

I moved from my father’s nest into my own state-of-the-art bungalow that will remain the talk of Mwisho wa Lami for years to come.

I graduated from a bicycle to a motorcycle, then to a car. Envious people still remind me that the car hasn’t moved an inch since last December.

It doesn’t matter, when the national census is done later this year, I am one of those people who will be recorded to be an owner of a car!

I joined the pedagogically acclaimed Kenyatta University and, were it not for the little matter of a unit called Statistics, I would have graduated long ago. I am now a deputy HM, and the de-facto HM of this school.

Have I mentioned my dressing? I drastically changed my dressing from outdated green Kaunda suits to stylish, modern pure polyester, blue Kaunda suits. Relations with my father nosedived, but am I to blame really?

There was no way I was going to give him my full salary to plan for me.

What am I trying to say here? I am saying four things. The first is to thank my friends at Sunday Nation for allowing me to share Mwisho wa Lami stories with the world.

Secondly is to thank you my readers — or fans as you call yourselves in emails to me — for staying with me all along, even when nothing much happened here and my writings were flat; for always encouraging me, and occasionally telling me off when I got it wrong.

To the people of Mwisho wa Lami, a big thank you for allowing me to share your stories; it’s not easy doing things and reading them on Sunday.

Particularly my staff mates at Mwisho wa Lami Primary. Special thanks to my family: my brother Pius and sister Caro; Senje Albina and my big sister Yunia.

Thanks, too, to Fiolina, the laugh of my life, who reminds me every week that I have to write.

And finally, I want to welcome Professor George Magoha to the Ministry of Education. And to tell him that ministers (or is it CSs) come and go.

But we teachers remain. There have been like seven ministers since I started writing. Some left a mark, others left a mat.

I believe you will leave a mark. Because in us teachers, you have allies, experienced professionals who will help you navigate the tough terrain that is the education sector in Kenya. Give us a call, Prof, and let us help you.

Here is to another 10 years!



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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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