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NDEMO: Millennials have a place in Africa’s socio-cultural development

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By BITANGE NDEMO
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That the African socio-cultural development (sometimes referred to social change) is under severe disruption is in no doubt.

However, we rarely stop to think what sort of future we are likely to have, and the implications on our interactions and culture, although our future will be dictated by this nexus.

Socio-cultural development is defined as an idea that emphasises the interaction between developing people and the culture in which they live in. This notion also suggests that human learning is largely a social process.

Psychologists refer to this same concept as ”socio-cultural perspective.” Andrea McKay has made the following observation on this concept:

The sociocultural perspective is one approach to understanding why humans behave the way they do. The sociocultural perspective seeks to understand human behaviour and personality development by examining the rules of the social groups and subgroups in which the individual is a member. These rules are often unwritten guidelines that direct a person’s actions.

Since independence, we have had several largely unrecorded social change transitions. The little that is recorded is buried in books. Going forward, we can either manage this change or let it happen haphazardly with severe consequences.
Let me briefly deal with historical social changes and how they continue to impact our lives.

Immediately after independence, many people hoped to change their status by whatever means. Some sought for jobs in urban areas while educating their children with the hope of using them to change their social systems.
As a result, rural urban migration started in earnest. The emerging phenomenon of moving into urban areas caught the attention of then President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta when he launched the rudi mashamabani (back to the land) policy initiative which failed. There was no land for people to move to and where there was little, it wasn’t enough to sustain the livelihood. The rich had taken much of the land.

In my view, there have been four major social cultural shifts. The first shift was during the early colonial era and the advent of Christianity in the early 1900s, followed by late-colonial period (1930’s to late 1950’s). This change was characterised by hope that never materialised.

Then came the postcolonial period (between 1960’s and late 1980’s), which was culturally conservative, but welfarist in social-economic orientation. Where the state failed in provision of social services, citizens plugged the gap.

The fourth shift, which I call the ”millennial” as it characterised by those born in 1990’s and later, is beginning to shape up. It is far removed from the African social fabric. If the millenials fail to emulate the previous generation, a new phenomenon will arise – retirees on the streets, reminiscent of the emergence of street children that began to emerge in 1980s as the second generation failed.

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African novelists, notably Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart and Ngugi wa Thiong’o in Weep Not Child, began to record social contradictions and social change as Africans encountered colonialism and Western civilisation.

Achebe achieved this by narrating the story of Okonkwo who hailed from a respected Igbo family in Umuofia. Okonkwo’s family are depicted as farmers. Life in their village had never changed for generation until the colonist arrived.
Njoroge, the protagonist in Thiong’o’s Weep Not Child goes through an experience almost similar to that of Okonkwo when his mother decides that her son will get the white man’s education and sends him to school, to his delight. Although Njoroge, like Okonkwo, works hard and pursues education all the way to England, he discovers things weren’t as he thought they would be.

For social change had begun in societies that were once a cohesive unit. Almost everyone felt ungrounded and betrayal abound. True, there were instances of courage and heroism but it was mostly an era of disappointment as the ”learned” devoured fruits of the independence that everyone had struggled for.

In spite of these changes, those who first moved into urban areas became the godfathers of many villagers moving into the cities. In acts of untold kindness, they provided accommodation and food to strangers from their villages, sometimes at the expense of their own children.

This period, lasting between 1963 to late 1970s, was the period of generosity. There were no street children then and everyone was their brother’s keeper.

The post-independence generation, although they loved their privacy, never abandoned community, although they occasionally dealt with it at an arm’s length.

They took care of their ailing parents and community social services. However, that goodwill is now on the wane as new, more individualistic and narcissistic generation emerges.

In my view, the millennial generation is not a lost cause. There is a silver lining in their clouded lifestyle. Their indifference to our destructive, ethnised social development could be an opportunity for creating national cohesion where one’s ethnic identity does not matter.

The incidence of intermarriage among this generation is by far the highest the country has witnessed. With diminishing mother tongue skills, most have been socialised in multicultural schools, churches and communities.

As urbanisation grows, more and more of this generation will become oblivious to ethnic differences. They will become Kenyans.

Our role is to encourage their march to homogeneity as therein lies our best hope of eliminating tribalism and building nations in a fractious Africa.

The writer is an associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business.@bantigito



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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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