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Rise in child abuse numbers should prick our conscience: The Standard

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Recent spikes in violence against children, rape and unintended child pregnancies are scary. Labour and Social Protection ministry released their Child Against Violence 2019 Survey this week. The findings illuminate what is behind this vicious current curve and what needs to flatten this other pandemic. 

The report indicates that more than one in three homes are currently emotionally and physically unsafe for children. By the time girls and boys reach the age of five, they have personally experienced or seen others experience physical or verbal abuse by a parent, a caregiver, or another adult.
Schools are not necessarily any safer. One in five girls experience unwanted sexual attention or approaches by their classmates. By the time they are teenagers, nearly half of minors think that corporal punishment is necessary both at home and at school. 
The survey demolishes the myth that only girls are emotionally, physically and sexually violated. Boys between the ages of 18 and 24 are 9 per cent more likely to be beaten than girls in their homes. However, girls between the ages of 13 and 17 are twice as likely to be emotionally bullied and intimidated than boys. They are also at much more risk from defilement, rape and sexual violence. Although not covered in the study, one can only wonder what the statistics of gender non-conforming individuals from the LGBTIQ communities would look like. The findings are stark and given what is happening during this Covid-19, it must wake us up. 

SEE ALSO: KRA’s misses its target by a record margin Sh350 billion

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It is worth also absorbing an encouraging point in the 2019 report. The last time the government ran such a comprehensive study, the trends were far worse. In the last decade, sexual, emotional and physical violence against children has roughly halved. Boys are doing better.
They experience less emotional and sexual violence today than the previous generation. There are probably a lot of drivers for this. They include a new constitution and new laws that forbid female genital mutilation, corporal punishment, defilement and child marriages. Reducing levels of absolute poverty, HIV and Aids and increasing access to primary and secondary education and child help-desks at police stations are other factors. Despite this progress, we should ask why there has not been a significant reduction in violence against boys and girls over the last decade? There are several areas that need the nation’s focus.
The first two lie in the lack of civic and political leadership. The absence of age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education is a major driver of child abuse and violence. There have been several attempts to introduce progressive reproductive health legislation and strengthen school and out of school programmes.
Today, Senator Susan Kihika is being viciously and uncompromisingly fought by religious conservatives with no alternatives to offer the nation worried by the above statistics. 
We also, as a nation, do not have way forward on how to treat consensual sexual relations between minors of the same age. Boys who have sex with girls remain criminalised under our laws. Without a national consensus among adults, these two important gaps remain controversial and the cost is borne by children. 

SEE ALSO: Warder nabbed in act with patient

Despite progress, our courts remain child unfriendly. Under the Victim Protection Act (2014) and the Children’s Act (2012) children have a right to give evidence in closed courts or behind a protective cover. They also have a right to witness protection.
Listening to a defilement case in an open court prior to my case left me so traumatised I pleaded guilty and apologised profusely for taking up the court’s time. We need to invest more in free legal, medical and psycho-social services for survivors. Our judicial, police and medical officers need more training on how to care and treat them with dignity and a sense of justice. 
As we press for a more child-friendly criminal justice system, we have to proactively create homes, communities and a country that is safe for all children. Rights based parenting is critical for this. Coaching children on understanding their rights, conflict avoidance, self-defense and speaking out safely are good first steps. There is no point during this season of Covid-19 telling each other to stay home to stay safe when levels of violence are this high. Kenia Ngamau spoke for her generation recently. She publicly demanded of her mother’s generation “to stop having sex with children.” We must listen to her and others and arrest this now. 
-The writer is Amnesty International Executive Director. The views are personal. Email: [email protected]

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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