Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why do they hate children?

The Chairman of the Kenya Tourism Federation wrote an open letter to the students of Kenya's boarding schools entitled "An open letter to students turned arsonists". He did not mince words nor hold back his views. The main thrust of his missive seems to be that regardless of the circumstances prevailing in boarding schools, schoolchildren should only react by "being able to express themselves without resorting to idiotic violent means". It seems that his argument is that schoolchildren should never, ever resort to violence, and if they do, they should face the full force of the law, including imprisonment where they will meet others like them who will teach them a lesson.

The Chairman of the Kenya Examinations Council was not to be left behind. He warned all children who were learning in schools whose facilities had been set aside that regardless of how many schools the students burned down, the examinations body would administer the exams, even if it meant doing so under trees. He warned the children that his council would not be intimidated by the ongoing unrest in schools. He and his council would not be moved by the demands of the children.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education, however, takes the cake. In a stemwinder of a press conference, she covered familiar ground regarding the reasons for the student unrest. National examinations, and the desire by children to cheat in them, featured prominently in her assessment of the basis of the recent unrest. She had similarly hard truths to impart on the children: not only would she encourage the prosecution of any child accused of participating in school unrest, she encouraged the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to refuse to grant them certificates of good conduct in future. In addition, she would make sure that their school leaving papers indicated that they were troublemakers and should be denied a university education and, with it, any opportunity to make something of themselves. She did not just want them to be punished; she wanted their lives to be destroyed.

Government in all its manifestations, and the men who agree with Government's current policies, seems to be in the throes of an anti-child programme of astonishing width and depth. It started with the ham-fisted manner in which the Free Maternity programme was implemented, and then sabotaged, by Ministry of Health officials and their boosters. Then came the multi-billion shilling disaster that was the School Laptops Programme and the fascist way in which the new competence-based curriculum is being rammed down our throats. And this is just the official Government position on things that fundamentally affect the lives of Kenyan children.

But with the recent tirade by the Cabinet Secretary regarding student unrest it is now patently clear that no one in that Ministry gives two shits about the welfare of children. I initially thought that the manner in which the twin disasters at Moi Girls Nairobi had been dealt with had something to do with the powerful parents in that school who intervened in force. But by declaring her support for setting policemen on children for violent protests without addressing the root causes of the violence, I know for damn sure that she does not care at all. What she, and the Government she serves, want is to be obeyed without question and we should be grateful for any small accommodation Government makes.

Children should not set dormitories and other school property on fire. However, when they are brutalised by their teachers, when they are housed like badly treated pets, when their nourishment is of a quality that will make a billy goat puke, when they are denied every single avenue to decompress in the name of high passmarks, and when they are isolated from their parents and other social structures so that the truth about their straitened circumstances remains a secret, the only avenue is violence and I cannot in good conscience hold it against them. That Government, in the haughty demeanour of the Cabinet Secretary and the hostile arrogance of the KNEC supremo, cannot imagine the legitimacy and urgency of the children's demands should be a stark warning about the future and a reminder of the past: disobey us and we will end you. What should scare the bejeesus out of you is that there are influential members of the business community who think that this attitude is the right one.

It is astonishing that a country can be held hostage to the fascist designs of a few men and women. It is astonishing that the debate about the turn of things is confined to social media. But it is utterly crazy that we seem on a rail track headed for Armageddon and it seems that there is nothing we can do about it. What I don't understand is why they hate children with such violent viscera? Do you know?

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