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Ministry of Education

The Telescope


Patriotism, or if you like national loyalty, is the love and devotion to ones country. This sentiment is closely related to nationalism where a group of individuals identify themselves with the nation based on political ideology, common cultural characteristics or even common religion or race.

But where do we draw the line between patriotism and nationalism? A clear line cannot be drawn but there is a positive and destructive side to both patriotism and nationalism.

The destructive force kicks in when one group of nationalists try to dominate others and refuses any form of criticism or elucidation. Patriotism becomes a problem when it is blind to the problems it causes the nation.

Blind patriotism is fanatical. It is also called chauvinism and can never lead to fascism.

As Mark Twain put it, “The true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it”.

Today, Kenya confronts several challenges but the teachers strike still tops the chart. Seemingly, the conversation has evoked some passionate and heated debates over the past few weeks but like so many second-order priorities the Government risks letting the matter overshadow the real business of running an economy at its all tSRCchairime peak at the moment.

Truth is that the teachers issue runs deeper than what meets the eye.It’s also plain to see that at this point even the teachers representatives have lost focus of what is important. Rather than seeking a solution that will see teachers resume back to their duties news bulletins have over the recent past been flawed with mortifying threats between the Cabinet Secretary of Education, Teachers Unions representatives, Salaries and Remuneration chair among other quarters.

This stuff is just embarrassing and such destruction may drive popularity ratings among Kenyans for those involved but it’s in bad taste and diminishes the Kenyan brand- much to the delight of those stirring the pot but they do not advance the vital national discussion about the problem on the ground.

Stakeholders must ultimately unite around an answer that recognizes the gravity of the circumstances surrounding the strike and the urgency of implementing corrective measures. Teachers back at home want to hear solutions on the issues not the internal strife marred with brazen mudslinging and hate advertisements.

Also there is no great mystery here, we all witnessed in utter dismay this week when the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy-Cord took on the teachers issue on a public stage in their breathtaking contrast of a solution finding mission that backfired badly on them.

It’s not lost to many that CORD is manufacturing an outrage in part to undermine the Government, in part because they hope to tarnish President Uhuru Kenyatta’s name and in part, because we are quickly approachiPresident Uhuru Kenyattang the next elections and this is an opportunity to rile up its base for fundraising purposes.

However that aside good leadership means dealing with second order issues quickly and efficiently and not allowing them to ferment and dominate the political discourse for days or weeks on end while matters that actually make a tangible difference to our living are allowed to take a back seat.

For the government, the country borders between the boundary of decency and ridiculousness a solution is needed, now.

This article was published on the People Weekend on September 26-27,2015


International Mother Language Day

The United Nations International Mother Language Day celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide. The event that was quietly marked yesterday promotes linguistic and cultural diversity.

Created by UNs Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on November 17, 1999, it has been observed every year since February 2000. The date represents the day in 1952 when students from different educational institutions demonstrated for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan and were shot dead by police in the capital of present-day Bangladesh.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 12.56.45 PM

The United Nations General Assembly by the same resolution, proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multi-lingualism and multi-culturalism.

By extension, Unesco in Africa declared 2006 the year of African languages. In spite of this, the language policy in Kenya continues to be tilted in favour of English and to some extent Swahili, at the expense of mother tongue.

The importance of mother tongue in cognitive, linguistic, personal and educational development of children is crucial and this cannot be over emphasised. Granted, the question of language and identity has been a thorny issue in most African countries ever since they attained independence from their colonial masters.

There is a scenario that keeps unfolding in the country as the Education ministry struggles to assert the status of our mother tongues in the education system. The move always attracts support and dissent in equal measure.Opponents argue it will heighten negative ethnicity and may even lower the quality of education offered. But proponents see massive benefits to the child, both in the quality of learning and appreciation of themselves.

Mother tongue is important in moulding a society to be able to provide homegrown solutions to local problems.But these benefits have been shrouded by stereotypic notions, social injustices and tribalism.

The undercurrent of tribal division is undeniably gaining momentum fast. We seem to be on a slippery trajectory towards disintegration.

Cohesion must be a mutual venture. Instead of pointing fingers, we must take up the responsibility in willing to be a nation that refuses to be torn along tribal lines. We must walk towards building confidence among all communities.

(This article was published on February 22, 2015 on People Daily Kenya