When faced with a difficult situation in life we are often told to seek relief in the fact that it could have been worse. However, this truism appears to defy reason in the case of Kenya’s ongoing strikes because of where we are.
The situation is so bad and the worst is for public service system to fall apart along with the Government whose top guns are busy campaigning, probably from public demonstrations. This querulous Government should be told this is the scary prospect it might have to grapple with soon.
For what we are witnessing might metamorphose into something more sinister, dreadful and devastating. Consider the fact for three weeks now, children in public schools have been at home. Parents have paid the fees, but the end of strike isn’t in sight, and as always there will be no refunds.
Even the next term is not certain and, from the look of things, we might be in for the long haul. That is why even as the Government insists national exams will go on as scheduled, teachers are asking who will invigilate and mark. The state of catharsis is discernible from the fact that every home in Kenya has a school, a teacher, and most likely a patient or health official. But that is not enough. While public schools are grounded, the privileged few who can afford private schools’ fees, are moving on as if nothing is happening.
It is the same case with doctors’ strike. The victims are the poor who rely on subsidised treatment at Government hospitals. But now the wards are being emptied, and as a spot-check by this newspaper revealed, though the Government isn’t admitting it, the situation is one of shocking misery and human suffering. But again, as agony spews out of many Kenyan homes, the few who can afford the exorbitant cost of medicare in private hospitals live on as if nothing is happening.
The third strike, by lecturers, again targets Kenya’s ordinary man and woman. Those who can afford the high cost of education in private universities are literally in a different world, untouched by the current crisis.
But as if it can’t get worse, nurses and clinicians too, who are the backbone of our hospital system might soon join in. At that point, the Government might wake up from its stupor and realise the country could be headed for a class war, the poor against the rich, whose representation is the Government.
The point we are making is not that this blundering Government does not know – it just does not care.
This is probably because elections are around the corner, and the President who is facing retirement might just be telling himself this is a problem for the next regime.
The signs are clear; we are not faced by an economic but leadership problem too. Instead of negotiating with teachers, Government bureaucrats are trying to raise up national emotions against the striking groups.