All seems quiet, but strong undercurrents abound everywhere

The Maragoli sub-tribe of the larger Luhya community is arguably the most peaceful and sociable. When, therefore, they heckled and unceremoniously ejected Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa from the annual Maragoli cultural festival at Mbale Town in Vihiga County, the writing was on the wall.

Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the October 26 presidential election and eventual swearing-in as Kenya’s fifth president were the bandage and gauze used to cover a festering political wound. This may have succeeded in keeping the flies at bay, but little has been done to guarantee the wounds heal cleanly. The antiseptics and antibiotics under the brand name ‘Dialogue’ have not been applied or administered; the reason why the wound will get more septic under the heat of the bandages.

Many leaders have an overrated view of their ‘importance’ in society. Hubris makes them politically myopic and less conscious of the environment in which they operate. Even as it is said that ‘it is not over till it’s over’, Wamalwa, a staunch Jubilee supporter in Western, an Opposition-leaning zone, missed the import of this idiom. It resulted in the humiliation he suffered.

Characteristic of the belief among our leaders, someone, or some evil spirit has to be responsible for bad luck. Conveniently for Wamalwa, Musalia Mudavadi was on hand to take the blame. However, that will not wash. Wamalwa’s bosses, being at the helm of the country’s leadership, and having promised to reach out to all Kenyans yet dither over actualising that promise, should be the focus of his anger.

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The Wamalwa snub is symptomatic of the anger consuming Kenyans, not just in the political arena, but in other areas too. Take education, for instance. I don’t recall the last time I heard a direct reference to ‘The Ministry of Education’ having done something, and that is because at some point, the thin line between the Ministry and the Cabinet Secretary in charge got obliterated and all condensed into one name, ‘Matiang'i’. It is always about ‘Matiang'i this’ or ‘Matiang'i that’.

But as many have come to realise, Fred Matiang'i, Cabinet Secretary for Education, comes through as anything, but a team player. I am not sure what his take on individual ministerial responsibility is, but as it is now, he is vigorously dancing atop a stool from which one leg has been yanked off. The Ministry of Education is perhaps the only one that requires several cogs to run simultaneously for smooth delivery of services. Unfortunately, Dr Matiang'i’s deportment suggests he can bypass several cogs but still deliver.

Public discourse, mostly disproving of Matiang'i’s style of doing things, followed the speedy release of the 2017 Kenya Secondary Schools Certificate of Education results that recorded massive failure by many candidates. Indeed, several fundamental issues have been raised that cannot be wished away because long after Matiang'i will have left the stage, his actions will continue to affect many.

Lone ranger

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By Matiang'i’s admission, there were no cases of cheating in 2016 because he had dismantled the cartels responsible. As such, reliance on shortcuts created by cartels to pass exams could not have been a factor in the mass failure in 2017. With the Government freeze on teachers’ employment, the 2016 teachers were the same ones who oversaw the candidate’s preparations for the 2017 exams. While 4645 got grade A- in 2016, only 2714 got the same grade in 2017. Either, someone is telling us that 89 per cent of the 2017 candidates were a bunch of morons, or that teachers have suddenly become incompetent. I reject both.

Matiang'i suffocated Musau Ndunda’s National Union of Parents. By pushing teachers’ unions to the periphery, even mischievously telling them to go to court; that he will do what he believes is right for ‘our children’ without them, Matiang'i has fought and weakened the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary School Teachers (KUPPET) which are some of the cogs vital in the engine of education. Matiangi also went for school boards, demanding their disbandment. Who will then speak for parents, students and teachers? Matiang'i clamped down on satellite colleges, closed a number of them and is intent on closing some universities. Private universities will surely close shop unless they want to rub the powers-that-be the wrong way by enrolling those who do not meet the cut-off mark.

Not content, Matiang'i took his war to lecturers whom he believes merit employment only on contract basis. Why is Matiang'i playing the roles of prosecutor, judge and jury all at once?  What has the massive investment in education achieved?

 Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

Luhya communityEugene Wamalwamusalia mudavadi