Opinion: Politicians must apologise for wronging youth

National Youth Service recruits during the pass-out parade at NYS College in Gilgil
The rage over the NYS billions will not disappear overnight. However, a lesser publicised story this week shocked me to the core and revealed how the endemic rot of corruption has reached remote corners of the republic and contaminated the next generation of citizens and parents. 

Last weekend, Ortum Boys School in West Pokot County was closed indefinitely after examination candidates rioted because the newly appointed headmaster had declined to assist them in cheating in this year’s national exams.

The students apparently had summoned the principal to a Kamukunji and when he indicated his reluctance they went on the rampage and destroyed property in the long established school. 

The candidates no doubt felt cheating was normal and a right and teachers were duty bound to assist them get university grades by hook or by crook. In 2017 the marks of all 320 candidates were cancelled in the same institution. This hardly came as a surprise since over 90 per cent of the students acquired grades of C+ and above in an area that has produced few university graduates over the years.

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The Ortum case is not exception however but it reminds us how young people are inducted into a corrupt system from an early stage because everyone else is doing it. To cheat has become the new norm and parents, teachers, management and even sponsors conspire to educate children on how to rig exam. Then we wonder when the rain started beating us.

The end product of course is a corrupted nation and illiterate graduates. Fred Matiangi deserves credit for confronting the cartels that controlled the exam results for years but when offending head teachers remain in office instead of serving time, know that it is business as usual while the Cabinet Secretary turns his attention to security matters. 

The often quoted Edmund Burke said three centuries ago, ‘Tell me the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of your young people and I will tell you the character of the next generation.’ Judging by the above, the signs are ominous and confirmed by the results of the Aga Khan University (AKU) youth study of 2016. They found that 50 per cent of young Kenyans believe that it doesn’t matter how one makes money as long as you don’t end up in jail.

Thirty per cent believe that corruption is profitable and an amazingly high 73 per cent expressed fear standing up for what is right. In terms of citizenship only 40 per cent believe it is right to pay taxes while 35 per cent would readily take or give a bribe. 

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Yet the same study showed that in terms of identity most youth identify themselves as Kenyans first, before faith and tribe.

 The youth still value faith, family and hard work and are confident that Kenya has a good future. The research reveals a ‘crisis of integrity’ among youth but bizarrely young people are still hopeful about their future despite the fact that 55 per cent of them are unemployed.

The AKU research concludes that ‘a future that is short on ethics and plagued with corruption demands urgent and collective action.’


This brings us back to the NYS story! Despite the thousands of words written about the mega scandal, I am yet to read a contribution showing how the looting was a crime against the nation’s youth

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A scheme that was audaciously called a Service has brought pain, shame and poverty to the young people of Kenya.

How in God’s name can we expect our youth to be models of morality and future leaders of integrity when the well connected mafia elites plunder resources set aside to give the youth a head start and appropriate training for life? 

The youth of course are well accustomed to being expendable and dumped by the political elites. In every election they are used to campaign, heckle, sing themselves hoarse, dance all night and demonstrate all day after the results. They are the ones who end up in police cells and morgues during the election period. Yet they are the last to benefit when their masters reach the highest office. They are children of a lesser God.

Yet when politicians make up, shake hands and embrace over heavy breakfasts, the youth are left idling in shopping centres watching proceeds on TV.

The protagonists publicly forgave each other but never asked the public for forgiveness for burning their businesses, dividing the nation and killing their youth. Then they have the nerve to say that never again will Kenyans die over elections, do the youth believe them?

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