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Observe road safety rules and celebrate real heroes in our lives

By Kalangi Kiambati | December 24th 2020
A police officer and a member of NTSA inspect a matatu after it was involved in an accident at Mwamba trading centre on the Eldoret-Webuye Highway in Kakamega on 23/1/2020. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

I remember with nostalgia Christmas celebrations of my childhood. The anticipation for Christmas started soon after the Jamhuri day fete.

A few days to Christmas, we started stalking our mother for signs that she was going to the local shopping centre to buy the coveted Christmas outfits.

The timing for new clothes had to be right – not too early and not too late into the week. If they were bought too early, they would lose their allure and if they were bought too late into the Christmas week, they would cost double the normal price due to high demand.

On Christmas eve, our anticipation reached its climax – the wheat flour was bought, the goat (or meat) was brought and, in the evening, we attended the carol service that went on until midnight. Needless to say, we did not sleep much after that.

Although a lot has changed over the years, 2020 will probably go down in history as the year when we celebrated Christmas in the most unusual way.

Today, I want us to reflect on three things that are at the centre of Christmas celebrations that the Covid-19 experience can help us reflect more about.

The first one is road safety. Christmas festivities present the best opportunity for many people across the world to see their family and friends or take the much-needed vacation.

We travel in droves, mostly from the urban centres to our villages, before we troop back to the towns shortly after New Year’s Day.

In our hurry to get home, we drive at illegal speed limits, overtaking at sharp corners and barely respecting pedestrians and cyclists.

Those of us in the matatu business disregard traffic rules and passengers do not put on their seat belts, sometimes because there are not enough belts for everyone in the bus.

This Christmas, let us observe traffic rules if not for anything else, to be thankful for life.

Five people were on December 22, 2020, injured in an accident on the Kibwezi - Kitui road. [Philip Muasya, Standard]

The same way we wear our masks and adopted handwashing to curb the spread of Covid-19, let us remind ourselves that our safety is indeed in our own hands and, besides fastening our safety belts, call out speeding matatu drivers.

The fact that matatus have remained in business while carrying half the number of passengers means they can make good profit while carrying the legal capacity.

Let us put aside greed for more profits at the expense of our clients’ safety.

The second one is food wastage. It is no secret that feasting is the biggest hallmark of Christmas celebrations.

From the slaughtering of goats and chicken to the making of chapati, mukimo and pilau, Christmas celebrations are incomplete without an assortment of dishes.

Unfortunately, many times the food is too much and a lot of it ends up in the bins even after feeding family and friends to their fill. We can consciously avoid food wastage during this Christmas and, instead, for example, donate any extra wheat flour, rice or meat to those whose lives have been affected by Covid-19.

We could express our gratitude by giving a feast to the less fortunate and buying clothes for those who cannot afford.

Lastly, we need to thank the heroes. Soon after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country, many organisations asked their employees to work from home with many of them only retaining workers in the essential service departments. However, like soldiers in a war, our health workers and police officers had to put our safety first and continue working in the midst of the crisis.

As the healthcare providers worked hard to save the lives of Covid-19 patients, the security officers ensured that our security was heighted in the face of the curfew.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us be the heroes in our families, reminding everyone to properly wear a proper mask and observe all other safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

Let us protect the elderly members of our families by keeping social distance and fighting the temptation to hold unnecessarily large gatherings that could expose them to the coronavirus. Celebrating in moderation within the new normal is what will make us true heroes.

As the world celebrates Christmas in these unprecedented times, let us reflect on the things that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us more so about the centrality of our individual choices in our safety and the safety of our loved ones. Merry Christmas!

-The writer is a communications lecturer and trainer at Kenyatta University

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