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What you should expect this year

Courtesy Reuters.

2020 has been a year of survival, though some Kenyans have not been so lucky to escape the crippling effects of Covid-19. But if you are reading this, you are most likely hoping for a truly happy new year – a year of recovery.

Last year a pandemic that started in the Chinese city of Wuhan swept across the breadth of the world, stretching health systems and crashing markets. Here was a virus that did not only claim lives but also livelihoods.

First order of business for Kenya will be securing its future by ensuring that its children not only stay alive but also get a better education to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

After almost 10 months staying at home, children are expected back to school on Monday. It will not be an easy decision for most parents.

A lot of them are not convinced that their children will be safe. The virus is yet to be vanquished and crowded classrooms only embolden it. The government has promised to ensure compliance with social distance rules in schools and, through official documents, has hinted at procuring facemasks for all children.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has even asked headteachers to be innovative and, if the weather permits, let children study under trees.

Kirawa Road School pupils in Nairobi quipped with face masks after the government announced the reopening of school. Oct 13, 2020. [File, Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Some parents, less worried about the health effects of the pandemic, are more concerned with the financial cost of getting their children back to school. Schools have hiked fees by including arrears. Some of the parents have lost jobs or have had their salaries slashed. Even worse, the government has rolled back most of the tax reliefs, which means the cost of textbooks, exercise books and uniforms will increase.

Can't be stopped

Yet reopening of schools cannot be stopped. According to the government, resumption of learning is one of the surest ways to reboot a moribund economy that has badly been hit by the pandemic. The World Bank has singled out education sector as one of the key sectors that will help the economy to recover this year.

Parents flock at uniforms premises in Nyeri ahead of school reopening. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The government has also set aside a lot of money for education, almost a third of the Sh930 billion post-Covid-19 war-chest, to help it operate smoothly.

There is no doubt that the economy has taken a real drabbing from the adverse effects of the pandemic.

Export earnings have declined sharply, as the market for such commodities as flowers has been diminished by the implementation of lockdowns in Europe. Restriction of travel has also hit the Tourism industry badly, with hotels remaining unoccupied for the better part of the festive season.

But the politics of 2020 will also spill over to 2021. The plans for constitutional changes are at an advanced stage, with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) verifying the signatures that were collected by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) team.

 

It, therefore, means economics will have to find a way to coexist with politics this year. Nairobians, for instance, will be headed for a by-election after the impeachment of Governor Mike Sonko.

But all these might serve as a prelude to a much bigger political battle in the form of the General Election in 2022. Next year Uhuru Kenyatta will be exiting as the fourth president of Kenya. Already, alignments have started showing up, as preparations for his replacements gear up.

The Covid-19 vaccine will determine whether the economy will go full throttle. The government says it will procure medication worth Sh12 billion for almost half of the population. It is, however, only until April that the jab will be available.

If there is anything to be said about 2021, it is that it might be the year that will determine Uhuru’s legacy by restoring hope to a hopeless nation. But who are the men and women that will help Uhuru carve his legacy on the annals of history?