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Our national values call for re-engineering

By Mary Wahome and Emily Choge | April 4th 2016

The reported loss of Sh180 million at the Youth Enterprise Development Fund should frighten all of us. This is because the very vehicle that was designed to emancipate young people has proven to be the seat of professional negligence and moral rot.

The Kenya Youth Survey conducted recently by Aga Khan University’s East African Institute, dramatised the anomaly that underpins character formation in Kenya.

Half of the 1,854 youth surveyed said, “It doesn’t matter how a person makes money, as long as they do not end up in jail.” And 35 per cent said they would willingly take or give a bribe. The disturbing finding of the study is that 85 per cent of those surveyed said “their faith is their most cherished value, followed by family and work”.

So, these young Kenyans profess religious values even as they entertain corruption and impunity! Youth behaviour is a reflection of the adult world within which they live and ours is a thoroughly pretentious society! Our slippery moral slope is made worse when those who head a public body that is supposed to attain the radical transformation of our youth, muddy that opportunity with their suspect business practices.

The Youth Fund is more than a pile of money for young people to do business. Like NYS and the Uwezo Fund, it was established as a symbol of renewal and hope for tomorrow. As young people ascend to the mantle of leadership, we cannot assume that their prior experiences gave them the correct exposure to corporate management.

Training in the ethics of everyday life - including business ethics, which Sunny Bindra eloquently teaches - must be incorporated into all our youth programmes.

This is a stop-gap measure aimed at addressing deficits in professional training.

Evidently, Kenyans who are highly educated are not automatically immune to moral decay. So our biggest challenge is mitigating iniquity.

How do we lay down the right social framework so that integrity and ethics are entrenched in the moral foundation that will secure the “new house of Kenya”, as Vision 2030 proclaims?

The Kenya Youth Survey illustrates that religious faith is not steering the youth away from dubious moral choices.

Anti-corruption agencies and State policies are not helping either. Kenyan youth cannot be expected to profess values that are radically divergent from the things that their society rewards and proclaims as successes.Thus the links between national aspirations and youth programmes must be strengthened by re-engineering national values and creating credible sites for the demonstration and amplification of these values.

G-united, the Kenya National Volunteers Programme launched in September 2014, is impressive.

It asks the youth to give, rather than to take, to inspire rather than to demand, to connect rather than to isolate themselves as a marginalised and forgotten demography.

Additionally, it aims for national cohesion by posting volunteers to regions other than the ones that they call home, thereby “increasing opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange”.

Are there other opportunities for strengthening character and national values? Efforts by local Kenyan communities to (re)construct rites of initiation from childhood to adulthood provide a window to instil what Sir John Templeton called “invisible realities”.

A pioneer in financial investment and a philanthropist of contemporary times, Sir John believed that human beings are capable of mastering their character for effective service to self and to humankind.

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