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Why we need to challenge that nagging traditional view

By Mark Bichachi | Jan 23rd 2019 | 4 min read

Ideas form the basis of society. It is the constant morphing of ideas that shapes a nation and drives it forward. The problem with Kenya and indeed Africa in general is we have let our ideas go stale. These stale ideas, which we then call traditions, hold us back in a prison of the mind from which escape is nigh impossible. The resistance to change has been apparent in the last few weeks of Kenyan reality.

One place where this has been painfully apparent is in the education sector. Not only are we forced to go back to 8-4-4 system but we have kept “very colonial” 8-4-4 thinking. It is bizarre to me that a school would refuse admission to a student on account of their hair style. What is wrong with us? Is the shortness of hair equal to the sharpness of the mind? You will argue neatness which is simply the manifestation of your colonised mind that tells you getting rid of your natural kinky African hair is more acceptable.

Child without uniform

As if that is not enough a girl was almost denied entrance into Form One, because her father could not afford school uniform. I called the deputy principal and asked her how uniform is a barrier to education in 2019, and whether wearing uniform affects the ability to learn. The fact is we cannot attain universal education if religion, hairstyle and uniforms are barriers to admission.

Such thoughts are remnants of colonial traditions we should have long abandoned. Instead we need to teach inclusivity, the right for one to be themselves and ask ourselves how did wearing uniforms help us in life? We shoot ourselves on the foot when we fail to embrace those that are different from us.

Our music and art fare no better. The ideas espoused therein are as crass as can be. They mainly dwell on the human anatomy and the gyrations that are possible from it in different patterns. Rarely do you find music that makes you pause and reflect on life or address serious political and social issues.

Songs without meaning

In fact in the last 18 years, only Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, Eric Wainaina and Juliani make the list of having written songs that made a significant impact in the minds of Kenyans. I have no problem with music meant only to entertain. I, however, have a big problem with music that only entertains and never informs. I have even more problems with music whose lyrics are shorter than the mini skirt they describe and in which the rhyme scheme is lazy.

The art sector is much worse, especially in the curio sector, all the artists paint the same — copying each other to death, what then is the point? Isn’t art meant to give us pause and reflection? Isn’t creativity the point and not just sales to a tourist?

With the recent happenings, security is another area in which we need to seriously change what the norm is. I realised that the biggest lapses were not just with government this time, they were with we; the people. We are the ones who saw our brothers and sisters get radicalised and did and said nothing. We are the ones who let two cars have the same number plates, we are the ones who for a few coins let people move to and from the Kenyan border as if it is a supermarket.

Don’t just sit there...

Our ideas of “watching and doing nothing” is what is killing us. Kenyans are so busy making money that they care little what their kin and kith do. This is why our friends commit suicide right after meeting us because all we did when we met them was measure our levels of success and not find out how each is genuinely doing. The same attitudes must be what affect the government officials that give dual number plates for a few pieces of silver.

Our political space is equally in dire need of fresh ideas. For which I commend Moses Kuria for sending quite progressive ideas to the Building Bridges Initiative team. His thoughts on the dual role of senators as speakers of county assemblies is brilliant.

His re-introduction of the Leader of Opposition within the ranks of National Assembly and the Senate is a key ingredient to lasting peace and we need more such ideas. Indeed we should even consider simply electing tribal “chiefs” who then will create a council and from hence select among themselves a president who is answerable to the council.

This may be the only way for the Ogiek to ever see one of their own become president and it is an idea worth exploring as are all the ideas floated. For the truth is, for us to overcome our political differences we must be willing to embrace new ideas not necessarily styled in the Western models of democracy, after all the most successful government we ever had was the government of national unity and in this term we can already see the fruits of a handshake between erstwhile protagonists. I am not saying the above ideas should be followed. No. I am simply saying we need to think outside the box.

Let’s embrace variety. Let us spice up this life by embracing different and divergent ideas, by improving our creative space and we will become a nation of the future full of hope, inclusivity and prosperity.

Mr Bichachi is a communication consultant. [email protected]

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