Jamhuri Day is here, and there is nothing better than when it lands during the week, and this year we struck gold because it fell midweek! What does a Kenyan do on a holiday? No idea…
For me, it is time to lie in, relax and watch whatever television offers. It is a time to detox and perhaps hang out with with family or friends. And most times, at 10am we go straight to live coverage at the stadium, whichever one the president will be visiting on that particular day.
The night before any public holiday, I make sure I put my alarm off, because I can sleep in! That gives me so much joy, not knowing what time I will wake up and having no solid plans. However, just as the universe would have it, the following day, I am awake bright and early.
When I glance at my clock, I cannot believe how early it is. Then proceed to get mad at myself for even daring to wake up, then wonder why the heck it does not happen when I have to go to work, but such is life.
Stumbling out of bed and thinking about the irony of life, that because it is a holiday, the usual shows will not be available on local television. Possibly reruns of previous shows or a movie of some sort.
This time, I turned on the television and sat down to breakfast, flipping through channels with no real goal in mind. A documentary caught my attention. Produced by Hilary Ng’weno, whose grasp of history is impeccable. Indeed, I have always been a fan.
But the specific thing that drew my attention was the opening remarks, by Joseph Murumbi, the second vice president of Kenya, who was in office for just six months before resigning due to the rampant corruption he witnessed. He had fought for years for his people and now he was seeing their shameless betrayal by the people he had fought alongside.
Listening to him, I thought, why don’t I really know all that much about Joseph Murumbi? Surely his name should have come up in primary school, so why did it not even ring a bell now? Why weren’t we taught about him in school?
What a mess our education system is in; we thought we were getting a new curriculum, but after all the hype, the time wasted and the money spent, we find ourselves back at the old 8-4-4 system that torments children with loads of work that leads to no learning.
Why can’t we seem to implement anything right? At that moment I put down my remote control and thought, someone actually resigned in the 1960s from an executive position due to corruption? Hello?
Here we are celebrating 55 years (I normally know how old we are as a country on this day, the rest of the year does not quite matter, I have no clue.) I have lived in the US for seven years and we never quite would say, the US is 242 this July 4…
The war on corruption seems like such a priority to our country now, yet if asked to name which public office is corruption-free, or high-level official who has not been linked to one suspect deal or another, most of us would have a hard time coming up with a single name. Perhaps not because they do not exist, but mainly because they are not celebrated.
Fifty five years as an independent country and when it comes to naming individuals who made history in our country the usual names will be brought up by the youth, but many are now forgotten. For example, naming the Kapenguria Six is a struggle for most.
Understanding history would seem to be vital for youth. However, it is not easily available and it is not engrained in children to be passionate about it.
Since Independence, we have been fighting against the same vices year after year, and many recent development plans have shown the gaping holes in our systems and the freight of irregularity, inconsistency and opaqueness they carry.
The fight against corruption has to be owned by young people. And to own it, they must understand the importance of it.
But not only that, the benefits of integrity must be made visible. We need to celebrate heroes who stand against corruption.
Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is the executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW