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State should ban gambling business once and for all

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MATHEW ALIKHULA

By MATHEW ALIKHULA
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In February, a middle-aged Kenyan man committed suicide following English football club Arsenal’s loss to Bate Borisov of Belarus. The man identified as Duncan had accumulated Sh60,000 from his business when he thought it would yield through the Arsenal game. Villagers in his Kakemega County home found his lifeless body hanging from a tree.

In December last year,  the body of a 25 year-old-man was found in a borehole in his homestead a day after his family reported him missing. The deceased whose name police gave as Samuel Oswea was found in a three three-foot borehole by his neighbours in Komu village, Kiganjo location, after a betting mission went sour.

The wife said her husband was a betting fanatic and had recently taken to Facebook seeking for advice on ways of committing suicide.

Two years ago, the decomposing body of 32-year-old Kennedy Rotich,  who had gone missing a week earlier, was found dangling from a tree in Samburet forest near Satellite area in Kericho County. The deceased’s friend and neighbour claimed that Rotich had fallen into debt and owed several people money and could have resorted to suicide to avoid his debtors. Rotich had resorted to engaging in the local sports gambling craze, only for the chances of winning to prove elusive.

In 2016 a, university student committed suicide in Migori County after losing a football bet. The student’s body was discovered hanging at his family’s home in Uriri area with a suicide note explaining the action.

According to the note, the Kenyatta University student decided to take his life after losing Sh80,000 meant for school fees which he had staked on a UEFA Euro 2016 match between Germany and Italy. The student reportedly split the money two ways. In one bet, he placed Sh40,000 for an Italy win and staked the remainder on Germany win.

The game which ended in a draw in normal time meant that the student had lost both bets hence losing the whole amount meant for his tuition fee. He left behind a note indicating that the money he was given to pay college fees had disappeared in betting and he saw no need of living.

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A year earlier, in October 2016 a third-year student at Egerton University in Njoro committed suicide after he allegedly lost a bet. Fellow students and lecturers woke up to the shocking incident after they found the student’s body dangling from the roof of the graduation pavilion. A worker at the university said it was suspected the student opted to commit suicide after failing to win a sports bet. The student had allegedly placed a bet of Sh40,000.

A similar incident happened in Bungoma where a man hanged himself after losing Sh47,000 in sports betting.

In a related incident, a student from Maseno University dropped out of school when he bet and lost Sh40, 000 on a football match.

Another man working in Nairobi as a bank manager was also left by his wife after he bet and lost Sh500,000 which was said to be a loan.

These incidents alone, without other sideshows like payment of taxes and all, are serious enough to jolt any government into action against those promoting the business of gambling. We need not wait for another life to be lost before taking the decision that we, as a society, must take at some point. There cannot be any justification for a business that kills, legal or otherwise.

It is, in fact, time the government spared the nation the theatrics of trying to find excuse after excuse of sending the lords of death away and just declare gambling forbidden. We can take care of the legalities later, but we must be alive to do that.

Mr Alikhula comments on topical issues

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Ensure upgrade of schools is executed

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EDITORIAL

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The government plan to spend Sh8.2 billion to upgrade infrastructure in secondary schools in 30 counties sounds prudent and timely.

It’s in line with the campaign to achieve 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools and promises better learning and living conditions for thousands of learners countrywide.

Last week, a majority of the 1,083,456 learners who sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education last year — the highest number in five years — reported to their new schools, adding a fresh load to institutions that are grappling with massive congestion, dilapidated facilities and a crippling teacher shortage.

The upgrade plan is, therefore, urgent. Since the 100 per cent transition campaign was introduced in 2017, thousands of learners who have been dropping out school due to poverty, parents’ ignorance or the lure of cheap labour and crime have been enrolled in secondary schools.

But the flip side is that the learning conditions in schools are hardly the kind that would motivate students to stay on for four years.

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The media have been awash with stories of students crammed in classrooms with creaky desks, schools without dining facilities, or libraries and laboratories shorn of adequate books and equipment.

Such misery makes learning a punishment to run away from rather than an activity to enjoy or look forward to.

This is why the government needs to walk the talk. It’s one thing to promise an infrastructure overhaul and quite another to execute it.

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If the money is available, the work must begin with the speed of an emergency call.

Still, the upgrade must be spread to all the 47 counties because the problems are the same and as urgent everywhere.

This should be a start of a long-term plan to uplift infrastructure in all public secondary schools.

In addition, the government must sort out the teacher shortage, which promises to worsen this year.

Already, the basic education sector is in dire need of more than 100,000 teachers — a cruel irony as learners are increasing while the teaching force shrinks.

All these problems come at a time when the government is rolling out the Competency-Based Curriculum to replace the 8-4-4 system, with the ultimate goal of giving learners better work opportunities through the recognition and development of their unique talents within the school set-up.

Unless these challenges are resolved decisively, most parents who can afford it will move their children to private schools, which will in turn cash in on the demand to raise their fees unreasonably, while the majority of learners will be left behind. That would be a huge blow to the 100 per cent transition policy.

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Tough task for basketballers – Daily Nation

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EDITORIAL

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On Saturday, Kenya men’s basketball team beat South Sudan in the final of Fiba Afro-Basketball Championship pre-qualifiers at Nyayo National Stadium Gymnasium in Nairobi.

As the team reached the final unbeaten, against South Sudan, easily the toughest team in the tournament, some local fans had to be turned away from the venue, indicating that Kenyans are hungry for high-quality basketball action.

Kenya Morans will now take on Senegal, Angola and Mozambique in Pool ‘A’ of the qualifiers proper in Rwanda in March.

The top three teams from the qualifiers will play in the 2021 Fiba Afro-Basketball Championships in Rwanda in August.

In recent years, Kenya has made gains in basketball. Notably, they beat Egypt to win Africa Zone Five title last year and also reached the final of 2019 AfroCan Basketball Championship in Mali, where they narrowly lose to DR Congo.

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The team’s performance is encouraging and points to the huge potential Kenya has in basketball.

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With proper management, the team can go places. This is why Kenya Basketball Federation (KBF) must put its act together and organise a robust league devoid of fixtures congestion and last-minute match cancellations.

The week-long Fiba Afro-Basketball Championship pre-qualifiers also faced a number of challenges. For instance, there was poor planning of matches. The final match also suffered from poor crowd control.

Probably, the championship should have been hosted at Kasarani Indoor Gymnasium instead of Nyayo, which has limited capacity.

Hosting major sporting events requires proper planning and coordination, and KBF must address the shortfalls witnessed at this event if Kenya is to host such championships in future.

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Why Kenya can never go the Russia way

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SIMON MWANGI

By SIMON MWANGI
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On January 14, The Times, a UK-based newspaper, ran an interesting opinion piece by Rick Broadbent titled “Is it time for disgraced Kenya to follow Russia in exile?”

It said how Kenyan athletes continue being cited for anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs), the most recent case being the provisional suspension of former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang.

Indeed, the growing numbers of Kenyan elite runners being flagged for anti-doping transgressions should sound a warning bell to sports administrators.

However, the country cannot get to the Russian level because of various glaring reasons.

A 2017 study by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) concluded that “doping practices by Kenyan athletes are unsophisticated, uncoordinated and opportunistic”.

This means the country has never tinkered with putting in place an elaborate doping machinery.

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Russia’s State-sponsored doping resulted in the stripping of 43 medals from the country’s athletes so far — the largest number ever for any nation.

Investigations by Wada and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had revealed ‘systematic doping’ allegedly orchestrated by KGB officials posing as anti-doping personnel.

Last year, Wada banned Russia from all major sporting events for four years. For Kenya, anti-doping samples are shipped to Qatar and South Africa for analysis.

This means there are no mediating factors between the times the sample is provided to when it arrives at the laboratory to the time when the results are relayed to the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak).

Similarly, Kenyan anti-doping officials are continually trained by some of the world’s leading anti-doping organisations such as the UK anti-Doping (Ukad) and Norwegian body-Anti-Doping Norway (Adno).

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Together with other athletics powerhouses such as Ethiopia, Kenya is ranked by the World Athletics among the countries with the highest risk of doping.

But on the flip side, this could be attributed to the fact that Kenya boasts an unrivalled pool of talent in athletics.

Broadbent quotes Brendan Foster, a European champion and bronze medallist in the 1970s, who rightly notes that world record-shattering performances nowadays by hitherto unknown athletes raise more questions than answers.

However, Kenya featured nowhere in the top 10 in a 2016 Wada report ranking athlete nationalities with the highest number of ADRVs.

Ironically, the report placed athletics as the sport with the highest number of ADRVs by athletes.

Unbeknownst to the writer, Kenya has cooperated with the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the global body charged with protecting integrity in athletics, to the extent that there have been two joint anti-doping education sessions between it and Adak for athletes and coaches in Nairobi and Eldoret.

Lastly, Kenya stared at being barred from participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, not because it was doing nothing about doping but it was at risk of missing strict deadlines in establishing a robust anti-doping programme.

MPs were recalled from recess to pass the Anti-Doping Act 2016, which established Adak.

Mr Mwangi is a former head of corporate communications at the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak). [email protected]

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