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Quick hits – Jan 30

– Some vivid on the ground reporting and pictures on the situation in Kenya.

– The humor might not work for everyone but I like this guy’s perspective on what’s going on in Kenya.

7 comments to Quick hits – Jan 30

  • acolyte

    I like his humor, like you said it may not be liked by all but still he has a nice unique look at things that only an outsider can bring.

  • It is depressing to see your whole country go down. the two leaders cannot even agree on an agenda!

  • mzaas

    Sobering … from the Standard

    Chaos takes a heavy toll on students
    Published on January 31, 2008, 12:00 am

    By Wachira Kigotho

    The ongoing post-election violence has cost many lives and uprooted thousands of families who just a month ago lived happily in their homes unaware of the brutality and desperation that would displace them and make them refugees in their own country.

    But the situation is probably more precarious for children who witnessed the violence as marauding arsonists attacked, destroyed property, burned down homes, churches and schools. Some children witnessed teachers being chased away, not necessarily by unknown persons but by their former students who had joined in the skirmishes.

    Such cataclysmic events will affect schooling in violence-hit areas, especially in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western provinces. Even in areas where schools are intact, some teachers do not feel safe and may request to be transferred. According to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), teachers will not be forced to work in violence-hit areas.

    The problem is already pervasive in national, provincial and district boarding secondary schools, where many students have not reported, although schools have opened. Students are stuck in their home areas, as roads are barricaded and public transport made insecure by gangs split on ethnic lines, armed with machetes, arrows and other crude weapons.

    Many other students are still in the internally displaced camps in clash-hit areas with no chance of going back to school anytime soon. Some of them have become heads of families after their parents were killed, while others will just drop out of school in frustration after their families lost everything they owned in the conflict.

    Unfortunately the grim reality now is that the post- election violence has overnight transformed school- age going children from benign political bystanders to converts of narrow ethnic political bigotry. In the absence of familial support and protection, such children are in danger of being recruited by fringe militia such as Mungiki, Taliban, and Kamjesh and made to take part in killing, torture, rape, pillaging and looting among other unlawful activities.

    According to Mrs Graca Machel, one of the Eminent Africans in the Kofi Annan team trying to find a solution to the post-election violence, children from impoverished and marginalised backgrounds or separated from their families are many times likely to be forcibly recruited, coerced and induced to become combatants.

    “Manipulated by adults, children as young as eight years in Africa have been drawn into violence that they are too young to resist and with consequences they cannot imagine,” says Machel in her report to the United Nations on the impact of armed conflict on children.

    Machel’s concern for children in violence hit areas are real in that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are about 300,000 children in armed conflict in 30 countries worldwide. “Many of these children are recruited before they reach the age of two and almost a third are young girls,” says UNHCR.

    This situation is not so different for children in the internally displaced camps in different parts of the country. Reports from Rift Valley indicate that several primary schools have been started to ensure that they continue with their education. However, such schools are not likely to replace the destroyed schools in the minds of the children, who are traumatised, as they faced an uncertain future.

    Most of these children, especially those who lost their parents are likely to suffer psychological damage and may be unable to cope with high demands of schooling. Evidence indicates that many children in refugee camps lack self- esteem, feel stigmatised and often stay out of school and eventually drop out altogether.

    Amid psychological trauma and stress, children in refugee camps and areas of armed conflict are exposed to hunger and disease. In this context girls are likely to suffer sexual exploitation and harassment. “It is not uncommon for girls in such circumstances to face a heightened risk of rape, sexual humiliation, prostitution or any other forms of gender-based violence,” says a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

    But the most chilling aspect of the post-election conflict is that it is a no holds barred affair. It has made victims of non-combatants, women and children.

    “While fierce in battle, the rules and customs of those societies (African), only a few generations ago, made it taboo to attack women and children,” says the UNHCR report.

    To avoid further dislocation of communities, there is urgent need for reconciliation and embracing a process of re-integration with the aim of helping children to establish contact with their families and return to their homes or resettled elsewhere. Unless this is done urgently, many children are at risk of being deprived many of the normal opportunities for physical, emotional and intellectual development.

    Taking into account that education is a fundamental right for all children, there is need for them to resume normal schooling as quickly as possible. In addition to establishing counselling services for the children in the affected areas, teachers there must establish the learning routine, giving space to children to socialise and promote self-esteem.

    It is quite evident that some children lost parents in the violence and are likely to suffer humiliation, rejection and possibly discrimination. Schools and teachers should reach out to such victims of abuse of human rights.

    Undoubtedly manipulation of ethnicity, political and economic competition might have been used to serve personal narrow and group interests, but this should not be allowed to continue creating debilitating effects on schooling. So far, it is not quite clear whether there was any progressive use of students in the acts of violence but it would be unfortunate if perpetrators of violence recruited students to cause heinous crimes.

    The lure of ideology, no matter how base, is particularly impressionable in adolescence, when young people are developing personal identities and searching for social belonging and relationship. In an effort to counteract negative effects, schools have a duty to help students to establish networks of both academic and social support.

    However, the main worry is that children that witnessed violence being meted out, especially to their family members, may be motivated to take revenge. But despite those concerns, the message to the different shades of the political divide is that post-election violence has no winners but losers on all fronts, especially children.

    The chaos has not only affected children but also students at all levels.

    Among them is Ms Mercy Wangui who is torn between returning to Bondo Teachers College in Nyanza or abandoning her course to start afresh in an institution near home.

    The P1 student who set to graduate in May.

    She has failed to secure admission at Kamwenja Teachers College in Central Province , after the Education ministry ordered students to return to their institutions. “I was hoping to transfer to Kamwenja or Murang’a teachers colleges, but the Provincial Director of Education (PDE) confirmed that TTCs will not swop students,” says Wangui.

    She is hoping the ministry will change its mind.

    I am so afraid. After what I have seen on TV even if I go back I will not be able to concentrate on my studies and revise for my PTE final exam, she says.

    Still she may have no option but to return to Bondo. “No one knows what the country is yet to face,” she says.

    She says the Government should beef up security around learning institutions in violence-prone areas.

    Ms Maureen Muthami, a teacher at Bunyoli Primary School in Western Province is also seeking a transfer.

    She says even an interdiction letter will not make her go back to the school.

    I escaped death by a whisker with my family and only salvaged a few things, she says.

    Muthami is determined to get a transfer even if it means camping at Jogoo House until TSC accepts her plea.

    The Central PDE, Mr Kenneth Misoi, says the Government is reluctant to swop students because it is trying to ensure that normalcy returns as soon as possible. “Those fearing to go back to colleges in Rift Valley, Nyanza and Western should understand that they are they are going to institutions which are secured, she says.

    He says more than 30 teachers who had been displaced by the skirmishes and have sought transfer to Central Province.

    “Giving transfers would mean that we are promoting ethnic divisions” says Misoi.

    Moses Njue, a Form Two student at the Maseno School in Nyanza, has not returned to school.

    “Although we were too young to vote student who had split into two groups, would engage in aggressive arguments even before the polls,” he says.

    He says his class master told him that less that 200 students had reported for this term.

    I do not mind going to a school that is not performing well as long as it is near home ,” he says.

    Additional reporting by Bancy Wangui

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