Talking School Feeding

Early next month, we’ll be talking about school feeding at #Ed10Chat. We’ll be holding it in the first Thursday for a change at the iHub.

School feeding is a significant issue in Kenya and at the last #Ed10Chat, it kept cropping up. If you’ve been to these meetings, you know that we usually get the next meeting’s topic as we conclude the meeting so this is pretty community-driven.

This is an issue close to my heart and I’ll let you know as soon as we (Laila Le Guen and I) have an Eventbrite page up. Before then, please block out the 3rd of March from 6-8pm. Let’s meet at the iHub on that day!


Figuring out devolution

Over lunch hour today, I went to ShiftEye Gallery to see what was showing. What I found was an interesting look at the legislature, lawmaking and county budgets set up by The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA).

The exhibition starts off with a look at the gender equation at the national and county levels. It’s a jarring realisation; to see in figures a truth one may have gleaned by looking at images of politicians in Kenya. It then moves on to some Bills that have been brought before the  House this term (you can view them over at Mzalendo), a look at the sense or lack thereof behind CDF, a history of terrorist attacks in the Republic and ends at County poverty rates and allocations for different sectors.

The exhibition is interesting for this reason: it tries to give a visual sense of what the last 3 or so years have looked like and what the time before that was in the context of CDF and constitutional and legal standards. If you’re not up to date with some of these matters, it’s an interesting primer on what the state of the nation is in certain regards. It also raised some thoughts in my head. Here we go.

It helps to know what Bills mean, to get some citizen’s translation about what’s in it for you if and when a Bill passes. This is one of the things that I found most interesting as I looked at the posters they’d put up: the attempt to translate lawmaking for those of us who haven’t thought of these things since we sat KCSE History Paper 2. There’s also information about how to get Bills which are unconstitutional worked on by reaching out to your MP, or the President. I wished there was evidence of how well this works because if you remember what I wrote about citizen participation, a lot is easier said than done. How, for example, does your average citizen gain access to the MP, how do they get them to listen?

The figures on Turkana’s expenditure were telling: so much money allocated to the Governor’s office and that of his deputy (6.6%) that compares unfavourably with the 5.8% allocated to Education, Culture & Social Services. The figures out of Nairobi are no less discomfiting and it says a lot of the priorities of the people in power. I wished that the displays had been more harmonised with these figures; each display had its own standard and this made it hard to truly put one’s finger on what’s what. There was also inconsistency in terms of copy quality (typos galore) and the data visualizations (some were amazingly clean, some were a bit of a mess).

All in all, I found that the resources that are presented in the exhibit are a good place to start some conversations about funds, resource allocation, and citizen participation. It also made me realise your average Kenyan doesn’t quite know where to go so I’ll end this with a few places to go. When I needed  something done in my constituency, the National Taxpayers Association (NTA)site and Kenya Open Data helped me know what resources were available. TISA issues reports that would be of help in informing your conversations with legislators and Mzalendo is a good place to find out what, if anything,  your representative is up to. Lastly, the Society for International Development’s Kenya Dialogues Project will bring you up to speed on matters that would interest an active citizen.

If you know any other places you can find information that helps a citizen navigate the resources and opportunities due to them, please put it in the comment section. Thank you!







Education, Government

Citizens to the Rescue

In 2012, I had just left university and was working as a volunteer teacher at the local primary school in the part of Kakamega County in which my parents then lived. My brother was a pupil there and there was a classroom wall that had collapsed over Easter.

Nobody seemed to know how to fix that situation and the headteacher felt impotent because there was only so much he could do within the limits of the bureaucracy. Every day I saw the ECDE pupils play at the exposed wall, I saw them crammed into what had been the storage room because it was their class whose wall had collapsed. I didn’t know what to do but I felt this intense need to do something.

During this time, my mother and I had to go to the District headquarters at Khwisero to interact with officialdom. While we’re here, she said, we could drop by the DC’s office and tell the Mkubwa our local school has no wall to speak of. Sure, I figured, why not. I didn’t know the series of events it would set off so I walked in with the confidence that only the innocent possess.

The DC received us with as much warmth as an interrupted government functionary can muster. Here’s what happened when we spoke: she listened to these two women speaking English (it saddens me how, so long after independence, this language holds so much power) and saying they would not leave till they knew how the matter would be dealt with. She called the DEO (District Education Officer) and the DPWO (District Public Works Officer) and directed them to go to the school the next week to  inspect the facilities. We left with a date and this upsetting, but revealing, knowledge: both those officers had known about the issue but hadn’t dealt with it.

When the DEO & DPWO visited the school, the latter ordered the school condemned and the former directed that the pupils be enrolled in neighbouring schools. The school was started in the late 70s and was one of the oldest and largest in the area; this would be a disaster.

Enter the local MP: he called a community meeting to talk about how to ‘save the school’ even though the collapse had happened in April and it was September. He said how he would speak to the DC so she would direct her officers to withdraw their orders and the community members could continue sending their children to the school. What about the wall, I felt compelled to ask. Well, that will be fixed. When? This generated a lot of furore among the people present. Those my age spoke about what a visionary leader the MP was and said the 100% believed in him, that they knew he would deal with it. I was reminded that I had no children and was told to stop being a troublemaker. And yours, who you have, I asked them, do you want the class to collapse upon their heads? Remember- it was election period and they needed to obtain the Mheshimiwa’s favour; after the meeting ended, the men lined up and received KSh 200 apiece, the women KSh 100.

Something did happen: Whatever it was, the next week the MP called another meeting and told us that the CDF was allocating money to the repair of the wall and the school would not be closed. Over the next two or so months, it was fixed and the ECDE children were able to stop learning among the shovels and rakes. The money was emergency money, the job was not doe to the highest standard but it was done. I had left in October to take up a job in Nairobi so I couldn’t push but even then, I had felt a part of my spirit die in the face of the parents’ protests.

I tell this story to say that we the people have power. We are the activists we need, we are the change agents we need, we are the litigators, advocates we need. We can take back our schools, our clinics, our hospitals, our land; we can, and we should.


Got skills?

The wonderful Priyanka deSouza took me to Kibera today. Calm down, everyone, I’ve been there before. We went to Kibera Girls’ Soccer Academy (KGSA) in Makina Village to pitch Raspberry Pis (if you’ve met Priyanka, you know she’s Pi-mad) to the kids. While there, we learnt a lot about the genesis of the school, the kids it educates, and all the things they get up to.

The KGSA high school has skills training on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in a bid to equip the girls with tools for life after school. They train them in art, tech, photography, journalism, catering, martial arts, drama and much more besides.

Here’s where you come in: They would love to have more skilled people volunteer their time and skills to the groups they have (form new ones, even!) and it might be a fantastic opportunity for people with a wide variety of skills to pass them on.

These kids are brilliant; they shoot films, learn how to code, make money from photography that supports the school, draw, paint, make meals, box, act, you name it. If you have these skills, or skills you’re itching to share, get in touch with KGSA online or drop me a note – cmutanyi@gmail.com – so we can do great things.

Education, Musings

My vision of education

I am a firm believer in the capacity of public goods to supply our needs. In that regard, I push for more, and better, public hospitals and schools.

My birthday is tomorrow and I am not yet at the point at which one writes a personal manifesto so this is the closest thing as I grow older.

As regular readers may have noticed, I am passionate about education and I identify as a feminist. My feminist stance affects how I feel about education and it’s this: We need free, quality, accessible, basic education for all children.

We especially need it for girls and young women because the way the patriarchy is set up, boys will be chosen over girls when resources are scarce. It needs to be free for this reason; so that no one person denies their child an education because they do not have funds.

It needs to be a quality education because otherwise it’s just a checklist item being ticked off. It needs to be the sort of education that enables children to navigate the world they live in and equips them to deal with one not yet seen. One that gives them room to try out a variety of things and to find what they love. One that imagines all children as capable of more than the things that capitalism ascribes with value: money, possessions, political influence.

Education needs to be accessible. When I think of all the solutions that are envisioned for education, I see the children left behind: Those who live far from school, those with special needs, those who have come into contact with the carceral state, those who are separated from their parents. If education does not answer the needs of these children, something still needs to be done.

It’s easy to sound like a wet blanket when I say these things but I have seen what a difference believing in them makes in the life of children. If one believes-like I do-in these matters, they will attend those long, tedious parents’ meetings at school. And when they do, they’ll demand certain things: rebuild that wall, make sure the sanitary facilities are up to par, why is the school’s performance so bad? And then you will stick around to see change come to pass and after that, keep those in charge accountable.

One day I shall talk about how I square this desire to see certain goods in the public domain with wanting to see the children I care for succeed. Before then, I leave you with this manifesto; one I feel challenged by every time I read.

Happy birthday tomorrow, Nyambura.





Watching Women

I signed a pledge to watch 52 films made by women over a year: a film a week. I am excited about it and especially because I have at least one partner with whom I can talk about the films.

Kenyan films have quite a number of women in their credits; an accident of time and place I have heard it said. However, it sometimes feels like once they’re shown in theatres, they’ll disappear into film ether. I’d love to re-watch them for this challenge and I’d be glad to be directed to them.

Join the ride by signing up here and tweet me so I know we’re in this together.


Time and feminism

I’ve talked about my feminism before and I was having this conversation with someone recently. It feeds into my thoughts on feminism in the real world.

This article was what got me having that conversation. The idea that time is a feminist issue; that the question is whose time it is is also an issue for me. The author has a passing comment about it but I feel it’s very relevant in this context.

If one identifies as a feminist, then they probably know the conversations about how solidarity is for white women. I sometimes say that the People of Colour in this country are poor people and this idea made me wonder how this figures in Kenya.

In the case of a lot of women of a certain class: Is your feminism for your househelp? Do you give her a fair wage, an enabling work environment, time off?

If time is a feminist issue, how does one live their feminism?