Our Lives: What does it mean to be 50 in 2013, for you and Kenya?

| August 20, 2013 - 12.10UTC

As we approach the golden anniversary of Kenya’s independence, we sought out four Kenyans born 50 years ago to reflect on the Kenya of their childhood, and how the country is now poised for the future, by Abigail Arunga, with photography by John Alogo.

Mrs Helen Masibo
Administrator (teacher by profession)
When compared to other African countries, Kenya has done well in some areas, but has done poorly in others. My expectations have been partly met. Examples of where Kenya has progressed include: democratic space, technology, road network and opportunities for higher education. Kenya has, however, regressed in the quality of education, weak morals, provision of social amenities, security and tribalism, among others. I’m unhappy with the level of political goodwill, which has also been lacking in bringing our regional partners close.

Kenya needs to address the quality of education and moral values. The media, in partnership with education stakeholders, needs to introduce programmes that stimulate creativity and innovation among our youth.

I miss the comradeship within the family unit, the rich culture and strong moral values. I miss the genuine love and support shared among people of diverse communities. We have failed on that front.

Mr Chacha Odera
For Jamhuri Day I usually go back to my village in Uholo. It gives me the time and opportunity to bond with my people in the village.

I feel a disconnect between my age and that of my country. Whereas I have deliberately set milestones for myself and I have worked towards achieving them, I get the impression that various milestones set by our leaders have at best been rhetoric, aimed at giving the people a good feeling. From the time I was six years old, I remember slogans like ‘Water for all’, ‘Free education for all’. The target dates passed by quietly and new targets were set under different slogans, the latest being Vision 2030.

Our values have changed a great deal.  While growing up, the emphasis was more on how one acquired wealth rather than the amount one had. Presently, society is teaching our children that how one accumulates wealth does not matter, but what is important is how much one accumulates. This has had the effect of encouraging impulsive theft, without considering how the action affects society.

Occupying the office of the president for too long makes the incumbent feel like it is the country that needs him. Happily, the constitution was amended in the early 1990s to limit the term that a person can be president. This was designed to make the president more accountable to his people.  Whether or not this has worked, the jury is still out.
I have lived in Kenya all my life and I am disappointed that many people still think that the panacea to the problems this country has faced and still faces is a generation change in its leadership. If I could, I would remind Kenyans that what we need is a change in the values that we hold. As long as we glorify those who raid our national coffers and steal our public property, then it does not matter whether we have young or old leaders.

Mrs F J Boit
Self-employed Company Director; Rotarian
Truly speaking I had never visualised that I would see Kenya become what it is today. I am happy with what we have achieved so far. This is good compared to our neighbouring countries.

I am bothered by the level of poverty and the high cost of living in this country. I hope the government can do more to alleviate this situation and reduce the cost of basic commodities.

When I was younger… I barely enjoyed my teenagehood! However, I enjoyed inter-school ventures like drama, debate, dancing and sports cheerleading.

If things remain on course, I am optimistic that over the next 50 years Kenya will gain more growth as projected in the Vision 2030 plan, and probably much more, with citizens playing a major role in maintaining peace and development.

My favourite musician growing up was Samba Mapangala – although Congolese he was a huge star across the country. Currently my preference is Eric Wainaina and Kidum.

Mrs Priscilla K Munene
My mother tells me that when I was one year old I was so small they used to carry me like a handbag when they were running away from the Mau Mau. I was too small to even be carried on her back.

The Mau Mau were fighting the British, and they would burn anyone’s home – even Africans’ – who they thought were supporting the British.

We fought for independence, and I think it is a good thing that we did. I was in high school when Kenyatta died. I am the one who told my aunty; I heard it on the radio and told her. People panicked.

There has been a very big difference between all the governments we have had. When I was in primary school, medical care was free and my school fees were just 15 shillings for a year. That’s what I paid to take my primary school exam.

Join in the debate: what is your take on Kenya’s first 50 years? Join us to chat at @kenyayetumag or kenyayetu.net

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