Kenya is a diverse country. Visitors to the country are normally awed by the geographical diversity of the country, from the coast with its sandy beaches, the arid and semi-arid lands of northern Kenya, the highlands, the lake region and the numerous wildlife just to a mention but a few.
The diversity straddles beyond geography to culture and other diversities. This should be a basis for wealth and celebration. Unfortunately, Kenya’s diversity is rarely celebrated. Instead, it is a point of tension and disagreements.
The greatest evidence of the tensions around inequality is the discourse relating to the levels of inequality in the country. This past week, the United Nations Development Programme launched the 2019 World Development Report at the University of Nairobi.
Aptly titled, beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today, the report discuses the extent of inequality in the world currently pointing out that is it beyond economic inequality and includes different facets including politics, academics and gender.
The message that one gets from the above report is the need to be more innovative, futuristic and bold in strategies and efforts to address inequality in the country. The kind of education that students get in school plays a critical role in helping society come to terms with the anatomy of inequality in its midst and start to design solutions to its inequality challenge. Attending one such class for law students this past week was consequently revealing.
The lecture by a guest speaker, investigated the different facets of inequality and the importance of tackling them. A fundamental message was that unless we are honest about bridging the inequality divide, we cannot create a progressive and developed society.
Many in society make the statements that their success is due to hard work without realizing that luck too plays a big role in where they are. It is important, therefore, that society appreciates why measures to equalize chances and lift those who are otherwise disadvantaged are essential in a democracy.
Three areas that the conversations around diversity and inequality brought to my mind are those of education, culture and devolution. The place of education in any society is well appreciated. It explains why most societies spend a large part of their annual budget on the education sector.
However, we need to pay more attention not just on the amount we spend on this sector but the kind of output we generate from our investment.
What kind of human beings are our education system producing? This is a question of the relevance and focus of the education curriculum. The education curriculum reforms to introduce competence-based learning is a good first step. There is need to ensure that the reforms move to the content and focus of university curriculum too.
Secondly, it must strive to ensure an education with a philosophy. One whose theoretical base is the need to address the manifest inequality of various forms in the Kenyan society. Students must have skills of challenging the causes of inequality and designing policy options to deal with them fundamentally.
The second issue is the place of culture. A report in the media that the Cabinet had last week resolved to seek Parliament’s intervention in amending the Public Holidays Act to rename Boxing Day to Utamaduni Day is a welcome move. It seeks to implement the recommendations that citizens made to the building Bridges Initiative Task Force.
The idea behind the move is to provide a day where Kenyans celebrate their diverse cultures. By so doing we all not just learn of the cultures of communities in the country but also inculcate a sense of celebrating our diversity. This way various communities will view each other as members of one bigger family called Kenya.
They will also appreciate the contribution of each other in building this diverse and admired territory and country as opposed to the current approach of competition and conflict amongst different cultures.