NPR logo A Teacher from Kibera Checks In

News

A Teacher from Kibera Checks In

From the Red Rose Nursery and Children's Centre in the Kibera neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya Courtesy of Ken Okoth hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Ken Okoth

It had been a couple weeks since we heard from Ken Okoth, friend of the BPP who grew up in the Kibera shantytown of Nairobi, Kenya. It's nice when he checks in, but given how things have turned worse in Kenya, I was a little nervous to read his latest note.

Dear Friends —

Greetings to you and your loved ones. The news from Kenya is not encouraging at all, and I am told that anything you can see on BBC, CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, etc, is just a shade of how bad things really are, because the journalists can't even get to report as freely as they would like.

After a month of violence, it seems like a real balkanization of Kenya is happening. I had wrongly thought a few weeks ago that mainly the lower classes disenchanted by the outcome of the elections would demonstrate and then get quickly quashed down by the police or forced to go back to work.

The conflict now has morphed into something deeper, far beyond the disputed outcome of the elections. In my mind, I think that what is coming to the fore now has to do with historical land issues and the distribution of power in a country that seems to have been a huge and unfortunate experiment in forcing disparate ethnic groups into one state without the appropriate institutions for all to feel that they have the full benefits of citizenship and participation.

Certainly, a quick re-run of the elections now would be a bandage measure if not an outright call for complete war. The institutions for holding together a multi-ethnic Kenya just seem woefully inadequate or completely absent. We had many years of peace and stability, but our leaders failed to use that time to build a solid foundation for a real Kenya with a strong and independent judiciary, press, parliament, political parties, civil society groups, etc.

The country seems to be in rudderless freefall, and not to be cynical, I can almost imagine how bad the movie will be 10 years from now when they make a movie like Hotel Rwanda or Sometime in April. I wish we could change history right now and stop that movie from ever being made.

Article continues after sponsorship

While, as expected, the news was not good, Ken also sent along a hopeful sign as well from his school in Kibera, the Red Rose Nursery and Children's Centre.

The school reopened on January 14th with only 10 out of an expected 100 children showing up. After three weeks of soldiering on, there are now 45 children at the school this week, an improvement and a sign of hope. These kids are the future of Kenya, and my prayer is that they will be safe, and the others who have not come back to school will be able to come back soon too. A good education is power against ignorance, poverty, disease, and ethnic chivalry.

Thank you for being angels helping to make the possibility of a good education possible for these children.

Sincerely,

Ken Okoth