Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Involve youth in the fight against corruption


Kenya’s median age is estimated at 19 years. About 80 percent of Kenya’s population is below 35 years old. Hence, we are a very youthful society. The future of our country, and indeed its best years are in the years ahead and lie in the hands of our young men and women.

However, that future is not out there, to be designed, made and bestowed upon us. The future will be determined by how we bring up our children today. Fundamentally, the future will determined by how we educate our children; their values, ethics, what their understand to constitute success and the enterprise; how we nurture and harness their creative drive and orientation to innovation.

Besides the struggle for independence, the fight against corruption is perhaps the most consequential war of liberation of our time. This in my view is the definitive struggle to set free the body and soul of our country. Roaring corruption along with impunity and greed has held this country in bondage for over half a century. Corruption is pervasive and ruined our judicial system, the police, education, politics, business, public service and even churches.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has launched the most spirited and sustained campaign against corruption. While the focus on public servants and leaders of the private sector is both significant and necessary, the war against corruption must be broadened and deepened. We must take the anti-corruption crusade into our schools, colleges and universities. The youth of this country must be at the vanguard of this war.

The youth must be at the forefront of the anti-corruption effort because a survey commissioned by the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University reveals a staggering deficit of integrity among Kenyan youth. For example, 50 percent believe it does not matter how one makes money as long as one does not go to jail. About 35 percent would take or give a bribe. Only 40 percent strongly believe it is important to pay taxes on earned income. Approximately half of the youth surveyed would vote for a candidate who paid them a bribe. More than 70 percent are afraid of standing up for what is right for fear of retribution.

Moreover, 48 percent are entrepreneurial and would like to own and run their own business, compared to only 26 percent who would settle for paid employment in the traditional professional fields of law medicine, teaching, accounting and engineering.

Furthermore, 77 percent of the youth believe Kenya will be richer materially, offering better access to quality education, healthcare, and more jobs for the youth. Another 67 percent believe our society will reward merit and hard work.

However, I find it hard to imagine that the entrepreneurial dreams of our children will flourish when they lack integrity, are willing to pay or receive a bribe, and will do anything to make money. I find it hard to believe that a future that is prosperous and offers more jobs, high quality education and improved access to health is even thinkable in a society drenched in impunity, greed and corruption.

The youth must support President Kenyatta in spearheading this novel effort. It is in the interest of the youth to join this fight because their dreams about a future that “offers better access to quality education, healthcare, and more jobs for the youth” will be undermined by a youthful population that gives or takes bribes, won’t pay taxes and is afraid to stand up for justice.

I believe that how we educate and mentor our children, from pre-school to university, must be a critical plank among other initiatives to: i) to prepare young people for the future, nurturing and channeling their creativity and innovation and supporting their desire to build and own their own enterprises; ii) inculcate the values of ethics and integrity, adherence to the rule of law and civic responsibility.

I believe there is a great opportunity now, as we think about education reforms to think creatively about how education can be vehicle for imparting sound moral and ethical values to the youth. But we must ensure that the issues of ethics and integrity, how to build and just and fair society are not just taught as subjects to be examined but are presented as imperatives for citizenship.

We must save this country for the future, its children. Happy holidays!

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