Kenyan youth have no qualms about taking or giving a bribe and 30 percent believe corruption is profitable. Over 50 percent believe it does not matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail. About 60 percent of Kenyans aged between 18 and 35 think it is not important to pay taxes. Do you wonder how the youth got here?
We all have friends, relatives or acquaintances that have made odious wealth not through hard work but gaming the system by evading taxes, obtaining lucrative government contracts through ethnic patronage or by paying a bribe. Some of us bribed to get the jobs we hold. Some parents have paid a bribe to have their children admitted to public schools. And yes, some parents and teachers have paid bribes to have national examination papers leaked to students.
Our houses of faith are not spared. Religious leaders sell miracles and other forms of divine intercession. The public perceives the police, Judiciary and Lands ministry as the most corrupt. In 2015, the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly was disbanded over following allegations of corruption, extortion and blackmail.
The succinct description of the state of Kenya’s values came from President Uhuru Kenyatta. During a state visit to Israel in February, President Kenyatta described Kenyans as whiners, expert thieves, ethnic bigots who relish trading insults and perpetuating other evils.
There is no doubt we have a crisis. Corruption and dishonorable conduct in public and in private has become the norm. Impunity and grotesque entitlement is no longer frowned at. Decency, honesty, integrity, patriotism and hard work have become hollow and unworthy ideals, which are ridiculed in national conversations.
Our society is falling apart. A society is bound together through a shared positive core values and inspired leadership that provide a framework and vision for a cohesive, moral and ethical living. Can we raise a new generation that could redeem our society?
Some people believe the radical reform of the school curriculum provides a unique opportunity to align education with Chapters two and six of the Constitution. Various articles in these chapters, for example, Articles 10 and 73 provide a basis for creating a national vocabulary based on fundamental principles of citizenship, public and private ethics.
Consensus is emerging around the idea of a values-based education as response to Kenya’s ethical and moral collapse. A values-based education locates the search for meaning and purpose of life in the learning process. It means the development the whole person beyond literacy and numeracy. It means civilizing an individual’s life purpose, refining their moral and ethical acuity.
Kenya sorely needs honest men and women who can be trusted in public and private, who are willing to be drum majors for integrity, justice, equality, national unity and common decency. We need a new generation that will put the interests of Kenya above parochial ethnic or personal interests. A values-based education is a good place to begin and we must try.