Notes, Taking Stock

The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back

A friend asked me what is my current read and i confidently disclosed that i have been reading THE STATE CAPTURE REPORT : INSIDE KENYA’S INABILITY TO FIGHT CORRPUTION  which was launched on 22nd May 2019 at the Laico Regency Hotel. I got my copy on 1st June 2019. I have been reading it ever since. It is 64 pages. And i am presently at Page 51. That’s 50 Pages only in slightly over 50 days.Some weeks back , my social media accounts bio had “ bibliophile” featuring there. I edited it some time later. Haha! I am actually ashamed that my readership has taken a dip to such pitiable levels.It would have been ironical to still have it there.

In the course of our conversation my friend sent me a link to an article he had written about a month ago titled : CONFESSIONS OF A BROKE YOUNG MAN . He starts off the bare – knuckled narrative with a scathing indictment of himself .

He says “The last seven years of my life have been marked by indecision, being overly-cautious and what, at the time, I naively called poking holes at life. I have been a jack of six trades and a master at none. I have engaged in one long meaningless and abusive relationship to a lady who loved me more than I knew but whom I only loved because of the longevity of the relationship and the ties I had with her family.”

For a moment , i lulled. Each of those words by Paul hit like a ton of bricks. Paul was my high school classmate. He holds  a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil and Construction Degree from the Technical University of Kenya.

 “I was introduced to freelance writing. I got paid well and received good reviews but it made me lofty, beaming with pride and puffed up with arrogance because I had, until then, been a below average performer in all areas of my life. Including my sex life. I had finally chanced at something I was good at. So much so that I felt that writing was innate and I didn’t need to work hard. I felt entitled to getting new jobs. And I got a number but in my haughtiness, I thought I was good enough while in truth, I had barely scratched the surface. I lost all the jobs and got scathing reviews that tarnished the goods ones I had.” , he says.

“I signed up to study engineering against my will. I loved it at first. The love faded away and was channeled to other pursuits which I also didn’t take up. I burned all the bridges that would have elevated me financially. I quit internships without notice and didn’t feel bad about it because I thought I wouldn’t need them. I have now learned -the hard way- that even the best marksman can’t count on two birds perched on a tree. And I wasn’t the best marksman. I have tried coding. End of story.”

Paul’s story isn’t the only lamentable one.

Mark Maish , in an article he wrote a year ago , “ The Measure of a Man”  he started off by saying , “I am moving back to my parent’s house at the age of 25 when I should be out there conquering the world. I feel like a total loser. A disgrace to my entire lineage but deep down I knew I had met my Waterloo.”

He continues : “In 2010, I joined Kenyatta University to pursue engineering for my undergraduate studies. Before I began pursuing civil engineering, I thought it would be interesting. That we would be learning and doing things that would revolutionize the world only to end up studying same old concepts without any real-world application. In my sophomore year, we started reading stories of young people in the west, dropping out of campus to start tech companies that turned them into billionaires overnight. We debated the merits of tertiary education with my comrades while contemplating quitting school for entrepreneurship. In the 2nd semester of my 2nd year at university, I quit campus, pulled together my savings and borrowed some cash to set up my first business. I used up all the capital to import a couple of Tablet-PCs. I envisioned building an electronics import business empire, raking in millions and never having to work for anyone or need a degree. Unfortunately, I did not conduct an extensive market research. The same week my shipment landed, a giant Telco rolled out a series of cheaper Tablet-PCs. I ran into huge losses and returned to college humbled, spending the next several months paying off my debts.”

Kariuki Kimuyu (goes by the non de guerre KISAUTI) , in a blog post titled “ The Broken Man” he begins by saying : “And then I was flat broke, seated in a matatu going fifty miles an hour towards Kangema, where my dad was born, where my grandfather, the one I’m named after is buried. I had been lost in the melee of trying to be somebody in a city that seemed out to sabotage my every move and it had now boiled down to running. My rent was unpaid, my water and electricity switched off. I could barely put food on the table and most days I had to make do with githeri and ugali. As the matatu left Nyamakima stage and the city rushed behind me. I had a feeling of relief. I was leaving it all behind.”

“When you are flat on your back like I was you realize how little human beings need to survive. Five hundred bob could get me through a week as I buttered up a potential client. I was so broke that I couldn’t even show up for meetings.”

There is another story that ran in the dailies on Friday . Samuel Gachini , who is PhD student  , a taxi driver and a  father of two laments : “I just have to make ends meet. I have applied for hundreds of job opportunities but all I get are regrets, empty promises or no replies at all.” He further says , “My case is just the tip of the iceberg. We have many graduates who are unable to find employment opportunities. This matter has to be corrected before it turns out to be a catastrophe”

Michael Kuria , a Global Supply Chain Quality Assurance Director at the International Rescue Committee says that “maybe it is time to have an honest national conversation in Kenya about what degrees do and what they don’t do. Mr. Gachini has spent both millions of shillings and the most productive 10 years of his life in school. And now he can’t find a job. This is not an isolated case. It is very common in Kenya. The old Kenya where one goes to school, scores at or near the top of the class, advances to college, gets a couple of advanced degrees, is recruited from college into lifelong employment either as a mid-level civil servant or into a managerial pipeline in a blue chip company is deader than disco. The old rules no longer work. Thinking that they still do is causing a lot of harm.”

Al Kags tweeted , “ One of the guys weighing produce at Naivas Westlands has a Masters Degree in Procurement and is currently doing a PhD in Project Management (finished coursework). Should he be working with you or someone in your TL?Let me know. I will introduce him to you.”


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