The pe­cu­liar habits of Kenya’s mid­dle class par­ents

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - REGULARS -

Michael Joseph, the for­mer Sa­fari­com

CEO, it is who once blamed Kenyans’ pe­cu­liar call­ing habits for the tele­coms op­er­a­tor’s then reg­u­lar tech­ni­cal hitches.

The ref­er­ence to Kenyans was, of course, too broad given the fact that Sa­fari­com’s call­ing rates were hardly af­ford­able for a large ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion a few years ago. Mr Joseph most prob­a­bly had in mind, the Kenyan mid­dle class — a de­mo­graphic pe­cu­liar in its habits in more ways than one. When Nairobi Gover­nor Mike Sonko last Mon­day de­nied pub­lic ser­vice ve­hi­cles en­try to the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict in a thought­less plan to de­con­gest it of ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic, the mid­dle class brought out nearly all their per­sonal cars to the roads, get­ting the city into a grid­lock.

When then Gover­nor Evans Kidero in 2013 dou­bled park­ing fees hop­ing some motorists would de­cide to leave their per­sonal cars home, the mid­dle class folks ap­peared to call his bluff by tak­ing up all the park­ing space avail­able the next day. But noth­ing, per­haps, demon­strates the pe­cu­liar habits of the Kenyan mid­dle class bet­ter than the lofty ed­u­ca­tional as­pi­ra­tions par­ents in this in­come group have for their chil­dren.

Just about ev­ery­one here wishes his or her child were ad­mit­ted to one of the few elite pub­lic se­condary schools upon sit­ting the

Kenya Cer­tifi­cate of Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion (KCPE) ex­am­i­na­tion. No one can be­grudge such par­ents their dreams, and they no doubt mean well for their chil­dren. But the self-en­ti­tle­ment, the un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions and the hypocrisy with which they tend to ap­proach the pub­lic de­bate around the an­nual Form One se­lec­tion are sim­ply in­ex­cus­able. It is note­wor­thy that when some of the mid­dle class folks lament that their chil­dren have been locked out of na­tional schools, they mean the tra­di­tional 17 that en­joyed that sta­tus for about three decades un­til the govern­ment up­graded an­other 86 a few years back.

Others have in mind the na­tional schools in Nairobi and its en­vi­rons where they can oc­ca­sion­ally show off their cars and in­dulge their chil­dren on Par­ents’ Day. Yet the re­al­ity is that even the cur­rent 103 na­tional schools can only ad­mit so many stu­dents. Out of the about 964,000 can­di­dates that sat this year’s KCPE exam, only 31,000 were se­lected to join those schools. Un­der the eq­ui­table se­lec­tion sys­tem adopted by the govern­ment, a can­di­date gets to picks only one school from the clus­ter of the tra­di­tional 17 na­tional schools.

This means chances of one miss­ing out are high if he or she is from an ur­ban sub-county or a pri­vate academy which would typ­i­cally reg­is­ter a high pass rate. One would ex­pect re­spon­si­ble par­ents would help their chil­dren cope with a small set­back like this one by let­ting them know they can still get a de­cent ed­u­ca­tion in the other na­tional school they have been ad­mit­ted to.

Well, that is clearly too much to ask of the pe­cu­liar Kenyan mid­dle class par­ent!

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