The performance of the government of Kenya and any other states in the realization of the 17 (Sustainable Development Goals) SDGs depends on the political commitment of leadership. Servant and transformational leadership are key cardinal components for a prudent policy formulation and the implementation of those policies. Unfortunately for Kenya, the leadership has not lived to expectations. The Kenya Vision 2030 and the Big four Agenda, which are both geared to SDGs’ realizations have just been but our normal political catch-phrases to pretend that we have some goals.
Political pronouncements and endless seminars in hotels are not enough to realize those agendas. In Kenya, we do not seem to know what role a leader, especially the political one should play. People vote for leaders that reflect who they really are and do not expect changes in their expectations. If people would have an understanding of self and a relational view of the society, then they would be in a position to support and elect good leaders who are able to effectively work with other agents of change within or outside the political class.
The political class has little or no respect to Chapter 6 of the constitution as they have watered it down through acts of parliament which negate the spirit of the 2010 constitution. This has effectively put to a halt the establishment of our moral compass as country. What we have in our laws as national values are just theoretical phrases and political catch words which come in handy when the elite are seeking votes a year to elections. It is therefore foolhardy to expect the political class to genuinely support the enablers of SDGs, for example technology, health, education, infrastructure, social services and fight against corruption.
Kenya lives in a very beautiful era of the 21st Century where technology is at our fingertips and we do not need agrarian or industrial revolutions to lift our economy. But transforming our economy in Kenya as it is now will never happen without proper management of resources, visionary leadership (think Singapore and Malaysia) and the focus on long term gains for the country rather than short term political gains. Short term political gains include having a commemorative plague while launching a cattle dip which one will use in a few years to ask for votes.
As a student leader, my thoughts would not be complete if I do not touch on education as an indispensable fulcrum for social development and SDGs. It is also a driver in the realization of the Big Four and Vision 2030 Agendas. We are still finding our orientation of what kind of education system we need in this country as in my opinion, the current one leaves a lot to be desired. Unless we find a better educational system and policy, realization of the SDGs will remain nothing but a nightmare for the next century.
How do we have education as a human and constitutional right yet it is not accessible to the entire population? Why is education so costly in Kenya? As a matter of fact, nobody should make any money by commercializing education. Look at the KCSE and KCPE results and you will realize that the upper class in our society are using their ability to pay private education to completely shut out the majority poor from the system. The state has failed in this regard by giving commercialization of education a free hand. In developed countries of Europe, free public education is renowned for quality and many blue-chip companies usually value their graduates. It is even very rare to find private schools and universities because nobody sees any value in them.
If we have a well-reasoned educational system, we will not be seeing the primitive circus of a whole minister on live TV releasing results of poorly standardized tests like KCSE & KCPE which are a do or die exercise for many young people. We will also not be seeing kids ending their lives because they did not achieve an artificially set “cut-off” grade to paradise. In my own opinion, education and acquisition of knowledge is continuous and cannot be measured once in eight years. The results are almost not reflective someone’s intellectual ability because even someone’s mood or family situation can drastically change the outcome of those 2-hour tests.
For Kenya to realize the SDGs, it is important for our leaders to not only bring people together and encourage public participation, but should also use their positions as opinion leaders to help to solve problems. Leaders should not cultivate a culture of continuous high octane politicking that compromise the ability of the nation to pull together and have common goals. If the people do not have common goals and ways to reach those goals together, then the path to Sustainable Development Goals will be a long, winding and painful road.
By: Meshack Kiplagat
Meshack Kiplagat is the Academics and External Affairs Sec~SAMU, Meru University of Science and Technology.