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Kenyans around the world question the wisdom of gvt spending Sh18.5B on Census after another 7.7B on Huduma

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Several controversies still dog the decennial census that got underway Saturday evening even as the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) maintained that they are ready for the count.

The census kicked off at 6pm and continues until August 31.

CONFRONTED

After 52 days of queuing to participate in another digital registration exercise dubbed Huduma Namba, many are yet to fully comprehend why the census will be gobbling up Sh18.5 billion to ask more or less the same questions that were asked barely three months ago.

The silence following the conclusion of the Sh7.7 billion biometric registration exercise in May has even made matters worse.

A first of its kind, every Kenyan was expected to get a unique number after the exercise that saw biometrics captured (digital fingerprints and photo) but no number or card has been forthcoming and the government has been silent about it. It also remains unclear when the numbers will be out or even the exact number of people that were registered in the exercise, which ended on May 25.

As if that was not enough, the preparatory phase of the census has been marked with poor and sometimes confusing communication. For instance, many Nairobians were not aware that there would be a pre-enumeration visit to houses by enumerators (pre-listing) on Friday. Some in Greenfields, Donholm, were almost lynched when they appeared outside peoples’ doors claiming to be conducting the pre-listing, which residents were not aware of.

In South C, another enumerator was confronted by residents who did not understand her mission when the counting was still some 48 hours away.

CLARIFICATION

Many people we talked to said they were not aware of such an exercise as KNBS had not informed the public to expect such visits. “I heard a knock on my door last evening (Thursday) and the person standing there introduced himself as a KNBS staff carrying out some census-related exercise. I could not understand what this was about because I knew census was starting on Saturday,” said John Mutua of Pipeline estate, Nairobi. According to Mr Mutua, he sent the official away because he feared he could be a criminal posing as census staff.

Still on communication, KNBS problems were compounded by matters beyond their control. Having requested that Monday, August 26 be declared a public holiday, State House’s communication unit appeared to jump the gun by announcing that President Uhuru Kenyatta had agreed to the request before quickly sending out a clarification that there would be no holiday.

In an interview with the Nation last week before the State House mix-up that all but ended hopes of public holiday, KNBS director-general Zachary Mwangi had spoken passionately about the need for Monday to be a holiday.

“If we get Monday as a holiday it will make our work a bit easier as many people will be settled at home. As a tradition, we have always been having census holidays during the period of the count and it is meant to make the population to be as stable as possible since movements are minimised,” Mr Mwangi had said.

The disorganisation and poor communication was also evident on Wednesday, when KNBS cancelled a meeting they were to have with the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) at the last minute with no explanation offered. The meeting was scheduled from 8.30am at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) and everything was on course until 8.16am when the bureau sent a message informing KEG of the cancellation.

HUGE COST

The other controversy around this year’s census has been the budget. From Sh8.4 billion in 2009, the 2019 count is costing the taxpayer a cool Sh18.5 billion, which is more than twice the cost 10 years ago.

Regarding the budget, Mr Mwangi explained that the huge cost went to buying the devices that will be used by enumerators to input the data they collect. “In 2009, we did a paper census, meaning we were having a paper questionnaire that the enumerators would fill with the responses. This time, however, we are using a mobile device to capture data,” said Mr Mwangi.

According to the KNBS boss, the cost of acquisition of the devices is normally high.

“But if you look at it in the medium and long-term, these devices will be used in carrying out other activities of the government like field surveys that we will be carrying out as we move forward,” he said.

Mr Mwangi also defended the budget, saying the Sh18.5 billion is a five-year budget from 2015/2016, when KNBS started the process by conducting cartographic mapping of the whole country to come up with enumeration areas. It will cover up to the 2020/2021 financial year, he said.

“Much of the budget goes into paying allowances for the census personnel we have hired, including security,” he said.

163,000 PERSONNEL

The bureau has hired more than 163,000 census personnel comprising ICT supervisors, content supervisors and enumerators.

The use of technology in the census has also been controversial. Leaders from the North Eastern and those from central had clashed over the rumoured use of biometric system during the census. The north was opposed to it while central leaders were overwhelmingly in favour of a biometric system. KNBS later dropped the idea.

Adding to the problems KNBS has had are the logistical challenges during the training of enumerators that ended on August 20. By the time the training ended, the materials the enumerators were going to use, save for the electronic kits for inputting data, had not yet arrived.

In some places the materials were being distributed on Thursday, two days after the training had ended. Also a cause for concern was the delay in paying all the enumerators their daily transport and lunch allowance during the training, which was set at Sh150 per day for seven days. In some places like Kahawa Wendani, enumerators camped at the venue of training until 9pm on Wednesday to be paid.

Like the Huduma Namba registration that bred suspicion with the government changing tune on whether the public would be denied any services should they miss to register in the exercise, the census has come with its own threats including a Sh100,000 fine or a year in jail for refusing to give details or giving false details.

A legal notice published in October 2018 on the exercise compels people to answer accurately to all the 36 details the enumerators would be asking, some of which many people may not be comfortable to disclose.

PERSONAL DETAILS

Although KNBS has repeatedly assured the public that the data will be kept confidential, the use of locals in the exercise may deter the free will to share certain details, presenting an odd scenario for families that may want to keep some details secret.

“Some of them may be your relatives or neighbours to whom you do not want to divulge your personal details which may be socially stigmatising,” said Irene, a civil servant who lives along Ngong Road.

Former National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, through Legal Notice No. 205 of October 31, 2018 published the sanctions that would be imposed anyone who discloses individual census data.

“Any person who discloses census information to another person without lawful authority; or fails to provide the required information, commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to a fine not exceeding Sh100,000, or to both such fine and imprisonment,” reads the notice.

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Business

Foreign students rethink US business schools

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This summer, dozens of incoming students at New York’s Columbia Business School had planned to sail around the coast of Croatia for a week to get to know each other.

Instead, they are chatting online and playing icebreaker games on Zoom. With the coronavirus still spreading, social gatherings like the sailing trip organised by students are on hold, and there is a good chance that when school starts in September, many classes and events will be held online.

Columbia and other elite US business schools like Harvard Business School and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania have said they will likely move to a “hybrid” model of virtual and in-person learning. It is a far cry from the typical MBA experience which features close contact with fellow students, in-person networking events, trips overseas and lunch sessions with CEOs.

The changes have some students reconsidering the value of a degree that can cost upwards of $100,000 (Sh10 million) a year in tuition, housing and other fees.

International students, who make up roughly 35 per cent of the student body at most elite US business schools, are particularly unsure about the decision.

“The virtual environment might take away a chunk of the MBA experience,” said a 27-year-old student from China who was admitted to Wharton and is considering whether to defer for a year.

“That’s what a lot of people including myself are thinking through now,” said the student, who declined to be identified because of concerns about his visa status and employment prospects

. Education upended

The United States has been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with more than 1.7 million cases and over 100,000 deaths.

Higher education has been upended with most schools sending students home in the spring and moving classes online. The US hosts over a million international students at its higher education institutions, according to the State Department data.

International candidates account for 36 per cent of people who enroll in full-time US MBA programmes, according to Graduate Management Admission Council, an association of business schools.

If institutions do not resume in-person learning, enrollment, particularly among international students, is likely to take a hit, according to a GMAC survey. Only 43 per cent of the international MBA candidates surveyed said they planned to enroll if programmes begin online. Forty-eight per cent of them indicated they would defer in that scenario.

By Standard Business

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Health

Alarm as town becomes new pandemic hotspot

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Shaban Juma jumps out of his truck and walks into a shop in Jua kali town in Uasin Gishu County, to buy a cigarette.

The visibly frustrated truck driver has stayed in Jua Kali, a village trading centre located about 30 kilometres from Eldoret, for the last eight days.

He mingles with a number of residents as he returns to his truck where about ten other truck drivers from Mombasa, heading to Uganda and Congo gather for a discussion.

This has been his new routine for days. Juma left Mombasa more than a week ago and is stuck in the highway town located in Turbo constituency, Uasin Gishu County.

Business as usual

Like him, more than 700 trucks and a group of 1,400 drivers and their turn boys have been camping at Jua Kali for more than a week owing to a Covid-19 testing deadlock at the Kenya Uganda border. Despite the rising coronavirus cases, restaurants and shops are operating as usual.

Worryingly, Turbo in Uasin Gishu County is the new epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, after tests confirmed that 26 out of 28 Uasin Gishu’s coronavirus positive cases are truck drivers from Mombasa who make stopovers along towns on the highway.

Last Friday and Saturday, eight and 11 truck drivers respectively tested positive for the disease, according to daily reports by Ministry of Health.

To contain the spread, the government set up a testing centre at Huruma, one of the areas where the truck drivers have been spending the nights en route to Uganda. Jua Kali is less than ten kilometres from the mobile testing centre in Huruma.

The truck drivers and their turn boys say they decided to crowd in the small town until a traffic snarl-up occasioned by delays in Covid-19 testing in Malaba on the Kenya-Uganda, eases. Juma explains why most of them have been camping in the area instead of the border area. “We have more than 700 trucks here and more are still coming because it is better to spend the days here than be stranded on the Kenya-Uganda border,” Juma says.

He says they were tested for Covid-19 before leaving Mombasa and have never undergone the tests in Uasin Gishu, but residents along the towns are expressing fears of contracting the disease.

Truck driver Michael Kariuki says his body temperature was taken once for the entire eight days he has been camping in Turbo. Mr Kariuki says he had learnt about the rising numbers of truck drivers testing positive in Turbo yet there was no testing taking place.

He says more trucks are leaving Mombasa and they will stop in Eldoret until a traffic that has reached Webuye in the neighbouring Bungoma County. And there is a downside to these negative reports.

Fueling stigma

“The Covid-19 reports have led to our stigmatisation here in Kenya and Uganda. Ugandans are good people but the Kenyan government is recklessly publicising information that has created a perception that all truck drivers from Mombasa are Covid-19 positive. Our government should be sensitive on the reports it is relaying about us,” he says.

Lazaro Wanjohi, a trucker who has also been in Turbo for over a week, says they have been asked by authorities in Uasin Gishu not to interact with locals but no government official was enforcing the directive.

“We rarely see police providing security here. You can’t stop people interacting and buying from locals,” Wanjohi says.At a guest house along the busy highway, several Kenyan and Congolese drivers and some mechanics from Uasin Gishu, had gathered to enjoy a meal as they share their frustrations.

A worker at the joint says they were instructed not to allow truck drivers to spend the nights in the hotel but she admitted that several male clients were spending time, during the day with their girlfriends – a worrying habit. “We receive clients who spend day times with local women in the hotel rooms but sleep in their trucks at night,” the worker says.

In a spot check, The Standard discovered that several eateries along the new 35 kilometres hot spot highway stretching from Eldoret to Turbo town were receiving customers, both locals and truck drivers. Jua Kali resident Silas Kipkemboi, a mechanic, said he has not stopped fixing puncture and other technical issues for truckers despite the fears.

“They cook here at night and we share meals. During the day, most of them take their meals in eateries,” he says. Samuel Karanja, another resident said: “Most truck drivers are our friends. We do business with them. We have heard on TV that most of them are testing positive for coronavirus but here things are just normal.”

Uasin Gishu County Executive Committee member (CECM) for health Evelyne Rotich said county authorities were not in a position to monitor the conduct of truck drivers while making stopovers along the highway.

“We can’t track movements and interaction of the truck drivers. This a multi-agency issue and all of us have a responsibility to enforce the measures,” Ms Rotich said.

She said of 17 cases confirmed positive by Friday, eight of the truckers were residents of Uasin Gishu. Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago on Thursday warned truck drivers from visiting their relatives whenever they were on their way to Uganda.

“We are asking truck drivers from Uasin Gishu to spare their families during this period,” Mandago warned. Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa said the issues that have been causing delays at Malaba border have been resolved.

“Moi Teaching and Referral has been testing truck drivers who have not been tested in Mombasa and those whose test certificates have expired,” the commissioner said. He added: “Yes, there have been contacts between the long distance drivers and locals. We have held meetings and this will not happen again because we are clearing all trucks in Uasin Gishu.”

By Standard.co.ke

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Entertainment

Betty Kyalo quits K24 TV

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Sassy TV presenter Betty Kyalo has ended his two-year-old relationship with K24 TV with an emotional farewell to her fans in what appears to be her last show at the troubled station.

The popular Kyalo, formerly of KTN, also hinted she will soon join a rival media station.

“I really appreciate you all. It is now time for me to say goodbye here on K24 TV. Thank you so much for your support. I appreciate you, God bless you and I love you,” she said.

Kyalo, who boasts a huge following on social media, anchors news and host two human interest shows on Friday and Saturday on K24 TV.

Kyalo’s exit was somehow expected considering the TV station’s parent company Mediamax Network Limited has been struggling financially and is set to lay off staff for in the coming month for the second time in six months.

Kyalo’s exit also comes at a time a group of employees at the company moved to court following a payment row with the management over a planned 50 percent pay-cut as a way of mitigating the coronavirus pandemic.

Mediamax Network Limited has since announced its intent to retrench staff in the coming month, the second of such an exercise since December 2019.

By NN

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