Thursday, August 30, 2007

The young cheats of UON

For those who passed through University of Nairobi and registered at the department of Political Science, you must know Prof. Phillip Nying’uro.

For those who don’t, Nying’uro is proud and arrogant to be a lecturer, he will not shy away from letting you know he has a PhD and has gone to school for all those years. He goes on to tell you how in their day, they used to read and would still get any supplementary.

While at it, he laments how the parallel program has produced still born who don’t read, rely only on notes, are in a hurry to finish their courses and most of all, rely on their notes and still do not get any supplementary.

He claims that students rush to the sociology and communication departments because they get to “harvest A’s”.
If arguing on emotions, one may attack the prof. as being arrogant, conceited, egocentric, and a host of other adjectives you can come up with.

But evaluated soberly, his concerns are very valid. None of the students I talked to, disputed his arguments about time spent in the library and the fact that the departments in question give “good or better grades.”

That may be a better story to defend, talk about exams.

A friend of mine found herself to the subject of giggling, immature girls when she reported to the lecturer that they were copying exams and in the process adulterating her grades.

The girls were pointing at her because she had asked the lecturer to be more vigilant to the students who were distracting the class because they were bus turning pages. They thought she was hostile to their “good grades”.

The girls and boys were busy turning pages and asking each other “ni hii? Apana sio hiyo,” while dabbing in an exam. The students were so thick that they don’t even know their exercise books very well.

But the UON administration is to blame, there were about 80 students crammed in the stuffy Science 1 lab. It was so squeezed that the students could easily read each other’s answer papers.

And the lecturer kept on walking in and out of the exam room. It is understandable if some students feel cheated.

You would be shocked that in most cases, the students who carry “mwakenya” to the examination room are not the older working students. In most cases they are the young 19, 20-year-olds, who are dropped to school by their parents at 8 am and leave at night.

One has to wonder, if you have all the time, why cheat. The answer is simple, they have no clue, most of them. There are some who have a hung of things, but other, can even cram for you the whole book and reproduce it if need be.

One girl, known for dabbing, wondered why people have a problem. “Kama mtu hataki ku-dab si akae,” she said.

You may also ask a similar question and add that in some universities in the west, students are given exams to do overnight and deliver in the morning. So why do we feel bad when they cram or dab.

In my opinion, I think the parallel program is a good idea, and I am not saying that regular students don’t dap, they do.

The university suspends students guilty of examination irregularities, but this has to be accompanied by other measures like making sure that the examination environment is conducive.

More than that, I think the parallel programme should have an age limit, admit students who are beyond 25 so that they can have a level of maturity.

The opinions are varied. Bring them on!!!!


CTO Forum talks rural connectivity- but to who?

Last week, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) held a forum in Nairobi to examine solutions to Africa’s rural connectivity in Africa.

It is argued that about 80% of the continent’s population has no access to internet or telephone. Egypt and South Africa have the best penetration in Africa. The CTO said in the conference promo that this will take a giant leap forward when ministers, regulators, operating company executives and high-level officials from various development partner agencies converge at the meeting.

But the event, hosted by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), failed to provide a forum where all stakeholders could meet and hold discussions of research findings, policy options, regulatory strategies, business models, financing and investment facilities, available technologies and public-private-people-partnerships that could enable improvement in African rural connectivity.

Though the topic was on rural connectivity, the shs 40,000 entrance fee was not meant to bring in the rural folks. How many rural folks make the shs 40,000 in a month forget about saving that much for entrance fees.

When I raised this issue with one of the CTO organizers, he argued that the London based outfit needed the money so that it can redistribute to all areas it operates in.

But my argument is, we needed the rural market women and men to come and share how their lives had changed after they started using mobile phones, how it has helped save time and how the internet can revolutionalise the way they do business.

At such a meeting, you would expect the brokers who get cabbages and potatoes from Kinangop to come and share how they no longer have to take trips to the farms, they just make a call and the goods are loaded and delivered in Nairobi. How the instructions can change or be clarified by just making a phone call.

However, these stories can not be told, because they don’t have the requisite entrance fees, the event was left to top level government, civil society and private sector officials who can pay that amount.

The event was therefore punctuated by the same statistics and papers that had been presented in other events and all that was changed was the date and title of the conference.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

When commercial interests take precedence

Last week, the media fraternity united, journalists, editors, photojournalists and took to the streets in protest against the media bill.

It was a first- even during Moi days the media never took to the streets. They may have protested, but never before have journalists and their bosses united that well.

It had been decided that on that day, all newspapers would carry blank from pages without headlines. The electronic media would also not air news. This was expected to make a statement to the public on the role of media.

But this plan was defeated by competing commercial interests with some entities claiming that they may not make as much money if such steps were taken.

It may also be argued that admissions by Wako and Kagwe that they are ready to advice the president to shelve the bill may have taken the steam off the elaborate plans.

But it remains to be seen whether commercial interests can be sacrificed for the sake of common good.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Julie Gichuru does the job

Julie reads the petitio......

more colours.....

a close up ......

showing the real colours

showing the real colours.
no one was talking, afterall, they are expected to be silent....

muzzled press

they came with all their tools of trade...

journalists' demo

it is only times like these that one can tell how many journalists in kenya. for once, we rallied to our cause.
it was historic, never before have journalists taken to the streets.
today, editors, writers, photojournalists took to the streets..

from the silent demo

dressed in a variety of colours and covering their mouths, kenyan media practitioners matched throught the streets of Nairobi, protestitng aganist the media bill. The colours also represented the diversity of the electronic and print media present at the demo.

the early morning march was well attended by all journalists from all media houses. they carried their tools of trade.
Julie Gichuru read the petition at the state law office. the gates were locked and the journalists could only speak from outside.

i think the public is right when it accuses the media of being selfish. just google the hulla balloo about the media bill and you will see the number of pages coming up.
the media went on with the silent demo as a way of making a point to the government.
off course the media was there to cover itself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wako deflates planned silent demo by the media

Kenyan journalists were scheduled for a silent demo on Wednesday 15th August and present a petition to Attorney General Amos Wako, urging him to advice the president to shelve the controversial clause 38 of the bill.
Because it’s only the president who can rescue the situation, the journalists wrote a letter to the AG asking him to expect them.
But the ever smiling Wako scuttled the demo by announcing that he will be advising the president to shelve the bill. At the same time, Wako is said to have called the bosses at media houses urging them to call off the demo. Sources indicated that the government was getting scared because in Moi days, there was no journalists’ demo whether silent or loud.
The problem with the clause is that like now where I talk about sources, I would have to reveal the source of my info. There is nothing wrong with that except that it is very ambiguous and can easily be misused. Meanwhile, here is Dr. Ndemo’s take on news about the demo…..

I did not want to comment on the Demo but I think the public is being misled here. What is the reasoning behind the Demo when the Government has made it clear that the issue shall be looked at? We delivered on all promises we made to the stakeholders and those who bothered to read and seek dialog.
I think by resorting into mob psychology you risk eroding the confidence and trust that we have built over the past view years.Since we have another bill coming, I have decided to present the lessons learnt (attached) from the Media Bill to avoid such situation in the ICT Bill. It is important that we all understand the legislative process in Kenya and it is only by making decisions based on knowledge that we can develop a civilized nation.
Bitange Ndemo.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Reality of Kenyan journalism

Patrick Kariuki Muiruri is known for many things, the fiery Gatundu North legislator has been implicated in tea and coffee wars in his area, does not shy away from confrontations and most of all, “tells things as they are.”

So, when PK said how poor journalists are, and that they survive on hand outs, he found some support from some parliamentary reporters.

“It’s the truth and people don’t like admitting the reality, for once, I support PK,” said one parliamentary reporter.

I decided to engage the journalist because it is the only way to know the way they feel. After all, it can be assumed PK was making reference to journalists based on his experience with them.

Journalists in Kenya are heavily vilified for being lazy, poorly read and surviving on hand outs.

Yes! It is true!

Sample this, a correspondent from the Nation or Standard earns a retainer of shs 15,000 and the rest is calculated on contributions. The possibility of making shs 30,000 a month is tough for some.

What correspondents earn in these two papers is what most staffers earn at the People daily and Kenya Times that is- shs 30,000.

This means that if the journalist has a family, they can only live in Kayole, Mathare North and Kawangware. There is nothing wrong in staying in these areas but bear in mind that the same criminals you expect the journalists to write about rule these areas.

So, there sets in greed, we all want to live beyond our means. But who is to blame, the journalists or the media owners who pay poorly?

The other reason is that journalists mix with the movers and shakers of the economy, some of the, can only buy beer, not even food. The politicians and businessmen exploit the poverty loophole to use the journalists in the dirty games.

Journalists are also guilty of agreeing to be used.

For instance, journalists in rural areas, they have no official vehicles, have to use politicians’ cars to the function. If not the politicians’ cars, they use the DC or DO’s car. How do you expect a journalist who was given a ride from Mathioya to somewhere interior to report negative issues about the people giving a ride?

There was this story of how some coast legislator kicked out a journalist from his vehicle because he had dared to contradict him. Unfortunately the journalist was left in the middle of the forest.

So yes, journalists may be a shame, but is that not the story of our society?

That is why it borders on immorality for a Kenyan journalist based abroad to hold themselves in their high horses and castigate Kenyan journalism (one actually did, and his comment was ill informed.)

The conditions are different, they are tough, just like that civil servant has to withstand staying in Ruai yet expected to report to work at 8 am, and journalists too have their excesses and vices.

By the way, you will be shocked that when it comes to handouts, the journalists in Nation and Standard get higher share because the newspapers are highly read. The other journalists get lesser handouts.

We can lie to each other about journalism and single it out as the most corrupt but it may be a reflection of corruption in society. And as such there are very honest journalists who I know will not take your handout, it doesn’t matter the source.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Of journalists, and corruption….

When a friend of mine sent a scathing SMS castigating a fellow journalist, I was offended. He had advised me to urge my colleague “to go to hell”.

I was offended because I expected more from a lawyer I had grown to respect, I thought he had better skills to deal with it than to splash mud on everyone. He complained of bad faith and malice, demonstrated by a cartoon in the newspaper.

But the core of my friend’s complaint was what he described as chronic corruption within journalism. He felt that the journalists who write or publish negative things are the same ones who queue for handouts.

This is an old saying, has been told over generations. Even the meanest of characters, who can’t even afford to buy a drink for anybody, shout themselves dead when speaking about corrupt journalists.

I am not overly impartial in this, because my opinion has always been- it takes two to be corrupt. Can anyone who gives money or other favors to journalists claim to be righteous?

The main question: do the journalists hold a gun to anyone demanding money?

This question was underscored by the Members of Parliament who claimed the only reason for passing the media bill is because the journalists are corrupt and survive on hand outs.

It was argued that it is fair to pass the controversial media bill that will force journalists to reveal sources,” because journalists are corrupt”. It was even said that journalists are always seen walking to parliament. How right!

The question of corruption is controversial, because the journalists threaten to publish malicious details. But there are other mechanisms for redress can sue or officially complain.

can journos champion their cause??

am just watching news about the civil society protesting about the media bill. am just wondering whether they have the basis to protest about the bill. where are the journalists to champion their cause?
apparently few practicing journalists take to the streets, leaving it to media owners to do the job....

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Erratic power, changing bills

“There is a problem with my bill, it’s too high!!” Mary said to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company cashier across the counter.

“You tell me, you are the one using the power, not me,” the cashier responded.

Mary had no choice than to pay the shs 2000 bill. Failure to pay would have meant disconnection, and reconnection procedures are a story for another day.

It was shocking for Mary, a single mother of three to receive that bill, because her bill for the last two years had been shs 150 or at most sh 200.

One can assume that Mary was justified to seek explanation for the drastic change in her bill. She wondered how she would have consumed all that power with the light bulb and the transistor radio.

But her story applies to so many Kenyans whose bills are inflated once in a while. KPLC argues that some meters are interfered with and once the interference is detected, the bills can be backdated.

With interference, the consumer gets a jua kali electrician to ensure that one consumes a lot but pays less. For instance, you can find a block of flats with all sorts of electrical appliances yet the bill is minimal.

There was a time Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) talked about selling power “pay as you use” like the scratch cards. Maybe that would have been a better idea, so that we can control what we use.

Tanzania has made good progress with LUKU- Lipa Umeme Kadri Utumiavyo- and it has been argued that LUKU minimizes the interference. But I knew friends who had interfered with the power

KPLC has been promoting the Umeme Pamoja, program, to connect more homes at minimal costs. But with the erratic blackouts and talk of power shortages, maybe KPLC should address some of these problems before connecting more.

Of course I am in support of more connections so that we can all share the light but are there things that KPLC can do better and improve the quality of their services.

CDMA- the future of communication

Written by Rebecca Wanjiku

Considering just how good the news seems, it is astounding just how poorly the messengers are telling it. The drastic discounts and improved product that Telkom Kenya has put on the market may well represent a revolution.

If this was Celtel or Telkom's prettier cousin Safaricom, Nairobi and the countryside would have been swooning in a deluge of colours and a cacophony of promotions, but this is Telkom Kenya even in 2007.

The most noise we have heard about the new service has been from the company's competitors, and specifically Celtel who are feeling increasingly like the third wheel in the love fest that is Kenya's mobile phone industry. With a market estimated at 9 million subscribers, 2.2 million of whose are Celtel's, the colossal profits should be a sufficient palliative even as Celtel await the adjudication of the Communications Commission (CCK). Celtel's complaint has been that the national fixed line operator does not have the unified licence that would allow it to operate both fixed lines and mobile networks. It also complains about Telkom's exemption from the 10% excise duty and the fact that it did not suffer the Ksh. 55 million that Celtel did on entry into the market. Telkom counters that it does indeed have such licences, being as it was in the market long before the invention of Celtel and Safaricom, but also that its service is not mobile but merely a fixed service with portable handsets.

As the CCK mulls over the issue, Director Waweru has in the past made statements that would seem to confirm Telkom's self-assessment, Celtel - who are bringing their world headquarters to Nairobi from the Netherlands and Safaricom- East Africa's fattest fat cat, would do well to consider just how lucky they are that Telkom Kenya are such poor marketers.

Telkom's CDMA technology ,which allows its subscribers to make landline calls as though they were cell phone calls, gets as cheap as 5/- a minute for inter-network calls) on some tarrifs, a world of difference from the 8/- which is Safaricom's cheapest per minute rate. This 5/- rate is for preferrred numbers, with other calls from a Telkom wireless number to another going at 5/50 a minute. SMS is dispensed at 2/50 again a big difference from the 3/50 t0 5/- range that dominates the market. For those with eager thumbs, this is a godsend as the 2/50 is only available in Safaricom's Saasa tarrif at off-peak hours. Telkom even have a tarrif, the aptly named Furaha that allows you to call any network, anytime, at a flat rate of 14/-. In addition, and this is perhaps what is fuelling the rage at the mobile phone operators, the Telkom charges do not depend on geographical proximity as is the case with ordinary landlines. Whether a call is connected between Mandera and Isebania, or Lodwar and Vanga the charges remain constant.

The new Telkom service, built on CDMA technology is key to a future where fixed line companies will see their copper-networks rendered obsolete by advances in technology. Further, the CDMA technologies are vital to a future where consumers will use their phones for more than just phone calls and text messages. In this exciting new world, with intensive internet browsing, games, music and movie downloads, streaming and other bandwidth hungry services in high demand, CDMA will finally triumph over the GSM technology that both Celtel and Safaricom are built on. So it is not just It is not just low prices that come with Telkom. The CDMA network is superior for data transfer with nominal maximum download speeds of about 2 MB. The normal speeds are somewhere in the region of 700 Kbps which is still much higher than you can hope to achieve on a GSM phone. CDMA consistently provides better capacity for voice and data communications than other commercial mobile technologies, allowing more subscribers to connect at any given time, and it is the common platform on which 3G technologies - which allow the use of data, video and voice at the same time-are built.

The technology which is the basis of the networks in South Korea and Japan's advanced status, is described as a "spread spectrum" technology, allowing many users to occupy the same time and frequency allocations in a given band/space. It assigns unique codes to each communication to differentiate it from others in the same spectrum, or as a smart one on Wikipedia put it

As a trivial comparison imagine a cocktail party, where couples are talking to each other in a single room. The room represents the available bandwidth. In GSM, a speaker takes turns talking to a listener. The speaker talks for a short time and then stops to let another pair talk. There is never more than one speaker talking in the room, no one has to worry about two conversations mixing. In CDMA, any speaker can talk at any time; however each uses a different language. Each listener can only understand the language of their partner. As more and more couples talk, the background noise (representing the noise floor) gets louder, but because of the difference in languages, conversations do not mix.

The future then is bright for the Kenyan consumer. In the ensuing price wars, we cn fantasise about improved services and maybe even free talktime, free sms and other such services. The religious can also seek intercessionary aid on the matter of cell phone prices. The CDMA handsets are currently retailing for as little as Ksh 4,000 although these are really rudimentary, lacking many of the little conveniences that GSM phones had made us accsutomed to.

As regards tarrifs, already, if you are brave enough, Celtel's Mambo 6 service allows you to speak for as little as 6/- between 11.00pm and 5.00am. On its Uhuru Umoja tarrif, you can go for a 16/- flat rate. On Safaricom's Super Taifa, after an initial two minutes charged at 20/- each, one can enjoy a pleasing 10/- per minute flat rateBoth mobile phone providers are also keen to boost up their GSM, and have launched EDGE services especially with a view to boosting GPRS speeds.

Outside Kenya? You can now get far more minutes on your calls home if the other end is a Telkom wireless one. The minutes on your calling card will double or even triple, and you needn't wait for the evening to call the house anymore.