Coronavirus crisis has revealed true public servants

Thursday, May 7th, 2020 18:19 |
Public health officers take body temperatures of the members of the public at Kencom Bus Stop, Nairobi as part of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus. PD/Samuel Kariuki

Kenya has some of the most pampered politicians in the world. Technically they are accountable to the people, but in reality, they are accountable to no one.

While they are paid a salary, they have devised ways through which they extract extra pay for anything little they do. In this they have set an example for the rest of the country.

It is not always clear what the public get in return for the investment in politicians.

To put it another way, the nation would not lose much if Parliament did not sit for an extended period of time.

Following the arrival of the coronavirus on our shores, the most scared group were the politicians.

They were the first to close shop but nothing much changed when they did so.

The other thing that the virus has shown us is the group of professionals we can hardly do without.

Unfortunately, some of those groups are the most maligned in society, and to whom politicians, as policy makers, chose to pay little attention.

Let us examine some of those groups. The medical professionals easily top of the list. This is understandable. These are the people who take care of the health of the nation.

Taking care of the health of the nation does not come cheap. To start with, it takes years of training and many examinations to attain the qualification.

One can spend nearly a third of their entire life pursuing studies. If one joins medical school as a teenager, they will be in their mid twenties by the time they graduate.

Then consider their work. They are constantly exposed to danger. They have to upgrade their skills.

They need expensive equipment and specialised environment to work and then they have to rely on the politicians to decide their pay.

Teachers have been treated with slight in society but the service they provide is simply not quantifiable.

Those who thought they could replace the teachers by teaching their children at home got a rude shock. 

The experience with the little ones easily proved what a challenge it was to make the young ones sit for a few minutes and repeat the numbers on the table, or just to keep them indoors.

Those who thought they knew just as much as the teacher were woken from slumber by the range of subjects that they were supposed to cover. 

Many in society, educated as they are, cant clearly remember what improper fractions are; why y has to be deducted from z and get a proper number; the use of the definite articles; where the Maji Maji rebellion took place and what it was about, and the guy called Mzilikazi and all that. This is before the Kiswahili lesson starts.

Often overlooked is the role of the teacher in the transmission of culture and other lessons that never show up for examination after eight or four years but yet are at the core of who we are as society.

They never rank at the top of the chain but the role of journalists in society is important. Since they continue working even during the lockdown the role of the journalist may not be recognised as much.

But imagine for a moment if all the radio and TV stations went silent, then the newspaper did not come out in the morning!

It will be field day for rumour mongers and the chaos that would ensue would be unimaginable.

The maligned police may seem the least useful members of society, but imagine their absence from the streets!

Thugs will have a field day and society would have a nightmare maintaining order.

If nothing else then the coronavirus pandemic should teach us how to order our priorities right.

These critical services ought to be recognised for what they are and be sufficiently remunerated to give dignity to the people who serve in these positions.

Let us honour the medics, the teachers and all those who keep society running. — There writer is the dean, School of Communications, Daystar University

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