In Kenya, the harder you work, the poorer you become: The Observer’s Perspective

By Albert Nyakundi Amenya

I have said here time without number, that Kenya is one of the funniest countries in the world. In here, the harder you work, the poorer you become. The average Kenyan doesn’t believe in hard work anymore because criminal elements “succeed” faster.

Kenya is a country full of paradoxes. Here, we export what we don’t have and import what we readily have. In Kenya, banks lend money to those that have it but refuse to lend those who need it. Ours is a country where people borrow to buy things they don’t need.

We are a country where the rich grow richer and the poor become extremely poorer. Idleness has pushed our unemployed young men and women into chewing some poison called Muguka – whatever it is called in English – and drinking second generation liquor. Surprisingly, we are a country where majority are workless yet the few who have jobs are too lazy to work.

Our schools are producing graduates that are absolutely unemployable. We are creating more universities everyday when the ones that are there are not what they should be. Every day we listen to English language murderers on national TV and radio. You nonetheless never dare point out their errors because they will tell you “It doesen’t matter, English is not a measure of intelligence” That is why we face disgrace everyday overseas.

I have attempted to read books written by professors (who obviously need no editors) but never went beyond the first paragraph on account of nauseating errors. A week ago, my daughter’s class teacher handed me a newly recommended English language textbook for grade three. The book encompassed discombobulating errors. Immediately, I called the number of the publisher in Industrial Area. He told me the Ministry of Education made use of wonderful editors and that, the book was error free. I felt sorry that my poor daughter was being misled by teachers and books at a tender age.

The situation is worse in my own field: Language and communication. The only good thing is that incompetence of writers and journalists does not cause deaths. “Writers” who write incomprehensive things are the ones that occupy the topmost positions in government.

It is common for buildings to collapse across the country. Our wonderful engineers who are “tested and trusted” are performing wonders by allowing sub-standard building materials at sites that are also assessed by bribe-seeking civil servants.

When it comes to jobs, our young men and women are choosy. They want jobs that will fetch them more money so that they can lead quality lives. They forget that what employees need the most from their employers is experience, not riches. By so saying, I do not mean that earning a salary is not important. But employees ought to work harder to make quality products that will fetch for their employers. It is from the income so made, that salaries will be paid.

Another problem bedeviling Kenyans is poor attitude to work. For them, “A watched pot never boils” A young Kenyan comes pleading for a job opportunity. Once hired, he thanks his ancestors. He works hard for the first five days or one week then starts counting the days remaining to pay day. Once they start earning, they embark on ego trip and start living outside their income. They start coming late to work but dutifully observe the closing time. Restauranteurs claim that workers refuse to serve customers twenty minutes to closing time, not because there is no food.

In hotels and restaurants, waiters and waitresses have turned beggars and thieves. When you enter a restaurant and order for a meal, you must be very careful with your bill. Else, you’ll end up paying extra shillings unknowingly. When waiters bring you your bill, the economic hardship is written all over their faces.

Her sympathetic eyes are always glued to you. If you are a man and a lady that is serving you, she’ll look at you sexily and fakes smile. When you confirm your ill and transport your hand to the pocket to get your wallet, her eyes escort your hand to the pocket and back. When your empty-hand disappears into the pocket and back, they now shift their hands from an empty hand to the wallet.

They smilingly watch as your other hand joins the other one to open the wallet. Once you open the wallet, her eyes shift from the wallet to the money. Again, her eyes accompany the money to the bill booklet. From there she moves closer, still smiling, and picks the bill pocket. When she returns the bill pocket with your change inside her body language is literary communicative.

She lackadaisically places back the wallet on the table as she waits for the two little words that gladden their hearts; “Keep change” Upon the mention of the two words, her mood changes as if she won a Jackpot. Upon grabbing your change, saying thank you and pocketing your change, she switches to mourning mode.

But waiters and waitresses are our brothers and sisters. We love and respect them nevertheless.
In Kenya today, things are not the way they used to be. You don’t know who to trust anymore. Almost all the fundis (juakali artisans) I have hired to fix a few things have almost always cheated me.

Our young generation has developed a tendency of hating work because they find no dignity of labour in our nation. Virtues like honesty, hard work, dedication and honesty have skidded into cesspool. Year on year, thieves and charlatans are awarded plaques of honour while industrious but poor workers go unnoticed.

I advise young Kenyans on salaried employment and self employed to work harder and earn a genuine living. Work! Unless there is a tree in their father’s compound that grows money. If you are employed by someone, work hard as if it were your own work. He, who works hard for someone else, works hard for himself. This is the same work ethics that you would take to your own business. And as they say, hard work does not kill, it pays. In Gusii-land where I come from, they say that the reward of hard work is more work. So, the youth of Kenya work hard.

(The writer sells Bananas in the streets of Kisii County)

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