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It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl! Point Blank with Asian Weekly, 23rd February 2018

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“Motherhood is a great honor and privilege, yet it is also synonymous with servant hood. Every day women are called upon to selflessly meet the needs of their families. Whether they are awake at night nursing a baby, spending their time and money on less-than-grateful teenagers, or preparing meals, moms continuously put others before themselves.”

 

– Charles Stanley

 

Motherhood is a privilege indeed. Once upon a time, our grandmothers gave birth to children at home in whatever the circumstances and environment. So much has changed since then, all the way from infrastructure to science and medical advancements.

1900s was considered the natural birth decade. Then around 1910s came a treatment known as Twilight Sleep, which was a type of sedation, often detrimental because it usually killed both mother and child. By the 1920s doctors were getting experimental and started doing the procedure of dilating the cervix and removing the baby with the forceps. In the 1950s the fetal ultrasounds started mostly to see the medical health of the baby and not gender yet. But women were still faced with the discrediting of childbirth as a medical phenomenon and not a natural action. Then came the 1960s where the dispensing of antibiotics started post birth and monitoring of fetal health through systems became regular. But this was also the time the woman had the option to use the new invention, the birth control pill.

1970s saw the introduction of the Lamaze classes and the use of epidurals to relieve pain. Fast-forward to the 1990s and the knowing the gender started becoming the norm, while the removal of amniotic fluid with an injection to check fetal health also became popular. The C-section procedure became popular in the millennium.

Having a baby is the most beautiful gift you can have. While there is positivity there is also negativity. According to the international organization taking the lead on orphan care, HOPE EFFECT they say there are 153 million orphans worldwide and add that, according to UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), if orphans were a country of their own, the population would rank 9th in the world—ahead of Russia. Such is the natural dilemma that we are facing.

Let’s narrow down to how are we treating childbirth around us. There is much celebration and even extravagant baby showers. Yes celebration is a must; it is a miracle that has been given to us humans. The baby showers really depend on your social circle, expectations and standards. I recommend, go and feed hungry orphans and blanket them with your love and possessions. However where a mother who is pregnant and needs your help then don’t hold back.

For the men or fathers you must support your lovely partner throughout the journey as much as possible or be frank and just not have the baby. Be real. She may not want you in the delivery room, but she wants you in her life no matter what. A recent study in Kenya shows that women prefer not to have their male companions in the delivery room. This study focused more on the rural areas and this does bring to light the much-needed personal education required in the families across the country. If we want gender equality then we must address deeper issues such as childbirth. The baby is a creation by both and a responsibility by both.

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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The Last Minute Kenyan Culture, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 19th January 2018

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On 28th August 2017 there was a historic decision made by the Kenyan Government, where the plastic ban finally was enforced. This momentous decision was met with its own kind of protests especially from plastic bags manufacturers but as the weeks proceeded the pattern soon set it and shoppers got used to bringing their own cloth bags or buying from the till.

Before the year closed, Uasin Gishu County became the first one to ban supermarkets from charging shoppers for their bags. The assumption is that perhaps the same should apply across the rest of the country. This is a challenge because each county has slightly different consumer trends. There however can be a blanket rule for shopping malls and especially retail clothes shops not to charge their shoppers for the bags, whichever type they may be. It is very ridiculous to expect a shopper who is buying clothing items, which are on average worth KES 500 to pay for another KES 10 for a bag.

When it comes to the supermarkets, the charge should remain because this has a domino effect in the running of the household. Buying foodstuffs and other condiments is an almost weekly or monthly ritual for most shoppers. The way they run their homes and especially kitchens will depend on the use of these bags. This means planning and of course a last minute shopping situation may not be conducive. Here’s the thing, if your store room is not in order then your shopping is bound to be haywire. While the staff at the supermarket tills needs training, you must take initiative too. The days of relying on them to pack the items are over and perhaps this is the beginning of the Western type of shopping, where you do almost everything and pay too!

When the supermarkets were using plastic bags they never passed on the bill to the shopper, just imagine how cheap we were treating our environment. In the UK shops that have over 250 staff are meant to charge a minimum 5p for their plastic shopping bags. Smaller shops are meant to give them free. The cloth bags industry are cashing in and making money with this entire process but then again they have created jobs and are good for the environment. Shoppers should get used to having their shopping bags/boxes in their vehicles (Kenyans have plenty of cars and big ones too) all the time for their shopping needs. Forgetting to carry them is your problem and if you have to pay, then you should not crib about it.

The plastic bags industry was toxic and that’s why when it ended it hurt those who were killing the environment. Being a responsible human is costly, well then it is too bad, the Earth was given to you for free.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The Magic of Movies, Point Blank with Asian Weekly, 10th November, 2017

French Film

 

 

A long time ago a cinema was one that was an open-air ground with magic lanterns. The first film is Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon and it was made in 1894 by the French Lumière brothers’ (Louis and Auguste Lumière). This was the beginning of the silent film era. The first film to have sound was The Jazz Singer released in 1927 and since then Hollywood has never looked back.

Bollywood started their movie making in 1913 with the film Raja Harishchandra by Dadsaheb Phalke.

 

 

 

When it comes to TV, the word “Television” was coined by Constantin Perskyi in 1900 and today TV remains the go to place for debates more than news and series. The world of digital media has changed the whole viewership concept. Once upon a time one black and white television was sufficient, then came colour, football and Ramayan. Then came a television in every room. Now it has all come down to a small screen in front of you anywhere you are, on a train, in the bathroom or on your bed.

A theatre or cinema is still prominent especially for opening nights. Over 75% of your movie ticket goes back to the Movie studio in Hollywood for their production and a big opening night is a major profit night for them.

Due to inflation the cost of movies has risen exponentially and especially so also because of the new digital effects and mega marketing budgets. Star power still draws the highest part of the business because of remuneration.

The man who created cinematic magic as far as big is beautiful is concerned is director Steven Spielberg. Ever since his JAWS movie and then E.T. the audience wanted more. They wanted to get closer to danger, to fly in the air and see new places. He can be indirectly called the father of 3D cinema which then achieved a new level with the James Cameron AVATAR. These visual effects can not be enjoyed on your iPad or laptop.

The Indian TV and Film industry provides for over 2 million jobs and while it earns the country about $10 billion it also takes a hit of 10% of that every year to piracy. 80% of Tamil films are downloaded so the rush to capture the digital market and secure the accessibility is important to India. Currently India is the 2nd largest online market and has over 400 million users. Bollywood actors have been going to the small screen to earn bigger bucks and fame. Well now they are considering web series and films to do the same. They want to keep up their star ratings and also experiment in this digital space of cinema.

An average person is still not able to buy a relatively large TV and surround sound and have the space in their house to convert into a mini-cinema. A die hard movie fan will remain a cinema goer no matter what. So while the everyday person catches their favourite TV show or movie on internet platforms like Netflix, they will still be a part of the piracy consumers because these platforms may still eat into their monthly budget which is used for school fees or otherwise. Piracy is the menace the cinema business can never get rid of. What they can do is to continue embracing the digital trend but still making the cinema going experience as interesting as possible. For example, imagine one day showing up for your favourite Marvel movie and Batman serves you popcorn. The infrastructure of a cinema should never be compromised and those who want to pay value for the ticket will do so.

Piracy costs jobs and lives but legitimate platforms like Netflix create jobs and awards. The digital space will not stop the cinema experience or kill the TV series fun. It is up to cinemas to be innovative like they have been, for example IMAX to give the audience unbeatable experiences.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Level of Education Should Not Define Your Success, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 3rd November, 2017

phd-survivor

 

 

 

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

John Dewey

 

 

 

 

 

Education is the most beautiful gift you can give anybody. There is no bigger joy than to see someone use the knowledge and create opportunities, inventions or solve problems. There is no doubt the world has so many unsolved issues, for example, what is dark matter or how to get an unlimited supply of water and so much more.

While it may be the jobs of the scientists, physicists, doctors and economists to really get to the bottom of the mystery, so are other professions crucial to this task. For example if you did not have an able tax man you would not be able to enjoy the profits you are at your business. If you did not have a capable maid/house help then you can not go to your regular work day free minded. Each person is important in this chain where the wheels of life are chugging along as smoothly as possible.

Education in life is two fold. There is your regular school then there is the school of life. There is major debate especially in the developed countries of how education needs a change, the syllabus needs a new look and children need a new way of teaching. They want to be more life skills and aspirational oriented such that the child is prepared for employment. One can argue that are we creating in direct robots to take over or get into the jobs market easily? Well maybe. Imagine if you are now 40 years old and still have not bought your house, but if your teacher when you were 12 years or even 16 years old told you what a mortgage is all about, wouldn’t you have done something about it as soon as you entered the job market?

The highest level of education to be achieved is a PhD. According to the Princeton Review, they say:

“Each year, some PhD candidates do not meet the requirements of their graduate programs and are asked to leave. Others choose to leave because they are burnt out, or their interests have changed. Some students who don’t complete the PhD leave with a master’s degree; others leave with no degree at all. You should be prepared for these scenarios by making a back-up plan.

Successful PhD students thrive in a highly intellectual environment, are willing to work very hard with only a possible payoff, love their field of study, and don’t mind forgoing impressive paychecks. If this sounds like you, forge ahead!”

Then the question is, will such a candidate be a great professor? It takes 9 years to get a PhD and according to the Commission for University Education (CUE) Kenya, the deadline for professors to get their PhD is early 2018.

This rush is causing panic and leak of fake doctorate degrees in the market. A great professor is not made by a PhD but by character and attitude. If the English mathematician G. H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge, England did not think of giving Srinivasa Ramanujan the chance to travel and appear at the English university, then Ramanujan’s work would never have been recognized. It is the personality of a teacher that can make or break a student. Yes we can not dismiss the teachers and professors who have studied and achieved much academically.

But when the teacher or professor can not improve the running of the institute, give better opportunities to the children, be fair to parents, regardless of race, not make Government changes where required to put children and their future first, then their education is useless.

If you as a PhD professor want the best for your child, then why is it different for other non-related children? Why the bias of being in an elite class? Why not also show your children what is the reality and tell them to support the better for the good of all children? Why the snooty behavior that only you know best? Why is your hard work more important than the taxi driver who is struggling to put food on the table for his family. If the attitude of the education institutes is to raise the standard of qualification, then they too must deliver excellence service at reasonable fees. The right of education should never depend on your financial status or the class of “elite education club” that you come from. Be fair.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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How Fake News is Destroying Credibility, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 22nd September, 2017

Fake News

When the US Elections were being held last year, the then presidential candidate Donald Trump made lots of noise about and still does, for example recently on June 13th he tweeted “The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely-incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!” What is Fake News? According to Wikipedia, they have defined it as “Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.

Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention. Intentionally misleading and deceptive fake news is different from obvious satire or parody which is intended to humor rather than mislead its audience.” Almost everyday we are receiving news via our Whatsapp and while you might be quick to share that you have interesting content, take a second to look at it again and check if it is legitimate. This is the new way of spreading rumors, the sad part is that everyone thinks they have become a reporter and this “fake news” ends up spreading like wildfire.

Recently in light of our own General Elections of August 8th, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission’s Commissioner Dr Joseph Nasongo has said, “we are not interested in Fake News per se, but the content. There are those that have been deliberately designed to stir ethnic emotions or violence. We want the online community to help us stem hatred that is being spewed on social media.” While citizens may use fake news to misdirect each other, even politicians or those in power can do that to suit their agenda. A classic example when after the immediate kidnapping of Chibok girls in Nigeria the politicians told media it is a fake story. The price we are paying for the real story not getting to where it needs to is getting higher. They can use it to spread an agenda they like, for example during the Second World War the Nazi Germany used this propaganda machine to further their mission. You must remember these tips when spotting fake news: consider the source, read beyond, check the author, supporting sources, check the date, is it a joke, check your biases and ask the experts.

Fake news is meant to cause harm or even topple a Government. Don’t fall victim to it. Even if it is a family or friend’s story, always get to the real source before you share unconsciously and let an untruth get legitimacy. You are responsible for what you read and say, so do it mindfully and responsibly. When you are in charge of information have the honesty to use it effectively and not for your personal gain. Fake news is here to stay for a long time mostly because of the social media and technology chatting tools that are available to us.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Secrets We Don’t Tell, Point Blank with Asian Weekly 25th August, 2017

The Secrets We Don’t Tell

Cyber Bullying

The word Sarahah is an Arabic word and it means “honesty”. This new word is also an App that has gone viral because of its purpose, which is to send “honest” but anonymous messages to whomever you like. But guess what it is not the first app to exist and do so; there was the Secret in 2014 and then the Whisper in 2012.

Whisper still exists and on their website they have stated the following: “if would you like to prevent your child from having access to the Whisper app, you can do so by placing restrictions on their device.”

After the break out story of Edward Snowden there have been several attempts to have secret chats, for example the Telegram offers self-destruct option for your chats and end-to-end encryption where only messages are read by the its intended recipient.

Sarahah was designed so that employees could freely give feedback but when the teens caught on it became viral. The ironical part is that it was created in Saudi Arabia by a developer called ZainAlabdin Tawfiq and he did it because he thought it was the best way to share “constructive feedback”.

These secret apps are weapons of cyber bullying. In a recent survey titled “Eleventh National Poll on Children’s Healthy” by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in the US parents recognize cyber bullying as serious health and threat issue to their children to up to 30% of the cases.

According to the research done by the University of Birmingham, children and young people under-25 that become victims of cyber bullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.

Just when we thought the Blue Whale Challenge is under control, India has been reporting a few cases across Mumbai, Delhi and Indore. This is an Internet game where after playing it for 50 days the player has to commit suicide. To show his progress, the player is asked to share photos at every level where there is also a sign of self-harm as that is part of the game.

However there are claims too that there is no conclusive evidence that this game really did result into suicides in Russia. According to a watchdog site SNOPES; they claim “The reasons teenagers commit suicide are well researched. According to data from the General Prosecutor’s Office, in Russia 62% of suicides among adolescents are associated with family conflicts and general distress, conflicts with teachers, classmates, friends, and also with the fear of violence by adults and callousness of others. From a report on the topic from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the increase in the number of suicides “occurs in times of economic crisis and sharp social change.” For example, in Russia there was an increase the number of suicides from 1987 to 1994, when the USSR collapsed. As soon as the company adapted to its new socio-economic conditions, the number of suicides stabilized.”

This actually also opens up a very serious problem that is probably being ignored over the hype of these “secret chat apps”. Why are teens and children gravitating to these to share their feelings and have conversations?

Fear should run down your spine because girls from 6 years of age are body and image conscious and dieting according to the Journal of Adolescent Health UK.

Also according to Young Minds UK one in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder –around three children in every class.

These are not related to Western or developed countries, because of the Internet accessibility worldwide even 3rd world countries are showing serious signs of children mental disorders and suicides. According to the World Health Organization “the burden of depression and other mental health conditions is on the rise globally. A World Health Assembly resolution passed in May 2013 has called for a comprehensive, coordinated response to mental disorders at country level.”

The main agenda should be to focus on the well being of children. They need secure and a healthy environment for their upbringing. However it is not that possible to have the parents or their extended families carry these responsibilities. The Government needs to step up the mental health policies and childcare. Even if the United States has that set up then why is there such a significant rise of suicides in children and mental disorders with the young ones? It is also about sharing culture and maintaining grassroots parenting. This is a vicious generation cycle, which will probably take another generation to fix. The danger is that technology is moving faster than we can control it or us.

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Who’s Got The Last Say? Point Blank with Asian Weekly 18th August, 2017

Who’s Got The Last Say?

Baby Courtesy GeeksLP

Baby Courtesy GeeksLP

Today’s babies are growing up surrounded by iPads, smart phones and the YouTube network. Let’s go back to the Millennials who were born from 70s to 90s and are probably your parents. They grew up in the Cold War that probably did not affect us in Kenya that much except the regime of former President Daniel Arap Moi. Kenyans were living in their bubble of extended families, gatherings, small businesses and peace and harmony. This was also the time some of these ventured out of the country for travel/holiday/settlement/education or business purposes. Though some succeeded a few stayed back and while they did not opt to get employment in the service industries they created their own businesses which for those who have lasted long enough, have become empires. The empires were laid down by strong foundations of the baby boomers born after the Second World War who really worked hard and honestly and left a legacy for their generations to come.

You must recognize the difference; the millennials while being born from 70s to 90s were slightly conservative because at the same time there was the Generation X being born from 60s to 80s that defined the next generation Z. This generation Z is considered to be born after the 2000s and the dotcom era and those born after 2010 are being called Generation Alphas. Age is just but a number what is however interesting and possibly of concern depending on whose side you are the social trends taking place over these years and generations.

Your mum and dad never spoke up to their parents and listened and followed society norms, they probably did not know any better or there was thorough respect for their elders. After that this very mum and dad decided to give their kids slightly more freedom and fulfilment in choice of career and education especially. By then it was becoming obvious that status and good income were necessary. Some of the kids here eventually became robots and while they may not have excellent public relations they have fat bank accounts. This mum and dad had arranged marriages and till death do us part vows that for very obvious reasons have lasted their marriages. The divorce rate is negligible and love happened along the way. They also knew the value of family, friends and even though material things were still slightly hard to get, they valued every little piece of furniture or clothing item.

Then come their children who have grown up knowing simple things, for example playing outdoors, cousins birthday parties, tending to grandparents, working hard and being as good people as possible. A few have gone on to become successful in their careers or kick start in the service industry of finance, medicine or law. A few have gone on to settle down in relatively wonderful arranged marriages and are bringing up their kids fairly well. Finally, thankfully only a few have had massive failures and turned to the other side of life, the danger of drugs or poor social habits. Naturally they wanted to give their kids further freedom and to make choices as they please.

The big flop is coming now. Children born after 2000 have gone down the alley of poor social habits mostly and less focus. They need more parenting and extra vigilance on issues regarding depression, suicide, pedophilia and they remain vulnerable. They have become the victims of a very open society and the race to become western, stylish and upper class. This race has cost money, time and even lives. They will most likely not even be able to handle their civic duties of building a society and a nation. They will have the broken marriages and lack of purpose in life. Only a very few will see light at the end of the tunnel, because of strong family links, foundations and support from good minded friends too.

The Generation Alphas are an interesting bunch. They have all the gadgets, they have no idea what a trunk call means, or owning only one car and not having instant coffee. They cannot do without their digital weapons because as much as they are devices a few are converting them into anti-social activities. While some parents are over working to meet the little kids demand, there are those who are getting them quite easily because of old wealth and quite frankly taking it too easy. Their kids are being looked after by iPads and robots will not surprise them. There is not much human reality in their lives, except again for those families who have kept their grandparents close and extended family members and friends involved. It does take a village to carve out a relatively balanced human being. The last word will belong to the generation that outlives all.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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