Mary Walker: Bringing the world to Kenya

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Editor's note: Routt County resident Mary Walker works at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker's updates from Kenya appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.

Kenyan Minister of Justice Martha Karua announced her resignation Monday. Karua is considered to have a legitimate shot at becoming president of Kenya in 2012, and her resignation signals her need to separate herself from the corruption and instability of the current government. Other members of the Kenyan parliament have resigned in recent days, as well.

Kofi Annan, the former head of the United Nations, has announced he is prepared to disclose a list of members of the Kenyan parliament who have been found to be responsible for inciting the terrible ethnic violence that shook Kenya last year after flawed national elections.

He has given the Kenyan government a choice - either hold tribunals within Kenya to prosecute these members of parliament, or with his disclosure of their names, they will be brought before international human rights court in Geneva.

Annan has said he will wait until late July for Kenya to act on its own. The vice president was quoted as saying Annan should mind his own business, but thanks for the help in saving the country from ethnic genocide last year.

Of course, the problem is that all of the people on this list (many of the names have been leaked; they are no surprise, including the member of parliament for Narok, where the rescue center is located) are powerful, connected and have a well-constructed wall of protection around them. All government officials do, don't they? It is highly unlikely that the Kenyan government is going to send its own down the river.

So, the general expectation is that August will be a very difficult time here in Kenya. The two rival political parties, which are barely functioning together in a "coalition" government, are separately holding rallies in the next few days. These rallies often are where the trouble starts, because strong party and ethnic rhetoric takes over.

I read the news about Karua's resignation in the newspaper with Caro, one of the older girls here at the rescue center. Caro is in her last year of secondary school and spends every minute studying. We have agreed that she will take a short break at 5 p.m. each day so that we can read the newspaper together. She is very savvy, loves politics, and her perspective is spot on. She picked up on the notion that Karua needs to separate herself from the current situation in order to have a shot in 2012 before a journalist from the Christian Science Monitor told me the same thing in an e-mail. There's no doubt these girls are bright.

But later, while reading an article about North Korea, Caro asked me whether people who live in Russia are Arabs. It provides a good example of how insulated these girls are from the larger world. As our conversation turned to Cuba, I had to explain communism. Imagine explaining to a Maasai girl from the bush why we find "communism" so abhorrent - exactly what is wrong with the notion that people who have (far) more than they need to survive can help those who do not?

So, I find myself in the role of trying to bring these girls into the world as well as bring the world to them.

To contact Mary Walker, e-mail mewalker99@yahoo.com

Comments

toboyle105 5 years, 5 months ago

What exactly is being taught to these young people that during their last year of study in secondary school they do not know what communism is nor the makeup of the peoples of Russia?

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mary walker 5 years, 5 months ago

"Most school students around the world are studying in conditions completely different from the school environments we are familiar with from our childhoods. In particular, the study of world history, geography, or political science is irrelevant in a country like Kenya. The education system in Kenya struggles to provide the most basic instruction in math, english, chemistry and biology, and perhaps business or computer studies (in only the newest and most well funded secondary schools). Added to this, that many students in a country like Kenya are living in extremely rural areas - what we might consider to be basic information about the world we live in is totally foreign to them and unnecessary for survival on a day to day basis. The schools must focus on basics, and knowledge about the outside world is a complete luxury under these conditions.I would challenge anyone who thinks, however, that these young people are ignorant to take a look at Kenyan textbooks in chemistry, math, biology, or English and note the level of comprehension required. The United States hardly can claiim to be well versed in world history, civics, or international political science, considering the percentage of Americans who believe(d) that Iraq was involved in the events of 9/11. And how many Americans understand the critical differences between Persian Islam (Iran and Irag) and Arabic Islam (Saudia Arabia, Dubai, etc.)? Mary Walker, written from Narok, Kenya

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jk 5 years, 5 months ago

" The education system in Kenya struggles to provide the most basic instruction in math, english, chemistry and biology, and perhaps business or computer studies (in only the newest and most well funded secondary schools). Added to this, that many students in a country like Kenya are living in extremely rural areas - what we might consider to be basic information about the world we live in is totally foreign to them and unnecessary for survival on a day to day basis." Unfortunately this all takes place right here in America too! Why doesn't the paper run a story about that?? why isn't it news when our own children suffer these same injustices??

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toboyle105 5 years, 5 months ago

Some of the statements being made are contradictory in nature. On one hand you say they struggle and on the other you challenge what they are learning against what is taught in the USA. We have been pouring billions of dollars into countries such as Kenya in the form of food aid and such for decades and to what ends? Believe me I know. I am part of that transportation infrastructure that delivers it. Go to the docks in Mombasa and see for yourself. What have we had in return for our efforts. So called pirates attacking vessels bringing in that food aid. We need to take care of the poor of our own country. You are right our educational system has a lot to be desired. At some point Africa needs to solve its own problems. It is a rich resource continent but the wholesale corruption that takes place by those in power has raped the land and its peoples. America and its missionaries have never been able to solve that problem. I have seen how people live there. It is awful but we have people in our own country that live in similar conditions who could use a good education.

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toboyle105 5 years, 5 months ago

A friend of mime was recently delivering food aid to some West African coast countries. She observed the ChiComs in a few places busy building out infrastructure, i.e. bridges, roads , communications, ect with the vast forex currency we as a nation have provided them. They aren't delivering handouts to addicts addicted to handouts. They are building what is needed to truely exploit the vast resources Africa holds. America and their EuroTrash friends have wasted an opportunity to truly make a difference. They could have used their resources to build a large and stable middle class over the last fifty years. But short term greed has always got in the way. Instead they have an incredibly weathly class and an extremely dirt poor class.

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mary walker 5 years, 5 months ago

I am happy to see the vigorous response that some of my observations have brought forth. To clarify one point. I have spent alot of time looking at the secondary school textbooks used here in Kenya. In spite of the many challenges in Kenya, students are expected to master subjects like chemistry, biology, and math at the same level that I have observed in American high schools. In this way students aptitude is quite similar to ours. But in every other way, life here is totally totally different from even the poorest of the poor in our country. A prime example would be the lack of clean water and access to even basic medical care for endemic and life threatening diseases like malaria, typhoid, cholera, AIDS, chronic diarrhea for the vast majority of people here in Kenya. At least in the US there is clean water and emergency medical care readily available. Please try to iimagine what your life would be like without these basic human needs. I agree that there is much work to be done to assist the needy in the United States of course. But the idea that Africa can provide for itself is untrue. Its resources are controlled by businesses owned by former colonial powers, or as in Sudan, at the mercy of corrupt governments. The "average" working class African, if there really is such a thing, is of a totally different caste than in our country. Mary Walker, from Narok, Kenya

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