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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kenya's Wasted Talents

The story of Morris Tito Gachamba is fascinating and sad in equal measure. Born 75 years ago in Nyeri, he dropped out of school in Standard 3 because he could not cope with mathematics. That notwithstanding, Tito has attempted many engineering feats, the most outstanding being making his own airplane which he flew for 5 minutes before it crashed into a tree injuring him. For all his troubles, during Kenyatta’s rule he earned himself a stint in prison for trespassing Kenyan airspace, endangering his life and endangering the lives of others. Nobody saw the gold that lay in his contraption. That did not kill his dream though. He has since tried other engineering feats and his current dream is to make a glider. He has also made a tractor which he currently hires out to farmers in his village. Tito is not a rich man by any standards.

The sad bit is that Tito’s is a classic case of wasted talent. In different circumstances, the likes of Tito could have propelled Kenya into the world of aviation firsts. Or he could be relaxing in Seattle having just retired from Boeing. How much more of Kenyan talent is going to waste in the villages? How many Chinkororos and snuff sniffing Mungiki youths for example would have had a better life other than waiting for the whims of politicians? A lanky model can be spotted grazing cattle in the plains of Samburu and propelled to super stardom, but a much better approach for talents such as engineering would be a deliberate effort to look for them.

So Tusker Project Fame is looking for talented musicians, and somebody discovered Dennis Oliech. School Science Congresses have been around for as long as I can remember and are held year in year out. One would think the purpose of these congresses is to identify young Science talent for nurturing. But not in Kenya. Here, the kids, brilliant ideas and all, are sent back to school with a certificate or trophy to continue learning the History of Guatemala. And that is before computer errors mess up their KCSE results.

Do engineering companies send representatives to these Science Congresses? I think they should. Right down to the zonal level – up till the nationals. In fact they should form part of the adjudicating panel. They’re best placed to identify talent in the engineering field. They would know better which projects can be of commercial value so as to further patent and commercialize these innovations on behalf of the kids. They have the ability to then support the kids financially and intellectually and before we know it, Kenya will be on the engineering map. Of course these companies would have to work hand in hand with the government so that gifted kids can be exempted from the normal education system and still be able to work in Kenya. And Noah Wekesa (Current Minister for Science and Technology) I don’t mean taking them to the village polytechnics.


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Transcript of air traffic control conversation with eyewitness aircraft to the strangest accident ever in aviation history. The mystery has still to be conclusively solved. But you can be a sleuth now and take a crack at it.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally concur that's a wasted talent! However, all is not doom and gloom in Kenya regarding talented individuals who have made made it to the top without the benefit of an expensive Education. Good examples are Peter Munga and Titus Muya- both who are founders of Equity and Family banks respectively. We should also learn to appreciate or hunour or pioneers/achievers too. For example, Kipchoge Keino, Ngugi wa Thion'go, Mekitili wa Menza, Field Marshall Muthoni...etc. Let's have Institutions and roads named after these heroes and heroines! How many Moi/Kenyatta (this and that) should we bear? You catch my drift?
And if we do that, God shall bless us in many ways. Thank you.

Antonio-

Anonymous said...

Great article. Its sad we loose many Tito's out there. I remember competing in the sceince congres years ago and making it to the Provincial level. My friend and I had built an FM radio reciever and transmitter station that had a 10km reach which could have served the community well, we used OMO (detergent) boxes and regular wires with transistors from old radios. It was a great success only to be told by one of the Judges that it needs to be destroyed and never to bring it up for competiotion again. I was in form 4. Needless to say i was crushed but it did not deter me from pursuing Electrical Engineering afterwards. I'm proud and happy to say by God's grace I'm working in broadcasting building a TV Network. I would like to urge our fellow Kenyans to encourage our younger brothers and sisters, we need to inspire them to pursue Engineering and sciences. If we support them then we can help build Kenya to be the next Africa Silicon Valley. There is tremendous talent in Kenya. How do we do this. Any Ideas and suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Shiko and Kumekucha are in domo chatting right now

Just enter any screen name below or on the side of this page and enter the chat room now

Taabu said...

Spot on Ciku, we must continue drumming it up till their eardrums wouldn't take any more. We have no institution to speak of and all motions are nothing but rituals. Soon we will have national music festivals and all the hype ends at SH with certificates. Speak of a botched dream that is only realized by gracing the lawns of SH.

That said, are you sure Mzee Tito didn't top-up his talents or better still rigged his fame? You never know, this is Kenya.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Tito Gachamba is a brilliant engineer. It's interesting how inspiration can come from obscure places and people. I had the privilege of walking past his "workshop" every morning in Majengo, Nyeri as I went to Nyamachaki Prim. School. In his yard lay a framework for a aircraft and a used VW beetle engine that was intended for the aircraft. I remember hearing his story about flying an aircraft but all I saw was the evidence of the doomed flight - a slight limp. Gachamba defied odds and used readily available resources to create an aircraft, in the process teaching young people like me that nothing is impossible. I went from Nyamachaki, earned a degree in electrical engineering and now I am a radio frequency engineer designing next generation wireless networks. Way to Go Tito!!
Fred

Chicity said...

I think our education system needs a complete overhaul. I don't think it has conformed to the changing world we live in. I agree that the Science Congress should be taken seriously because those are or could be the sources of significant innovation. That's the reason one finds individuals in the States who became milliionaires before they could even get a driver's license.

I also think Kenyan kids should be encouraged to dream big, think outside the box and should not be reviled or stifled for being confident or outspoken, independent thinkers, etc. I think equal opportunity would also help. There's lots of smart kids who would go so much further if they had access to well equiped schools and knew that they would succeed no matter what part of Kenya they come from.

Anonymous said...

I know I had promised myself not to send any more comments - but this is a special case.

I read this article with greatest interest and I have a proposal:

why don't you get into contact with the German Ambassador - I am sure you will find the address and telephone No. since I only have the private Mobile Nos. which for obvious reasons I cannot give here - but I know that the German Ambassador will be very interested in this subject.

Just remind him of the project called 'Jugend forscht' in Germany and he will know what we are talking about.

Talk to him and explain what you want to reach - he will understand and tell you what to do and I am sure, he will assist you.

And you can also tell him that I will also write to him regarding this.

Good luck -

Marianne Briner

kalamari said...

How about we do this; as it was done in the ancient city of Shantila (don’t ask where it was). Between the ages of 2 and 5, all Kenyan children must be enrolled in the 'School of Talent' funded by CDF monies. Inside this school will be one very large play room filled with all manner of toys, music equipment, sports items, books, science tools etc; a hybrid kindergarten of sorts.

Behind a one way mirror will seat a panel of child development professionals of the highest degrees. Their only job will be to monitor the types of activities each child consistently indulges in with a view of developing the talent associated with that activity. For instance, if a boy is thrilled by nothing but toy cars, his further education from that point onwards will be geared towards mechanical engineering, car design or automobile mechanics. If a girl enjoys playing with the stethoscope and other laboratory tools, her destiny will be anything from medical doctoring to nursing. If there's a bully whose agenda is making every other child cry, he should be a policeman or hauled to the army training corps. If there happens to be a kid whose face beams at the sound of a piano, he should be our next Kamaru.

If for instance there's a naughty child who regularly attempts to sheepishly walk out of the school with small toys in his inner pockets, he should be made into a politician…. or more precisely, a Kenyan MP.

kalamari said...

If there's a girl child who all children refer to as a persistent pest, one who never wants to go away no matter what she's told, she should be shipped to an internship with Marianne Briner.

Andy Capp said...

And if there's one outrageous boy who refuses to accept any leadership from inside Central province... and is a blatant tribalist and incredulous racist, he should be transformed into Kalamari.

Anonymous said...

Kalamari - why do you hate that much?

I do not mind that you hate me for whatever reaons - but who gives you the right to transfer this hate to the rest of Kenya -

And especially why do you think that you have the right - just because you hate me - to cut off the Kenyan future, i.e. the brain of its children, to the level of your hate?

Why? What I have done to you personally? Because only if and when you can reply to this question and give your reasons and be willing to be judged by others, you can be 'absolved' -

Otherwise, please shut up - in the interest and the future of a better Kenya without people like yourself.

At least that's what we all hope for - but maybe tou don't for your own selfish reasons.

Marianne Briner

You see I am not afraid to give my real name - but obviously you have the same courage hiding behind 'kalamari' !!!!!!!!!!!!!

kenyanobserver said...

Nice article.

Anyone with the wherewithal can nurture a kid. You do not have to wait for an institution, company, government or international donors to do it.

Anonymous said...

Did I scare you - I hope I did.

Because it's people like you who rob Kenya of its future resorting only to polemics and hate articles without any substance.

Therefore, shame on you - and I hope it's the Kenyan intelligent youth which will curse you and uncover the real face behind all your nice (and empty) words.

You have nothing else in mind than your own self-esteem.

So inspite of maybe feeling sorry for you, I only despise you - because it's people like you who are the real thorne in the flesh of Kenya-s development.

It's people like you who stop (or at least try to stop) leading Kenya into a prosperous future.

But I do not give up hope - that one day also people like you will realize that there is more in life than just words - there is the future of a whole country at stake.

But that's too much for your small brain to digest.

So you will continue sending those hate comments because that's all you are capable to handle.

I feel sorry for you - but I also know that Kenya and its people are way above you and will see for what you are........zero and not counting in the esteem of your country.

Marianne Briner

kalamari said...

MB. Geeez. That was a joke. Relax. In fact, I totally adore you Marianne…especially your spectacular contributions. I just wanted to tickle your fancy. You see, unlike others who've taken advantage of Kenya and bolted to who knows where, you MB have consistently returned to Kenyan blogs where you share your great views on how to develop our beloved country. I speak for all Kenyans when I say, 'we appreciate it. In every way, you are a freedom fighter and an astute fighter of human rights. The way I see it, every woman should follow your footsteps. You are the powerful torch that lights the fire that brightens the lives of every Kenyan. In you we can only find the path to prosperity and love.

To me you are Mother Teresa!!! Let no soul tell you otherwise.

To answer your question, it is not what you have done, but what you can do….for me and country.

Anonymous said...

REAL Issue holding naming of the Grand coalition government:


Unmask Mobitelea, demands NCEC

Published on March 25, 2008, 12:00 am


By Maseme Machuka

The National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), a key member of civil society taskforce on corruption, wants the Government to name owners of Mobitelea Ventures.

Programme Manager, Mr Ndung’u Wainaina, said it was contemptuous of the Government to dismiss Kenyans’ demand for the identification of owners of Mobitelea Ventures and how they acquired shares in Safaricom.

"We are convinced that top Government officials have been protecting Mobitelea owners. And now the sale of Safaricom is being fast tracked for top politicians and their cronies to equally acquire shares.

"Acquisition of shares by Mobitelea Ventures is the most dubious and costly scandal that a Government worth its salt would entertain unless it is part and parcel of such a fraudulent scheme," he said.

Wainaina said civil society members were baffled when ODM leader, Mr Raila Odinga, reversed his opposition to the sale of Safaricom.

He said while it may be politically expedient for the prime minister-designate to support the Safaricom IPO, the matter remains controversial.

Wainaina said Raila’s move highlights and exposes the contradictions in the fight against corruption on one hand and the competing interests of the top political leadership on the other.

"This shows clearly that the road ahead is going to be bumpy and intriguing especially in the war against corruption and impunity," added the civil rights crusader.

NCEC has called for the halt of the IPO to begin this Friday, until the identity of the owners of Mobitelea Ventures is disclosed.

It also called for a satisfactory clarification of transfer of Safaricom from Telkom Kenya and the actual cost and benefits made public.

NCEC further asked for an explanation on how Safaricom was incorporated into a company from a public enterprise.

Anonymous said...

its easy to look objectively at some of those far off semi detached examples, but closer home we turn a blind eye at how we contribute to many similar circumstances within our reach.

We have good leaders being denied a chance to lead and govern because of our sometimes misguided prejudices.

we have people being killed because some thug(s) wants riches without the sweat

we have young ones dying due to lack of medicine or basics which could have been availed only if there was better leadership.

and many of us pretend not to see these things because we are in many cases helpless or afraid, and in other cases complicit, while in other cases we simply do not care and are to busy or engrossed in our own survival.

but sure go ahead and philosophical muse at how "those people" cant help "those other guys over there". that is being kenyan, point fingers everywhere else except inwards.

we are part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

To hell with all this nonsense of self-esteem - there is more at stake right now.

so let's forget all the rubbish which has been thrown at me during the past few weeks (in connection with my ongoing fight with the Okellos, my love-hate-affair with Jeff Koinange, my past love-affair with Daniel arap Moi and Njoroge Mungai etc.) -

let's stop here in the interest of Kenya - the country I have regarded as my 'home' since many years.

As somebody once told me that it is here where my heart lies ........

So it's because of this that I beg you:

let's try to find a solution - all of us - and not just asking politicians - all of us :::::::::

Marianne Briner

Mrembo said...

speaking of wasted talents....isn't it a tragedy to make someone have to do 7 or 8 high school courses during the national examinations-master these courses to the best of their ability and then send them out to university to do something that is totally different from what they learnt!!

i can tell you that the kenyan education system needs serious revising.....i cant even remember what the hell used to go on during the titration lessons in my chemistry classes-neither did i know what my physics teacher was talking about making us draw all those funny graphs!! (at least i used to fantasize about my cribaz, bickies and juice during these lessons) however the one thing i remember enjoying shiko, was the rat dissecting class in biology and i can guarantee you since i got out of high school those many years ago i haven't touched a rat since!!

sasa shiko, with all my rat dissecting skills do you think justice has been meted out on me? dont you agree it is a waste of talent and resources to teach people things they are unlikely to utilize in the future?

so even as you advice those people to go scout science congress in high schools....please let someone also look into reforming the education sector so that we can start specializing and learning the appropriate skills from a younger age-aki i feel so wasted....yaani to be honest...those 12 years of primary and seco....i never learnt anything remotely related to my career now!!

tnk said...

kk, umelala

you should have in true tradition presented these cabinet proposals long before the ea standard to give us all ample time to heckle and throw stones

http://www.eastandard.net/news/?id=1143983863&cid=4

Anonymous said...

ODM leadership is being duped to provide Kibaki passage to RV

http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/nmgcontententry.asp?category_id=1&newsid=119844

after which they will be dumped.

cabinet must be formed before such a move.

Wanjiku Unlimited said...

Kenyan observer some of the most talented kids are from poor families. They need some extra push to explore their talents.

Mrembo I dissected a coachroach in biology. I also made a folding chair and a stool in crafts. And we built a grass thatched hut sometime in primary. You're lucky you remember there were graphs in physics. I cant recall a thing about physics! But I remember learning about Guatemala in History.

Seriously though the education system needs a complete overhaul as Chicity says. And Marianne thanks for the info about the German Embassy.

But is anyone listening? Are leaders hearing these things?

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