Anyone who is poor, bright and speaks English?

Saturday March 5 2016

First  Lady Margaret Kenyatta (centre) crosses the finish line during the 21km First Lady's Marathon at Nyayo Stadium on March 8, 2015. On Sunday, thousands of volunteers will be running all over the capital city from as early as 2am in the First Lady’s Half Marathon to save women who would otherwise die in childbirth. Nothing provokes Kenyan empathy like the suffering of their fellow man, woman and child. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU |

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta (centre) crosses the finish line during the 21km First Lady's Marathon at Nyayo Stadium on March 8, 2015. On Sunday, thousands of volunteers will be running all over the capital city from as early as 2am in the First Lady’s Half Marathon to save women who would otherwise die in childbirth. Nothing provokes Kenyan empathy like the suffering of their fellow man, woman and child. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By KWAMCHETSI MAKOKHA
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Public generosity is a Kenyan weakness. Unbeknownst to many people, the country is awash with Good Samaritans waiting to do a good turn, as long as they are pointed in the direction of a truly deserving case.

Suffering in any form tugs at the hearts of many Kenyans and motivates them into selfless philanthropy.

Still, nothing provokes Kenyan empathy like the suffering of their fellow man, woman and child.

Public attention was captivated by the rarity of a homeless child who is bright and speaks impeccable English, followed instantly by pledges of financial support that would see the said Morris Mwenda through school up to university.

It is not the first time, nor will it be the last. Kenyans have previously queued up to donate millions of shillings to save victims of drought on the verge of starvation.

KENYA'S GENEROSITY

The nation’s limitless generosity was inspired by the Save a Life Fund, which sought to raise Sh500 million in four weeks, and was succeeded by subsequently audacious acts of self-sacrifice.

After terrorists struck at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, Kenyans did not just raise Sh142 million in 10 days, they bled themselves dry so no one would die for lack of a blood transfusion.

On Sunday, thousands of volunteers will be running all over the capital city from as early as 2am in the First Lady’s Half Marathon to save women who would otherwise die in childbirth.

Marathons are not just the Kenyan’s good deed for the year.

Every corporate citizen with some money to spare has a foundation for educating poor but bright pupils.

Each county government disburses millions of shillings for the education of indigent but bright pupils.

Every constituency sets aside money for supporting the schooling of financially deprived village geniuses.

It would deeply offend the religious sensibilities of generous Kenyans to question how the substantial amounts of money set aside for social support and services still fall far short of the goal.

The penny-pinching habits of going over every shilling allocated to children services, cash pay-outs for the elderly, the bursaries for the needy and mitigation funds for families affected by HIV/Aids does not put children through school.

Only the poor and the stupid, or those unfortunate to suffer the double tragedy of being financially insecure and of average intelligence, should find their own path unaided by the generosity of strangers.

PHILANTHROPY SHOULD BE FORMALISED

Confronted by failing families and child care services that match Dickensian poor houses in ladling up cruelty to tots in distress, the national proclivity for philanthropy should be formalised and adopted in the national approaches to dealing with problems.

A Cabinet Secretary for philanthropy, bursaries and fundraising should be appointed forthwith to get things done swiftly without asking too many questions.

As a starting point, the Children Services Department should be disbanded, the Ministry of Health and the Department for Special Programmes too, in order to allow Kenyans to take care of their own with kindness.

Everywhere, there will be images of disadvantaged people proudly beaming with gratitude - their dignity intact - as they receive contributions from their local Kenyan benefactors.

As the case of Morris Mwenda has eloquently illustrated, it does help to be poor and not stupid unless you intend to end up at the bottom of the food chain.

Just as well he was not speaking that unintelligible patois that crosses English, Kiswahili and other African gibberish.

In the words of the character in Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain, “English English! Let us hear English!”

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