Thursday, 9 August 2012

Kenya’s Young Doctors being sabotaged

“Education is the key to success.” These are the words that I grew up believing in, that nearly every teacher tells their pupils in Kenya. The ideal that being an educated person automatically gives you a lifeline to a successful life and career is still stressed upon our young people. What they don’t tell you, is that being educated in Kenya’s current economy and system of governance could tie you down to being poverty ridden, perhaps even poorer than your parents ever were.

Take our young doctors for example. Nearly every parent dreams of their child becoming a doctor. It’s the career of choice for them. In fact, if parents could choose careers for children, there would be a doctor in every home in Kenya. But look at the doctors’ reality. After working incredibly hard to pass KCSE, the sole exam that is used to pick the career you will have for the rest of your life, after gaining entry to the only 2 medical schools available in Kenya, after studying for 7 good years, after all the sacrifice and hard work, after Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist’s Union go on strike so that more interns are hired, the government simply refuses to pay the new interns their salary for months.

I say refuse, because there is no other way to describe this situation. Why would the Minister for Medical Services and his cohorts at the ministry choose to hire interns and yet not pay them? There is no reasonable explanation. Surely, when you hire someone to work, you have in your pocket, the money to pay for that work. So it’s getting clear that the problem is in the mind. In the minds of the Minister and his fellow government officials, doctors don’t deserve to earn a living.

There is this irrational belief that is commonly held by this government and that is the belief that doctors are actually priests. Doctors are called to treat and heal people by some deity, and it is that deity who is ultimately responsible for the livelihood of these doctors. Being a doctor, to this government, is equivalent to being a volunteer, selfless, subservient and dedicating your life to helping the needy with no expectation of reward or gratitude or even means of survival. Actually, doctors are superhuman servants to the people. And so, why should the government pay them a salary?

We live in a time where this government can proudly declare yearly budgets in trillions of shillings, and yet refuse to allocate sufficient funds to its health sector.
We live in a country that has the highest paid parliament, worldwide, and yet doctors earn peanuts. We live in a country where we can comfortably pay our electricity bills by phone transactions but cannot pay our young interns on time or at all.

We live in a country where our brightest, most intelligent, hardest working offspring face a future where they will neither be able to pay rent nor even afford 3 square meals in a day, yet they are expected to work 40 hour shifts. We live in a country that demeans education, undermines the future of our youth, a country that enslaves its doctors to a career filled with strenuous hours, few resources and little personal success or comfort.

We live in a country, where for the second time this year, on 2nd August, KMPDU was forced to issue a strike notice to the government, for its failure to deliver agreed upon conditions and terms. We are faced with a dire situation, where our young doctors are starving, literally, and thus they are forced to protest for their supper!
This is an utter mockery to all of us, in every sense of the word. This government mocks education, it mocks its people’s healthcare and worst of all it mocks its long suffering health practitioners.

These doctors have been stripped of their dignity and self worth and stripped of any value. It is so personal that they cannot pay rent, cannot buy food, and cannot even pay their fare to work even though they are employed. I wonder what Professor Peter Anyang Nyong’o would do, if he could not pay his rent or afford 3 meals a day yet he is working for a government that has a yearly budget in trillions of shillings. I wonder how he would manage, if he had not been paid in months.

When our doctors strike, it’s not just about their own salaries anymore. Its also about our own health, it’s about our children’s future it’s a fight to remain pro-education. It’s clear that the government’s attitude is one to sabotage our young doctors, and rob them of hope, of well deserved and hard earned livelihoods and to mock their education and aspirations, and we all must help put a decisive end to this.

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