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Toddlers’ education at stake as pre-schools eat up 20pc of family income

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Kenya is among countries where pre-primary education takes at least 20 per cent of a family’s annual income, forcing many parents to forego this critical investment at the expense of children’s development.

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), shows that more than half of pre-primary-age (between three and six) children are not enrolled in kindergartens yet more than 85 per cent of brain development happens at this stage.

“This failure limits children’s futures by denying them opportunities to reach their full potential, and it deepens inequities in later learning,” warns Unicef in the report.

“It also limits their societies’ futures, robbing countries of the human capital and along with it, the opportunity to reduce inequalities and contribute to peaceful and prosperous futures.”

The study titled: “A world ready to learn: Prioritising quality early childhood education”, says the government has made little investment in promoting early childhood education, forcing parents to shoulder most of the burden.


For instance, Unicef notes that of the three to six-year-old children in Mukuru slum in Nairobi who were enrolled in pre-school, 94 per cent were attending informal private schools — placing a high financial burden on their families.

“Poor families are also at risk of receiving low quality services from private schools—families in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria spent approximately 20 per cent of GDP per capita on preschool-related expenditures annually,” says the report.

“The burden on household spending is much greater at the pre-primary level than at other levels of education across countries.”

This is made worse by other expenses such as uniform, transport, trips and snacks that are becoming almost compulsory in many private pre-schools.

In some instances, households pay fees and also provide in-kind support and voluntary contributions. Unicef warns that this is burdensome and leads to inequitable delivery and low quality.


The Kenyan government has put more focus on primary education, making it free and also subsidising secondary school education.

But it warns that neglecting pre-school education could lessen the impact of this progress.

It says lack of exposure to pre-school denies children the opportunity to build foundations of learning and develop skills that can help them succeed in school and in the course of their lives.

“Children who fall behind at a young age often never catch up with their peers, perpetuating cycles of under-achievement and high dropout rates that continue to harm vulnerable children into their youth,” the report cautions.


Further, Unicef says that when children attend pre-primary schools, their mothers have the opportunity to work and increase earnings, facilitating the upward mobility of two generations.

A World Bank study in Indonesia also found that access to public pre-school for two hours a day led to a 13.3 per cent increase in women’s participation in the workforce.

Despite the significance of pre-schooling, it is deeply underfunded by governments and donors, relative to other education levels, especially in low-and middle income countries like Kenya.

“The current budgetary priorities of most governments fail to reflect the value of pre-primary education, which is often seen as being in competition for funding with other levels of education,” notes Unicef.

The report shows that Kenya’s funding gap at about 75 per cent with expenditure on pre-primary education as a percentage of total government education spending being below 1.9 per cent compared to Tanzania’s five to seven per cent.


Unicef’s recommendation is that at least 10 per cent of total education budget should fund pre-primary education.

Kenya had 41,779 pre-schools yet about 1.3 million toddlers enroll each year, according to data from 2018 Economic Survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Kenya has only 41 public pre-school training colleges against 235 that are privately owned.

The report says underinvestment in pre-primary education by the public sector means that households have had to assume a large proportion of the costs of their children’s attendance.


In Kenya, the County Early Childhood Education Bill, passed in 2014, gave the devolved units the responsibility of delivering early childhood education services. But the national government provided insufficient resources for the intended services.

In Nairobi City County, for example, Unicef says a lack of funding limited public pre-school attendance to only 12,000 children out of more than 250,000 who were eligible in 2014.

“In addition, there was some confusion around responsibilities for various aspects of service delivery— for example, whether the central government continues to be responsible for hiring and managing teachers,” observes the report.

A pilot study in Uganda showed that 52 per cent of the children who did not attend pre-primary repeated first grade, compared with only 23 per cent of children who had pre-primary experience.

Countries could potentially afford to expand pre-primary education using the resources that are currently being wasted on repetition and over-enrolment in early grades, according to Unicef.

“The excessive repetition leads to substantial system inefficiencies and wastage, with estimated costs for some countries of 1.2 extra years of education per child and an estimated 5–10 per cent of the education budget wasted”.

Education is a top priority goal for most Kenyans regardless of financial status, with 28.9 per cent of the poor chasing it, according to The 2019 Financial Access Household survey.



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Amazon Shuts down its Chinese market place

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Amazon is planning to shut its Chinese market place Amazon.cn and its customers in the country will no longer be able to buy items from Chinese merchants, according to various media reports.

“We are notifying sellers we will no longer operate a marketplace on Amazon.cn and we will no longer be providing seller services on Amazon.cn effective July 18,” the company said in a statement, referring to its Chinese-language site, according to the Financial Times.

However, the US firm will continue operating other services in China like the Amazon Web Services.kindle e-books and cross border teams that facilitate the shipping of goods from Chinese merchants to customers worldwide.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the company’s Chinese website will only have diminished offerings sourced from its global network starting from July 18th.



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Has Easter Become Too Commercial?

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Has Easter Become Too Commercial?

By the accounts of many religious leaders and scholars, Easter is the most important festival in the church’s calendar. PHOTO NMG 

By the accounts of many religious leaders and scholars, Easter is the most important festival in the church’s calendar.

Christmas is actually part of the preparations for the Easter festival, dating back to at least the second century after the birth of Christ.

However, over the centuries the holiday has become more controversial in meaning with emphasis becoming increasingly about consumerism that goes well with modern capitalism and less about religion where it initially came from.

Some observers of religion say that secularism and its extensions, like commercialism, has increasingly taken the space that may not have been properly filled by spiritualism.

From the beginning there were controversies around the holiday, including about the dates, its origins and justification.

Meetings were held without reaching unanimity of how the rite should be observed.

“The first recorded World Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, sought to set a uniform date of Easter celebrations something that has remained controversial ever since.

There have been more recent calls however, for ecumenically-based Churches to reach common agreement on the date for Easter.

The most notable is the Aleppo Statement, issued in 1997. The Aleppo Statement received general support and yet for all that appears, the search for unity on this issue has essentially been put on the back burner,” says Dr Ng’ang’a Gichumbi, a scholar of religion and a psychotherapist.

Some scholars and enthusiasts of ecumenism say that it has reached a point that some people no longer associate the holiday with religion but with commerce.

Glitzy advertising and selling are the hallmarks of the holiday rather than worship and remembrance of what Jesus Christ was supposed to have gone through.

Consumerism, marketing frenzy and uncontrolled spending have come to be associated with the holiday.

Only that merchandising is not as it was in the Jerusalem Temple of Jesus’s day, but is now physically outside of the church.

And yet Jesus himself drove out money changers, robbers and other merchants from the Jerusalem temple in which these had made their station.

Capitalism had attempted to seize the festivals for their use and benefit, something that Jesus was against and therefore whipped the merchants from the temple on the day following his triumphant entry into the town.

Perhaps, this is one of the major reasons the people around Jerusalem thought Jesus was a more loathful character who should executed than the notorious prisoner Barabbas whom they choose to be released. How could he dare bring to an end a tradition that had been going for years?

Dr Gichumbi says that consumerism is an extension of secularism that has taken hold of the event or festival.

“But why is Easter increasingly being taken over by secularist commercial interests which relegate it to the periphery and override its central message of triumph of good over evil? It is easier to blame secularising forces for this ‘diabolic crusade’.

“However upon serious interrogation, it becomes clearer that churches are generally failing to provide semantic innovations in regard to the Easter event and because nature abhors a vacuum, gallant secularising forces are filling in the glaring void.”

It could very well be the same forces that have led to the prosperity gospel that chases after wealth.

A marketing manager at a commercial bank said that it is inevitable that companies will use the Easter event to drive uptake of their products as people are normally in a spending or a party mood and a more willing to splurge on goods that they would not otherwise spend a lot on at that time.

For example, he said the bank was using its mobile banking application to encourage people to send money to their relatives or dependants.

This may be seen as an indication that the religious festival makes people more generous.

But some religion scholars have no problem with secularism or commercialisation of Easter, saying that it was part of the tradition of the religion at the time of Jesus.

They say that at Jesus’s time, the selling and buying or even the exchange of cash in the temple was not unusual.

James F. McGrath, a professor of New Testament language and literature at Butler University in Indianapolis (US), wonders why anyone should think that the presence of commerce and noisy animals being sold in the temple bothered Jesus that much, alluding to something else as having been the reason for his whipping of the merchants.

Others suggest that Jesus just wanted to cause commotion so that the predictions of the Bible on his persecution (and therefore proof he was the Messiah) could be fulfilled.

Prof McGrath says: “We should not think that the presence of noisy animals and commerce bothered Jesus just because they spoiled the worshipful atmosphere. An ancient temple was not supposed to be like a quiet cathedral.

“It was loud and bustling. The sale of animals was essential for the temple’s main function as a place for the offering of animal sacrifices… “The money changers were there to convert various currencies into one standard coinage, the Tyrian shekel, [which] was used for the payment of the annual temple tax.

“Both the selling of animals for sacrifices and the payment of the temple tax were activities required by Jewish law and central to the temple’s functions.”

In one story carried online by the BBC, Jesus is depicted as the architect of his own death. It says: “Many experts believe that, more than anyone else, the person responsible for the death of Jesus was Jesus himself.

There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that everything He did was planned and that He knew what the consequences would be.

Jesus believed profoundly that He was on a mission from God and everything He did was to fulfil that mission.

In the events of Holy Week, Jesus seems to be deliberately acting out the prophecy in Hebrew scripture about Israel’s true king, the anointed one, the Messiah, coming at last to be God’s agent to redeem Israel.”

Dr Gichumbi however says that despite the Bible story linked to the holiday, commercialisation and secularisation has served to make more obscure as to the importance of the holiday and increase controversy around it.

He says: “The rise and rise of secularism and its relentless attacks on the Easter event, which really is the heart of Christianity has only served to raise the Easter controversy a notch higher.

Yet it would be reckless to dismiss secularism without any attempt at understanding its internal mechanism. Again.

To situate the relationship between the Easter event and its attacks by forces of secularism, it is important to understand it within the wider matrix of religion.

In general, secularism tends to place higher premium on rational thought than myth and ideology which it believes belong with religion of which Easter event is part.”



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Jimnah Mbaru makes Sh. 450 million from Britam share sale

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Jimnah Mbaru’s Wealth: Billionaire businessman Jimnah Mbaru has made some Sh. 450 million from a share sale deal.

This is after the businessman sold 50 million Britam Holdings shares to Zurich-based insurance giant, Swiss Re.

This share sale means that the founders of Britam have now ceded control of the firm to a foreign investor.

Following the transaction, Swiss Re, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and private equity firm Africinvest now hold a combined 40.79 percent stake in Britam compared to the 39.2 percent equity held by the founders, including Mr Mbaru, Peter Munga, Benson Wairegi and James Mwangi.

Last year, Swiss Re also purchased over 300 million shares from Peter Munga.

The multinational, which now has a 15.79 percent stake in Britam, did not disclose the price it paid in the deals with Mr. Munga and Mr Mbaru.

Africinvest’s stake of 16.2 percent emerged from a combination of being issued with new shares and buying additional stock on the NSE.

IFC was also issued with new shares, resulting in its 8.8 percent equity. The transactions have been motived by a need to raise new capital to fund the company’s growth and the founders’ desire to take profits and diversify their personal portfolios.

Increased purchase of the insurer’s shares by the institutional investors signals their confidence in Britam’s long-term future prospects despite its recent weaker earnings and share price rout.

The company’s market capitalisation has dropped 62.8 percent from its peak of Sh. 57.6 billion in February 2015 to the current Sh. 21.4 billion, with the share price receding to the present level of Sh. 8.5.

Britam reported a Sh. 2.2 billion net loss in the year ended December compared to a net Sh. 527.4 million profit the year before, with the performance attributed to Sh. 3.2 billion paper losses on its listed equities investments among other factors.



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