10 November 2012

Kenya: Convincing Nairobians to Have Fewer Children


New parents have always been a special bunch. According to them their children are the prettiest or most handsome, the smartest, the strongest, the "everythingest." This is to be expected as the child is flesh of their flesh and bone of their bones as they say in the good book.

In this day and age being a parent can be quite an exciting thing for a new one and a trial for their family and friends. Once upon a time a parent would cart around pictures of their little ones on all occasions.

This happened infrequently and one always looked forward to seeing their new nephew or niece's latest look. Now parents flood the social media space with photo album after photo album of their little ones with imaginative titles like, "baby eating porridge!" or "my strong baby holding my hand".

While the joy of the parent is there for all to see they usually don't realise that perhaps everyone in their space isn't as enthusiastic about the new being 24 hours a day seven days a week.

It seems that one of the people who may not be as enthusiastic about your new child as you, are the planners of the government of Kenya.

In a report released last week they recommended that Kenyan parents should be asked to cap their reproduction of children to two. It is a recommendation that would never see the light of day especially with our lawmakers many of whom are famous for siring large broods with multiple partners.

Even with that, it is an idea worth considering. The planners have used the argument about the cost of caring for children and its implications for the national economy and the quality of the lives of each of them. Individually, the cost of having a child has skyrocketed and taking care of every extra one can be a nightmare financially.

The cost thing is a decent argument to use when talking about planning your family. This method is all well and good for convincing any reasonable person to plan their family but as you and I know Nairobi folks are not reasonable people.

They need to have a different approach to this problem which rewards (carrot) those who comply with the recommended behaviour and sanctions (stick) those that fail doing so.

The carrot method

The campaign should show first born children who are doing a good job in society to the pride of their parents. You will see good children "carrying the family name" and doing great things.

On one hand we shall see a child recommend his or her parent to the public and Vision 2030 advises that this is a possible campaign prop should you decide to run for the presidency in 2023.

The child would explain that the reason their parent is the best candidate is because they did not live above their means and take away resources from the rest of the citizens by keeping to the 2030 Vision number of children.

They would also explain that due to adhering to the number of children, there was no in-fighting among six siblings on who should speak on behalf of the father. 'A coin has only two sides. When our parent decided that one of us should speak on their behalf at the launch of their presidential bid, we flipped a coin and Andrea lost. My parent would have seemed like they favour one child over the others, if we were more than two. As it is, the coin decided.'

The stick method

This would show children who are outside the two kids bracket who have the following things against them that parents don't want for their kids;

The wrong reproductive choices - More and more in this town kids are getting their own kids out of wedlock as modernity is thrust upon us.

The problem is that many of them can barely take care of them and will dump them on their parents and continue living their lives. This rampant practice would be seen as especially stressful to parents with more kids as they may end up as unpaid nursery owners in their old age.

The wrong career choices - not all kids will run their lives to become the next president or Nobel laureate. The campaign will show kids who will continue staying at their parents' places into middle age and keep asking for an allowance. The argument will be that more kids will be stuck with you just as you need to spend more on healthcare and the like.

Venue revenue; Hotel Metro, Koinange Street

Drinking for many tends to be an exercise for the weekend. This is the time when people are unwinding after a long hard slog and want to relax their bodies and rejuvenate their spirits.

You will rarely find me in a bar on a Monday but this past one was a bit different. I was walking in town when the rain threatened to make an appearance and drench the city making it a traffic nightmare as is usual in the rainy season we are currently experiencing.

As I considered sitting in a place and having a drink I came upon Hotel Metro on Koinange Street. The sign on the street was unimpressive but I have been reading of things happening here on the social networks and so I figured that I should have a look.

I walked up a narrow flight of stairs which didn't inspire as anyone with a wheelchair would have had a nightmare accessing it. Bottom marks for disability access.

When I got to the place proper I was pleasantly surprised as it is much larger than one would assume from the street. There was a room with a counter to the right and another room with an open passageway behind that.

To the left, tables have been set up by the balcony overlooking the street. There were a few TVs by the counter showing highlights of an amazing comeback match between Reading and Arsenal which told me that sports enthusiasts were catered for when need arose.

Red seats were the main offering in the place with a few comfortable looking ones at the counter. The decor here was less spectacular and more functional.

I made my way to the balcony and ordered a cold Tusker from the friendly waitress in jeans and orange top which came to Sh180. Not too bad but still high.

As I had my drink and fiddled with my phone I enjoyed looking down onto Koinange Street which was abuzz with folks rushing home as the rain came down in spurts. In the pub, there was an interesting mix of punters mainly older that 30; what looked to be a committee meeting was sitting at one table; a well dressed lady drinking one of the new cider drinks in the marker as she read a book; several Europeans that had the look of the tourist to them.

The washroom experience was an interesting one as they were in the back where it looks like they still haven't finished constructing the hotel.

It was clean with water and that area also had what could constitute as an alternative exit should anything untoward happen in the bar. A quick recap of the venue;

Good: Central location, decent decor, outstanding service, clean washrooms and emergency exits sorted, sports enthusiasts can get their European sports fix.

Bad: No disability access.

My verdict: It's a great little place to have a drink or two with friends. That's assuming of course that none of you is on a wheelchair.

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