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Friday, June 10, 2011

To The Final Year University students

First of all, I would like to congratulate all of you for having completed your three, four or five year course. It is not a mean achievement, it is a major accomplishment. It takes a lot of perseverance, hard work, and even some luck to reach where you are right now. Some of you have began preparing for the job market, some of you want first clear some small issues here and there, then jump into the workers class. Well, I wish you all the best.
Probably by now you have written down your CV (...or you have copy-pasted and edited a friend’s CV…) and you are ready to drop it. You have probably already attended open days by different leading auditing firms, like KPMG, Delloite, PWC, where lots hope was pumped into you, and you went ahead and applied for the jobs and you are waiting for some correspondence from them. A few of you will then drop your CVs at the placement office and the majority of you will go to the internet and apply for jobs online in the many job advertisement sites. Others (the daring ones) will apply to jobs posted in the newspapers, almost all of which you do not qualify for because they require higher degrees and/or several years of experience.
You will be having very high hopes.

Connections, leadership and luck=Jobs in Kenya
You will see/hear of how some of your friends have gotten jobs here and there, some of the jobs just mediocre, others, well paying. With time, you will learn that so and so (may be seven guys in your campus) has been taken by those firms that had held the open days. And your hopes will begin to dwindle. You will see some of your classmates from the well-to-do families getting good jobs pretty fast. The other group that you’ll see getting jobs will be those fellows that headed the small University Clubs and organisations, including the regional organisations that you used to dismiss as tribal. Others will get some cool jobs from their older (moneyed and connected) ‘girl’ friends and ‘boy’ friends. Then there is the last group that will just be lucky.
But as we all know, very very few of us come from these very well-to-do families. We also know that we can only have one person heading an organisation for any academic year. So these numbers are also few. A majority of you have good morals, so you won’t qualify for the third group. Most of you will want to be in the lucky group, but unfortunately, not everyone wins the lotto.
You will continue applying for jobs, as you wait for your results and the final graduation. In the meantime, you will find yourself indicating on your application form that you are expecting to score an upper-second class (even when the odds are clearly against you.) In the beginning, you will be very choosy on the field that you are applying to. You will apply only where you know you are relevant.
Most of the companies and organisations that you will apply to will not even bother to respond to your well written CV and application letter. Your hopes will now begin to dwindle. One or two will write back to you, indicating that “they regret that they cannot give you the job.” At first you’ll get angry at these regrets, but with time, you’ll begin appreciating them (that they are at least writing something back.)
Others will be kinder, and they will invite you for their interviews. You will find yourself researching about their organisations on the net, and checking out sites that arm one with Interview-handling skills. It is at the interviews that you will realize that some guys in the HR departments are really dumb. They will ask you questions like “what salary you want from them,”“why you want to work for them,” “whether you like working under pressure,”“where you see yourself in five years,” and many other stupid questions and you will find yourself having to lie to them so as to please them and pass the interview. For instance, the main reason as to why you want to work for them is to get the salary and probably get some work experience, but you’ll find yourself cheating them that you are working for them because you like their policies and work environment… and such lies. You will cheat them that you want to be paid what they usually pay, and you will pretend further and even give them some range(i.e if they pay 30k, you’ll lie that you want to get between 27k and 32k) Some will even be more dumber and ask you “what the name of your D.O is!” (You will then wish that you had Ahmed Nassir as the interviewer rather than these lousy fellows!)
By this time, your hopes will be 50-50. Some few days later, they will tell you that they can’t employ you because you are yet to have the actual graduation certificate. You will continue applying for more jobs as you wait for the graduation and the papers.

On Your Graduation Day and upon graduation
On you graduation day, you will be very happy: First because you will finally get your papers, second because you will meet your former classmates, and lastly because you’ll learn that almost all of you are still jobless (…strength in numbers theory…)
At the graduation ceremony, especially for those of you who come from small rural villages, expectations will be very high, and everybody will show lots of respect, and they’ll be thinking that their graduate son/daughter will automatically get some job. You will smile with them and relay back their hope, but deep inside you’ll be aware of the difficulties ahead.
One good thing about holding a ceremony is that you’ll get some little cash. The problem with college is that by the time you are sitting for your exams, you are terribly broke, and the little remaining HELB money is usually saved for the finalists’ Bash. So the little cash from the ceremony will help you get something to buy envelopes, print CVs, browse the net, get some transport, etc.
Now armed with the certificate and the transcripts, you will continue with the job of application job. This job will now become your main job. It will involve sending CVs, delivering CVs to relatives, reading the newspapers’ jobs page, constantly checking you P.O Box and email for any response, and calling your friends to inquire of any openings.
Those who are lucky, will get a job with Safaricom (or one of the communications companies), Equity Bank (or as a clerk in one of the Kenyan banks), some pharmaceuticals, some media houses, or some other employer whose activities do not relate in any way whatsoever with what they learnt at the University. They will earn an average salary, and some of them will behave as if they own the world.
If you are less lucky, but lucky still, you will get a job with either Barclays bank or StanChart Bank where you will work in the position of a Sales Representative. Your job will entail literally hawking Loans, hawking Credit Cards and hawking bank accounts. They will give you impossible targets in order to for you to qualify for commissions. In the meantime, they will be giving you some 8k-10k per month. With the ever rising cost of living, you will realize that 10k is just enough for your survival. The guys at HELB, NHIF and NSSF will also want a piece of your small Wage.
Relatives will begin inviting you for their wedding harambees, and they will expect their banker son/daughter to chuck some good cash. In the meantime, you’ll have began applying for jobs in the currently unstable oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, UAE and Southern Sudan. By then, all your pride will have gone, and you will be ready to even work as a graduate Mboch in these volatile countries.
Some other smarter fellows will think of starting up some NGO and apply for funding from abroad. They will look for the most fundable cause, and most of them will go for education and women’s issues. The brighter ones will start NGOs to promote homosexualism defend gay rights (these ones will gets lots and lots of funding.) These NGO founders will realize that one needs things like physical addresses, registration fees and many other impeding requirements and hence they will lose hope even before they start off.
Others will start doing e-jobs, which will mostly involve creative writing, doing University research for some lazy CEO somewhere in Europe, balancing accounts. Some will do it independently(very difficult at the begging) others will do it under people who are more established in the bussiness.
And others, as a last resort, will decide to jump into the business world. They will do their research, borrow cash from family and friends, and start off. Unfortunately, businesses take time before they pick up, and one is also bound to make loses before making profits: Because of this, most of these businesses will fail, and you’ll have people expecting you to pay their money back.
You will come across adverts that claim you can access government Youth loans without the need for collaterals. You will happily walk into some bank (especially family bank, K-rep and K.I.E) with your now perfect business plan. You will then walk out of the bank a dejected person, after realizing that in reality, these government youth loans actually need more security than ordinary loans.
You will now acquire the title, hustler; and when anybody asks you what you are doing these days, your answer will be: “Na-hustle tu..”
Some of you will become extremely religious, and will expect God to hear your prayers. You will fast, you will pray, you will contribute your tithe solemnly (never mind that you actually earn nothing!)
Some of you will wish that you never went to college as you are now not different from those who never stepped in school.
Those who scored first class honors will wonder why the state doesn’t want to sponsor them so that they can use their knowledge to help the society (Instead of awarding a full scholarship to a first Class holder in Chemistry , so that they can discover the cure for cancer, the state will let them hawk loans, or at best, be exploited as sales reps for Asian pharmaceutical companies)
Some of you will hate the ever lying politicians and politics in general.
For those of you who will be lucky to get some average paying job, you will come face to face with exploitation, where you are overworked, where the organisation that you work for rakes in millions of shillings (because of your sweat) and at the end of the month you are paid peanuts, compared to what the owners get. You will realize that job security is a myth, and that you can be sacked any time for whatever reason. At times you will want to quit and kick the boss’ ass, but the pre-employment experiences will sober you up.

Capitalism, The sole problem
Whether you are unemployed or underpaid, you will begin to understand that the system doesn’t work. You will begin to see that there is something terribly wrong with the way the world works. You will now become conscious of the evils of capitalism, only that you won’t know that the system that you are living in is actually called Capitalism.
This is how the Social Democratic Party of Kenya (the most left party in Kenya) website (www.sdpkenya.com ) describes capitalism:
    • Capitalism in all its political forms - colonial, neo-colonial, or global - has failed to serve the majority of Kenyans and has benefited only a tiny fraction of the population. Colonial capitalism benefited primarily the white setter and Asian businessmen; neo-colonial capitalism has admitted the rich Kenyan African while global capitalism has further admitted/allowed some professionals into the exclusive club of the rich. The majority of Kenyans standards of living have improved little despite the seemingly major political and economic changes. 
    • Capitalism is inherently unequal, exploitative and oppressive; capitalism in Kenya is responsible for the situation where a few enjoy sumptuous dinners and wine, while the majority of Kenyans go to sleep hungry daily!  Only socialism can create conditions that can enable the majority to obtain adequate food daily and other basic needs daily.
    • Capitalism is inherently and expensively wasteful; for instance, it wastes the energies of millions of Kenyans, especially the youth, by not availing jobs. Capitalism requires and demands large pools of unemployed to keep wages and salaries down so that high profits may be obtained. 
    • Capitalism inherently breeds extreme inequalities not only between classes but between regions and communities, it is the root cause of the ethnic animosities virulent in our politics today. 
    • Perhaps, worst of all, capitalism reveals the great possibilities for improving the material and social wellbeing of our people, but immediately closes them to the majority on account of its high inequalities in the distribution of income.

Once you become aware of the fact that the reason as to why you are suffering is because of the system that we are living in, once you become conscious of this fact, the fact that Capitalism has failed failed long ago, you will wonder whether there is an alternative. You will wonder whether there can be a world where there is no Oppression and no Exploitation of man by man. You will wonder whether there is a system which is human.
The alternative is there, the alternative is Socialism (I will cover Socialism more deeply on my next visit.)
If you feel that it is indeed true that this capitalist system is not working, then it is your duty, the duty of each one of you to fight oppression, exploitation and classes, if we are to change how we live.
The bill of rights in our new constitution is a very progressive chapter. Article 41 (1)(2) tends to protect workers, and even gives them suggestions of what to do should they not  get good remuneration or should they not have reasonable working conditions. Article 37 encourages the citizens to fight for their rights, including the right to be employed. Article 55 demands that the Youth be employed. Article 43 states that:
(1) Every person has the right—
(a) To the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care;
(b) To accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation;
(c) To be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality;
(d) To clean and safe water in adequate quantities;
(e) To social security; and
(f) To education.
(2) A person shall not be denied emergency medical treatment.
(3) The State shall provide appropriate social security to persons who are unable to support themselves and their dependants.
Now that the Constitution of Kenya demands the above, why are we not fighting for these rights that are being denied to us by capitalism?
The Social Democratic Party of Kenya, which in essence is Socialist, is constantly fighting for these rights, and I am inviting you to the party. The reason as to why we should stand up is summarized in these three verses of the Internationale(Billy bragg Version):
>>>>Stand up, all victims of oppression,
For the tyrants fear your might!
Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
For you have nothing if you have no rights!
Let tribal ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the empires fall!
Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.

Let no one build walls to divide us,
Walls of hatred nor walls of tribes.
Come greet the dawn and join us,
We'll live together or we'll die alone.
In our world poisoned by exploitation,
Those who have taken, now they must give!
And end the vanity of nations,
We've but one Earth on which to live.

And so begins the final drama,
In the streets and in the fields.
We stand unbowed before their armour,
We defy their guns and shields!
When we fight, provoked by their aggression,
Let us be inspired by life and love.
For though they offer us concessions,
Change will not come from above!<<<<<<<<

We should join hands, defend the constitution, fight capitalism and build a Socialist world which shall be free from oppression and exploitation of man by man. A world where we will abolish classes!

In the meantime, you must continue surviving in this system. Do not get tired of sending the job applications. Conduct yourselves in the best way during your interviews. Try and come up with business ideas. Write them down and send them out. If your parents(or good relatives) live in this city and you are not married, and there is some little space then there is no point of moving out, just live with them, as we continue fighting towards a just world. If you come from the rural areas, then you could link up with some friends and live together rather than burdening your folks by wanting to live alone and them paying your rent. Even when you are earning something little, it would be good to have some roommate(s) and save some of your little cash. If you have some Shamba at home, try farming. Get books and read them. Read about Lenin, read about Mao Tsetsung, read about Fidel Castro and Cuba, read about Vietnam and Laos. Read African History read about Kwame Nkurmah, read about Kenyan affairs, read about the Mau Mau struggle, read Not Yet Uhuru by Oginga Odinga, read about Makhan Singh, read Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s works, just read. Try and organise the youth from you village/estate. If funds are available, go back and further your degree (though I find it strange when people do their masters so as to get better jobs-In my opinion, additional degrees should be used to gain further knowledge and to help the society-They should not be used to add prospects for jobs.)
But most importantly, should you get a job, should you get some money, Never allow the small comforts to make you fear or abandon the struggle for the new world that is totally free, a Socialist world which shall be free from oppression and exploitation of man by man. A world where we will abolish classes, a world that we must work towards.

Benedict Wachira
Chairperson, Bureau of Young Social Democrats
30th May 2011
12:08am