Kenya: Is the Facebook Generation Guilty As Charged?

Stepping into Tribeka pub on Nairobi’s Banda Street last Friday evening seemed like a bad decision.

The club was filled to the brim. Most of the clientele was in their 20s or early 30s. There was a vibrant drinking scene just like any other joint frequented by youngsters and the young at heart.

Most of the girls’ sense of fashion was expressive and amusing. Few were not in the craze that is dress tops worn over stockings or coloured tights. Bolder spirits were in lace tights.

“A fun Friday night like this helps me to calm and relax after a hectic week,” says 23 year old Mary Wambui, a student at a local university.

“I love drinking in a social setting to blow off steam and relieve stress. No other activity accomplishes this,” says 27 year old Michael Ouma, a marketing executive.

While there’s nothing wrong having a good time, the question that comes to view is, are they watching their back and making sure that one fun night doesn’t haunt then for the rest of their life?

A Nairobi writer opened up a can of worms when he recently said the older generation in Kenya “is looking on helplessly at their offspring, particularly the Google generation, and weeping with despair.”

According to the writer Kenya’s latest generations are lost. There has been continuous furore about the kind of lives that young adults born after 1980 are living now.

The older generation is accusing the twenty-somethings of not taking life serious enough. Others wonder why they are not outstandingly productive.

The youngsters are retaliating saying they are plagued by the mess created and perpetuated by the older generation; that they are struggling to chart a way out for themselves.

They are pointing fingers at the older generation for creating the political and economic mire that they are sinking in. Of course not every lass and lad born after 1980 maybe what the old folks describe.

But who really is to blame for the slight or salient observation that the Kenyan twenty-somethings are not well polished to successfully boom intellectually, politically economically and socially?

How has the family, education and changing technologies influenced their values and outlook on life?

The question that quickly comes to mind is: Was this generation raised up to cherish healthy values, intellectual curiosity and pursue financial independence?

Were the twenty-somethings amply told the vast importance of becoming independent, innovative and critical thinkers during their formative years?

If it is within the family that a person receives the foundation of values moral direction and the sense of duty did the family unit falter in its functions at some point?

Social science lecturer Mabel Odima says “the children born in the 1980s came about when their parents were beginning to adjust to change in a different light.

Women were just beginning to realise that they could excel in all areas like men and began to pick up career lines and further studies.

It seems they over adjusted and in the process children suffered.” Sharon Wangene a social worker concurs.

“Parents who have had children in the 80s have had a different approach to their lives. Many of them went to school and built careers as opposed to some of their parents who didn’t.

“This meant more time away from their children. This is not to say that these parents are irresponsible because there’s a group that made their families a priority even with their careers.”

Could the effect of having busy and probably absentee parents be that the born-80s learnt how to interact, communicate, building values and character from other places other than home such as school, their peers and the media?

“Changes in the family structure where the mother was absent from home for long hours and the father was still adjusting to this fast moving mother greatly affected the children of the 80s,” says Odima.

This is a generation that has devoted casual commitment to an art of form. To many of them love is a game to get a mate.

Those who try to make meaningful connections often go through twitter, FaceBook, or try to find mates in clubs, raves or parties.

“I have slept twice with men friends that I’ve bumped into on my FaceBook,” say 25 year old Alice who is a school leaver.

It is no news that the downward spiral of the economy has had interesting indirect or direct influence on the way young people have fun these days.

While some girls go out to find quick money, some young men are going out to find cheap sex. “I don’t have sex but I know guys who have regular sex, it’s not a big deal,” says 24 year old Joe.

“Nowadays there’s a more casual aspect to dating where people are able to openly date and from an early age, not necessarily to look for a marriage partner.

“For some, it is all about having fun. That also comes together with casual sex where the intimacy is not treated as it probably was 20 years ago.

“If some of the things some young people do today were done 20 years ago, you’d probably be shunned by your family or community,” says Wangene.

Many are won over by a tad of randiness, they are plunging themselves in the mist of casual affairs unaware of the cost of modern love.

Making any solid commitment is not in their scheme of things. Wangene explains why this maybe the case.

“Sometimes some young people are infatuated and blinded by the glitz and glamour of a wedding that they forget that it’s the marriage they need to work at.”

Wanjiku explains her choice of values: “Life is short and I’m only living it up in the way that makes me happy. I don’t know what my future husband is up to with his life.

“When I finally decide to settle in marriage nothing will be unbalanced, if he has been with many girls I also have been with many guys”.

According to the older generation, to the young people intelligence and the acquisition of it, is not a priority. Moreover they put little effort to acquire success.

But has our education system provided them with a sufficient and effective avenue to attain success? Recently, the government launched a report proposing reforms in the education system.

Among the suggested changes was the scrapping of the current national exams in primary and secondary school levels. Over the past three decades years Kenyan schools have churned out similar groups of students.

Critics of the 8-4-4 system of education say that the syllabus hardly supports creativity and talent exploration but only emphasises on theoretical knowledge and passing of exams.

The syllabus is applied across the board to students who have different talents and capabilities. Teachers on the other hand teach with a specific mindset – to have the students excel in national examinations.

Year in, year out teachers and parents have similar expectations of their students and children respectively — to excel in academics.

Media houses are never left behind in the pomp that comes after the results are announced. They highlight the success stories of top students across the country.

The glamour soon fades and the students retreat to their pursuit of success and those that don’t perform well are termed as failures.

According to Computer programme developer Ochieng’ Nyawallow there’s a need to break the paradigm and redefine success.

“Our parents used the scale of passing exams to label one as genius, but that is not the same anymore. Education is not a guarantee of success and you don’t need to pass exams to be a genius.

“Facebook, Twitter and Ipad all began as ideas. A perfectly researched idea can be changed into money,” he says.

“There’s need for specialised knowledge, because the more you know in a specific area the more you can succeed.

“Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, became successful through an idea that he exploited with his classmates while in college” says Ochieng’

Source: All Africa.Com – 16 Feb 2012