Letter to the Council
PART II Continued from a previous post
How a Brown woman can be cut off from her own rights
by her own people in a Black Country
By Mohamed Jiwa
(Copyright (c) 2013 by Mohamed Jiwa, All Rights Reserved)
It can happen to someone in most of any of the brown (Indian) communities
in Kenya but I wonder whether it can happen to a woman in an African
Readers comments to this article are welcome.
[Continued from a previous post]
"I am sad to note that you, as leaders, whom I have turned to because you have been placed here by an apparently questionable system of selection, are shying away from this challenge here. Allow me to help you negotiate and face up to it; to wax a little on some of the basic components of that challenge:
1. I am not only one of you, by ethnic background and caste, if not by social status from your point of view since I am not a member of the untouchable elite. I am a stakeholder and a member of our institutions, financed and served by our community. You have excluded me to avoid losing points with the more influential members of our community. It is a reflection of fear of alienation. Yet, it is ok to alienate someone else. At my expense you will maintain your membership with an elite clique of smarmy 'business' people who are not business people but partners in parasitism of the state: They are in partnership with the people in power, including politicians an they would never ruffle the wrong feathers. Either you are in denial of this classist state of affairs of which some of you are subscribers or you are confounded by it - but it is a real problem that has affected how you treat your constituents. To be cast out is an honour but if that scares you scapegoat someone like me.
2. I am fully qualified to be given the position I have been seeking and have applied for; there are few who are qualified to challenge this as we shall ascertain in our meeting (if you are serious about such a meeting).
3. You have pretended to care about the torture taking place on the domestic front in my life. With personal and family issues I have met all the nearly impossible challenges I have been faced with, in an abusive situation such as mine, where after a divorce my ex-husband has found cruel and manipulative ways to stay in my house, it was certainly the duty of leaders to turn to help alleviate the suffering that I am experiencing thereby in this environment of corruption. Sadly, you have not stepped forward in my direction an inch because you are probably too timid to embrace questions that my situation raises, though they are existential questions that affect our community, today, and you should be willing to reach out and attempt to better understand. You are aware that if women in poverty situations who are not as hard-headed, hard-nosed, tenacious and outspoken as I am are being forced to prostitute themselves. These are your sisters and your daughters, and your mothers. You are aware that I am currently being tortured by my ex-husband whom all of you know well enough to greet; you are in a position to counsel and restrain him, but you dare not. This is an indicator not of leadership but of some desperate retreat or cowardice.
4. I am in a position, as I have also reiterated elsewhere here, to prove that I am not only qualified for this position but also qualified to be supported in my desire to pursue an exemplary and excellent career in education that would certainly enable me to set a very high bar for accomplishment in my classroom. Such aims - to define the conditions of focusing on more well defined values - I am sorry to say, are probably not even being set by the school. As I see it, if you have failed to defined the issues that have affected the way my case was managed, I suspect that there may be too few members of staff who will be in a position to help us define and respond to the burning educational questions that affect our schools today. I want and have a right to be a part of that process.
5. I have to complement you for the achievements that you have so far made in education at the Anonymous Community Academy, particularly in the Middle and Secondary schools programs. There is clearly something that AEO is doing right though we in Kenya can only assess this relatively. However, if the school has done well it is probably largely due also to the forces that are already in place - heavy financing, institution of a recognized program and a resourceful, relatively well-guided administration, no doubt. Yet there is a safe argument that the administration is content to live with some areas of mediocrity that are traditional, as a rule, in order to accommodate expediencies of nepotism and classism evidenced in how I have been marginalised.
But it I that has had to pay the price for the shallow or deliberately neglectful if not pusillanimous manner in which my application has been managed. Who I am in real life has been overtly and covertly been misreported in your records. The resultant impression on any administrator is defamatory: It gives me the image of an inept or incapable person who is not worth developing into a rounded leader in our education system, someone who is only capable of creating a disturbance. I take great exception to this defensive, inhuman, unethical attitude. Neither will I nor the people I have counseled accept this. I have not observed this form of discrimination in the majority of African communities. It is disgraceful.
Try to see my point of view: Because I am from this particular culture I have no choice but to respond to any expectations of ethics that stem from my culture and faith that guide my life. Therefore it is unlikely that I am going to go away simply because you, as a group of leaders, are making it look to the world that it is a fly that is disturbing you (when, in truth, I represent a set of values that disturb and daunt you). I am not buzzing around anybody's face. On the contrary, it is you who feel unable to rise to applying a proactive definition to this problem which I am experiencing on my side of this relationship, for which I am searching urgent solutions while you have rejected the urgency of my call. Because I am probably not the only victim of this type of neglect, this type of lack of response can be described as reprehensible.
The above argument attempts to expose a highly questionable condition in the council who are mandated and empowered by the constitution and the appointing body to meet with their constituents proactively. When we apply to you for a position for which we think we qualify, we are putting ourselves at risk of being treated without compassion, managed unprofessionally, or not to feel welcome. We enter your offices with the fear or worry that while we are recognized on the surface we are in reality likely to be ignored or rejected by a practice of a collective disingenuousness which may be predetermined by the clout of other applicants or people in positions of power, like head teachers.
Around the charge of such deliberate neglect the questions that arise in my mind in regard to my particular case are as follows:
1. If you found that I did not meet your standards, what have you done within your mandate to enable me to meet your standards for employment as a community member, in the knowledge that I have been pursuing my studies through the structures of training and internship through you, at AEO? Keep in mind that perhaps my standards may be higher than your own, since I am trained and practice my metier with passion. How would you find out whether I espoused standards that might actually complement yours, unless you understood the questions that would inform your own standards?
2. What have you done to establish whether your staff at AEO are feeling vulnerable or jealous of their positions, as opposed to feeling confident about their upward mobility fostered under the aegis of AEO, as it should be?
3. Take a look at your teaching staff at the Lower School and tell me honestly whether they are all better qualified than I am: Who assesses this - in light of Q.1 above? To deny me the answer, to attempt to awe me with your pseudo-British accents and respectable positions that constitutionally mandated funds have put you in, frankly, amounts to serious abuse of power and total failure to fulfill your promises and expectations to the authority that put you in place to serve your people. In such regard I should also be most interested in discussing with you how our Guru and his representatives have expressed reservations about how and why 'lesser' members of the community are being defined as such by those in positions of authority, why they are being dominated or treated with contempt, which is my experience as I write this.
4. I put it to you that you are only holding people in position or in power who may feel strongly well-advised (for survival reasons) not to confront important questions about policy that you, their administrators, have yourselves failed to address. They may be forced to think in terms of survival as a result of this. Now, to salve oneself with the complacent notion that conferring the power to survive upon one's employees is a sufficiently good deed is a threatening and dangerous act of self-deception. Employees who do not feel confident that they have a destiny with the institution they desire to serve are bound to perform and relate to colleagues defensively. It follows that members of our community in leadership positions may not have asked themselves whether they, too, are setting an example or surviving and guarding their power to hold on to a position in a self-styled ranking that defines a class separate from the rest.
5. This state of affairs - a lack of resolution on the question of meeting such challenges within the leadership, which has spilled into lower ranks - is bound to compromise teachers' performance and duty to fight for the rights of their students to obtain avenues that enable them to excel on the basis of self-knowledge, to obtain access to improved approaches to real questions in the context of their own lives. This may be an area of neglect and denial, which I suspect - from your mismanagement of my case - you may have found difficult to appreciate because there is a gap between the training from our state thinktank (where the questions of culture and ethics are developed) to the leaders and their motivation to cross the bridge to a state of passion about ethical practice. This is an existential problem in the community.
6. I am - and I can prove that I am - qualified to take up a position of authority anywhere in the AEO system here and beyond Kenya, simply because of my depth of seriousness and commitment. I intend to ensure that my career is supported, nurtured and partnered by this group of institutions created to respond to the educational expectations of the constitution. Indeed, ask yourselves what other choice I have if I have so much admiration for the theory and the Theorist behind our programs? In a situation where the ilk of compliant (and therefore possibly even corrupt) 'qualifiers' will remain clueless as a result of this lacuna in execution, it may never be felt necessary to support the need to continue meeting the highest standards of ethics, you, the members of AEO Board of Governors yourselves have ostensibly failed in your duty to embrace. Legitimising such notions would serve as a force of pluralism and, in my case, would instantly free me. It is certainly first AEO's duty to do beyond anyone else's, to ensure that aspirations such as mine are aggressively supported. Sadly, particularly in my case, you have only achieved the opposite of the aims of the mission of your institution. This is a glaring failure, for which I now demand an explanation and restitution of my right as a qualified member of this community to be rightfully given a deserving position - before less qualified and non-members.
Just supposing that you have really convinced yourselves that I am not qualified to teach in our school: You may not realise that you should still employ and develop me. Why? Because the over-riding ethic that results in true development is to seize your potential human resources without hesitating and thereby raise confidence in your ability to manage and develop them.
7. You are in denial that I am able to fill such a position competently and, of course, would like to do so through a consultative process but, furthermore, such a consultative aspect of the process appears to be either dilute or totally lost. It renders the process of application sterile and, in terms of correct human resource development, ineffectual. All around us, even in Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) this patrician sort of attitude can be found to cause graft in the structures that fail to reach the standards by which they were designed.
8. I need my reason for approaching the AEO for a career trajectory to be taken on board but the question has not been raised: AEO has the duty to offer me an opportunity to develop my own aims for education which are recognised. I would not come insistently and repeatedly back to AEO unless I felt that my capacities have otherwise been under-utilised, under-realised and under-recognised. AEO is directly responsible for my alienated predicament.
9. Without a unique reason that dovetails with the mission of the AEO and our schools, I should have no intention of charting a career within this institution. But, unless you have any intention of questioning your own motives in the matter, you will not realise that "you are stuck with me, Charlie".
10. Not accepting me is tantamount to marginalising and alienating me and leaving me to languish without recognition for my special strengths as a member who subscribes to its highest standards of ethics. We browns are a cultural minority with a memory of centuries. We are not destined to be well understood for our deeply considered consistent values in history by anyone who is not exposed to that fact. Beyond our philosophy of education, which is probably comparatively deep and intricate, the values with which we need to run our educational system in an inclusive manner that embraces and seeks to share with the majority will only be paid a lip service by Tom, Dick and Harry who, while they benefit from it to the extent they appreciate its cultural and historical antecedants, are currently accepting it only the sake of expediency).
11. I cannot expect for anyone yet, among those in the system that I have met, to be able to appreciate or conceive of the basis upon which I have imagined and built the rationale of my profession or the passion by which I have been ruled in my quest to further my aspirations for the benefit of my community, especially its younger members - my constituency.
12. I have yet to come across a single respectable argument raised to suggest that a dedicated person like me, with my background and experience cannot provide a strong foundation to children who enter and become a part of my environment! I challenge you to state anything the like of such an attempt to undermine me and substantiate it.
13. I am not a passive conformist, if that is what you are looking for but, if it is, I have a right, as a stakeholder in our institutions, to charge you with resting on your laurels in many respects, beginning with your refusal to take up my challenge: In the humid conditions you have cultivated today, it seems that those who do not fit into the pattern of passive conformity are being cited as assets to your current plans. But the days of qualifying applicants on the basis of some abstruse political nuances are gone; measuring suitability against a standard of social acceptability is wrong; such a direction is destined to become anathema.
14. This is who I am. Either you already are familiar with the foregoing question (no. 13 above) and are deliberately deleting me because it is too difficult for you to address, or it is about time you pick up the gauntlet and deal with it. What worries me least is that you may not be well-informed enough, if I am to put it politely, to understand who I am, where I am coming from and what it is that I am capable of contributing to the institution. For it should be my duty to attempt to convey this to you before taking further action.
15. But if you have understood that I am, indeed, capable then I am bound by the rules of engagement and inquiry to attempt to understand what causes you to marginalise me in this negatively imperialistic, colonial and unethical manner, amounting to my deletion from our society, something that is happening to many of us today.
16. Are you aware that had you supported me - the only member of our community in Kenya graduating from this particular education development program - with care, I'd certainly be well on my way to a decent life, with a capacity to serve the system ten times more than I am today in my boot-strapped condition? I could be holding the very position that I aim to take - as an award-winning teacher (one who exerts far more influence over the direction of this institution than any teacher should be content with).
17. Just supposing that you have really convinced yourselves that I am not qualified to teach in our school: You may not realise that you should still employ and develop me. Why? Because the ethic of development is to seize your potential human resources without hesitatiing and thereby raise confidence in your ability to manage and develop them.
18. Sadly, you should also take me because it is ludicrous to pretend that you have not employed inept applicants in the past, as reflected in the staff turnover, too, and that you have done so typically to fulfill the terms of an unspoken agreement between yourselves and the elite of the our insular community, whereby their family members, once their are safely employed, give their unspoken word of honour - in the code of omerta - not to cause waves and raise questions about standards in a manner that causes you public discomfort. Isn't that a fair description of how nepotism works?
Finally in regard to your unfulfilled promise to give me the results of our interview to justify our decisions. I am quite willing to come to such a meeting providing that you are also agreeable to allowing me to tape it and transcribe the proceedings in order to enable me to refute any basis of contentions that are false. I should also welcome the presence of the Head Teacher and the Proctor, should they feel that they need to speak for themselves.
(Certificate in teaching and learning)"