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Just last week, I wrote against the idea that African lives are cheap and can be experimented on without consequences.

This idea has encouraged the experimentation we have become used to on this continent, in which any death or adverse outcomes for Africans is dismissed as the work of some external force and not our own actions.

While any death elsewhere is studied to understand its causation in order to determine whether it was really due to natural causes or some planning with human agency, in Africa little effort is expended to this end.

This painful fact came to the fore this past week when a primary school that was deliberately constructed poorly collapsed early in the morning, resulting in the death of eight children preparing for their final primary school examinations.

As the week came to an end, we were all grappling with various reasons why the death of these children was excusable, and why everyone else was culpable but ourselves or anyone else related to us.


This attitude is related to the other prevalent attitude in which we consider African lives to be so cheap that they can be lost with little or no consequences.

Today I write to distance myself from this attitude, and to remind anyone taking money home from a job paid for by my money that is supposed to take care of our lives that they become directly responsible for any death resulting from their inactivity or direct action.

Today I would like all of my readers to consider this: you are 13 years old. You wake up early in the morning to go to school (which you do not like because it is extremely tedious as is any 8-4-4 schooling activity for any child).

You get there by 6.30am and get busy reading and preparing for your final examination due in a month’s time.

As your head begins to nod in understanding, a rumble begins in the building around you.

Before you know it, there is chaos around you, with everyone running around in every conceivable direction. A number of you are caught up in the melee and die as the entire building collapses.

Today I am writing to ask you, Kenyans, how you would like the parents of these children to react.

Would you like them to join you in declaring this an act of God, and to let it go the way of all similar acts and thereby ignore all obvious acts of omission and commission that led to the deaths of these children?

Would you like all of us to join the chorus excusing all those responsible for this reprehensible acts and placing the blame at the door of some intangible force of nature?

My view is that if we accept that the children we give birth to can be so callously murdered by uncaring profiteers and politicians, then there is no need for us to focus on loftier ideas of freedom and democracy in our lifetime.

As long as we choose not to hold responsible those that kill our babies in school, we have absolutely no right to speak about what needs to be done at any other level above our own family level!

Lukoye Atwoli is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Moi University School of Medicine; [email protected]


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