In past decades some countries gained a well-deserved reputation for funding their NGOs to work
with Kenyan NGOs and civic groups to deliver aid fordevelopment especially in hard-to-reach areas.
Water Wells were dug; trees were planted; schools were
built and supported; clinics were built and supplied;school children were given supplementary food.
Audits showed that donor-supported projects resulted in tangible and verifiable gains – schools,clinics, safe water.
Many Kenyans were grateful.
Today, a large portion of funds provided by some of Kenya’s leading development partners goes into
intangible activities generally under the heading of civic education or civil society.
As recently reported elsewhere in the media, of the $50 million that would
come into the country from US andEU, 60 per cent has been set aside for civic education with the
balance going to other activities thatlead to tangible and verifiable gains in development.
Two decades ago there was no funding category called ‘civic education’ or ‘civil society’.
Today it is the primary activity of some development partners.
Our development needs have not changed.
We still need good schools, health clinics, and safe drinking water.
It is the priorities of the development
partners that have changed.
Therefore the government is correctin asking fundamental questions: just what does the country
get from civic education?
What is its content and how does it contribute to the welfare of the recipients?
How does it align with Kenya’s development priorities as defined by ourselves, not others?
To take a recent example, what was the concrete or tangible development impact of the estimated
Sh130 billion that came into local NGOs and civic groups in the run-up to the 2013 elections?
More broadly, are the priorities of foreign donor governments and their NGOs in sync with those of
the country as reflected in such key statements of our aspirations as Vision 2030? Or do they have
their own agenda?
It is these and related questions that need to be answered to the satisfaction of our government
before signing agreements.
Perhaps it is time for
donors and development partners to go back to helping Kenyans attain their goals in development
as reflected in brick-and-mortar projects that anyone can understand and appreciate.
Civic education is nebulous and open to abuse or misuse for activities that reflect donor priorities rather than
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