[labor issues][broken social contract] why Kenya should urgently BAN unpaid internships

True Jimmy, this is a deeply social issue that goes right to the core of our values as Africans and human beings. It is not about definitions.

It’s about the social contract that we, parents, teachers, government, community leaders, politicians, religious leaders… offered to your youth – that if they stayed in school, worked hard, avoided crime/drugs etc and made good grades, they would come out with a special pass for good jobs and unbounded opportunities. We even made a song about it:

“Someni Vijana, Muongeze pia bidii, Mwisho wa kusoma, Mtapata kazi nzuri sana.”

That was the deal! Education + Good grades = Good Jobs. We took (and are still taking) their parent’s money, shackled both parents and children with life-long loans while promising them that what they were studying is relevant to what the industry needs and can absorb. Even though at some point we realized that it was all a lie, we still keep doing it.

To rub salt to injury, we penalize our children for unpaid loans – but whose fault is it that there are no jobs? The youth were busy locked up in school – whose responsibility was it to create jobs? Was it not ours? We feel smart when we offer them slave wages (so we can hit our “cost saving” KPIs + bonus) and, whenever we can, we exploit them as free labor, forgetting that these are our own children we are misusing. Demand-supply dynamics, right? Whose fault is it that there is oversupply? Something to think about as we use theoretical constructs to justify cold blooded predation on our own children in the name of profits. 

We never tell our children that most opportunities are reserved for the privileged – instead, we lie to them that merit counts – and they believe us. We have stolen our children’s childhood by sending them on a fools errand; we have demanded that they give up on life’s unique one-time experiences – like play, fun, outings, passions and hobbies so they can study for a job that we know will never be. No university or college student burnt the midnight oil believing that they would find themselves competing alongside std. 8 leavers or at the mercy of white collar criminals… and when they call us out on this, we have the audacity to accuse them of “entitlement”. Really?

We never told our youth, when they were in school, that the real secret to getting a job quickly nowadays is to grovel, beg and humiliate themselves on roadsides or social media in order to get PR offers from the government (for a position that should have been competitively advertised – as required by law) or from companies that would have otherwise rejected their sincere application for merit-based consideration. Perhaps grovelling and begging should have been in the syllabus. What does it do to someone’s self esteem to know that it is pity, favoritism, and sometimes illegalities (not hard work or good grades), that finally got them the opportunity that society had promised?

We have breached our contract with our children. It was (and still is) our duty to create opportunities for them – but we still want to pass the buck and ask them to create their own jobs and opportunities. Wake up! Corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, incompetence, retrogressive policies… all that happened on our watch. We are the problem! We must accept this.

Our youth are not entitled. They don’t have unrealistic expectations. All they are asking for is for society to deliver its end of the bargain. Where are the jobs that were promised in the social contract? Where are the merit-based opportunities? Where is the institutionalized connection between merit / sweat equity and success?

All is not lost though. Although we have been sleeping on the job, it is now time to wake up, apologize to our children, get back to work and fulfill our end of the bargain; our duty as society. We must create adequate opportunities for the youth by architecting and implementing smart, results oriented, evidence based, jobs creation and pro-posperity policies covering all sectors.

The jobs we create should match most of the skills being generated by our TVETS and universities and should provide a dignified source of livelihood and decent quality of life for most (not a few) Kenyans. The jobs created should be real, visible, dignified and independently verifiable (not random “estimates” made by plucking numbers out of the air). That should be the thing that occupies our minds 24x7x365.
Let us join hands and fulfill our end of the bargain. We made a promise to our children, let us keep it please.
Patrick A. M. Maina
[Cross Domain Innovator | Independent Public Policy Analyst – Indigenous Innovations]

On Thursday, April 4, 2019, 3:25:48 PM GMT+3, Jimmy Gitonga via kictanet <kictanet@lists.kictanet.or.ke> wrote:

Hapo sawa Brathe, 😀
I think what we are really asking is a societal question. Unpaid internships are not illegal. Swopping out internship with apprenticeship does not answer the underlying question.
Why should internships be paid for? The answer is a social impact one, not a business one. It being construed as a business decision is what people are up in arms about. Internship is a “giving back”, “paying forward” or “leg up” kind of thing.
Who should pay for interns to flourish in private organisations? Should the company pay for the labour? Should the intern pay for the opportunity and experience?? Who owes who?
With the best regards,Jimmy Gitonga

On 4 Apr 2019, at 11:23 AM, Ali Hussein <ali@hussein.me.ke> wrote:
Let me be clear and remove my ‘cleverness’ 🙂
My deep conviction is this:-
We are bucking the wrong tree. Let’s go back to the basics. Let’s redefine what an internship/apprenticeship means. Firstly, let’s accept that the internship concept has been so bastardized that it has lost meaning. I would like at this point to replace internship with apprenticeship. Apprenticeship used to mean:-
A person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.
Let us have candid conversations around changing mindsets  – both from a corporate perspective and an internee/apprentice perspective.
Ali HusseinPrincipalAHK & Associates
Tel: +254 713 601113
Twitter: @AliHKassimSkype: abu-jomoLinkedIn: http://ke.linkedin.com/in/alihkassim
13th Floor , Delta Towers, Oracle Wing,Chiromo Road, Westlands,Nairobi, Kenya.
Any information of a personal nature 

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