November 19th, 2010
11:58 AM GMT
I am in Kenya filming Marketplace Africa. When I arrived here, the first thing I did was to turn on the television set in my hotel room and watch the local news.
KTV was running a story on how the Anti-Corruption Commission was planning to set up a “corruption curriculum” in Kenyan schools, where there would be a focus on “integrity studies.”
I was both amused and dismayed – what exactly are integrity studies?
According to quotes from the press conference, the Commission hopes to set up clubs – known as “Adili” – in all schools, to reach young primary school children, right up to university-level students. The idea is that more than 10 million children will “discuss moral and ethical choices and dilemmas which they encounter daily both in their personal and communal lives.”
Obviously, the intention is honorable. Kenya has high rates of corruption (according to Transparency International, only 19 countries in the world are perceived as more corrupt than Kenya) and so it seems the authorities hope that by teaching “integrity” to schoolchildren graft will lessen.
But reducing corruption in Kenya could be harder than simply teaching children “integrity.”
We filmed in Kibera slum, where more than one million people live, and many people I spoke to there say you can’t get through the month without paying a protection fee, a backhander for water or electricity, a property tax, and all sorts of other hidden “costs” associated with surviving in one of Africa’s biggest slums.
Children will learn, way before they get to school and have to sit through honesty lessons, that to make your way in the world, in a tough, poor society, you have to learn to work the system, maneuver and make deals. That’s the reality. Tough choices, indeed.
So my question is – how do you root out corruption when it is so endemic? Is the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission wasting its time? Or is this a clever way to instill “integrity” in future generations of government ministers or police officers?
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