Kenyan Atheists are not Scapegoats for Matiangi’s Failure

By George Gĩthĩnji Last updated on
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No Matiang'i, Kenyan Atheists are not Scapegoats for your Failure

What does Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i have against Kenyan atheists?

Thomas Gray in his poem Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742) states that “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise”. What he tries to put across in simple language is that lack of knowledge (on some things) results in happiness. Therefore, it is better to stay without knowing some things if knowing them will make you unhappy.

Let us use the following case to illustrate the case above. You find out that your neighbour Susan is cheating on Ben, who is her husband. Ben, apart from being your neighbour, is your close friend. Now you face a dilemma. If you tell Ben his wife is cheating on him, it will make him devastated and ruin his marriage. Therefore, for Ben, being ignorant about the whole situation makes him happy.

However, the statement is not as simple as that. It mostly applies to beliefs that people or institutions hold strongly. When new knowledge disapproves of these strong beliefs, the feeling or situation is not blissful to many.

It would be foolish to act wise where people are happy being foolish. In such a situation, it pays to be dense, dumb, and ignorant.

Yet, without knowledge, people cannot be enlightened to make informed choices and to examine themselves. Seeking and adopting new knowledge can be enlightening and a burden at the same time. For most people, they cannot manage to carry the burden and ignorance becomes an act of happiness to them.

It might appear justifiable for ordinary people to wallow in their ignorance. However, it is tragic when it comes from government officials. Any government should know better than to show ignorance is bliss. The citizens expect the government to lead through reason.

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is a true reflection of how ignorance is tragic and not blissful.

Matiang’i mistakenly thinks that Kenyan atheists are the problem

A 16-year-old boy from Maseno School reports to a hospital to seek treatment. It emerges that senior students at the school allegedly molested the boy. They sodomised him prompting him to seek treatment for his wounds. In response, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i steps in to ‘assure’ parents that their children are ‘safe’.

He admits that his ministry is aware that such cases occur. He says that his ministry is working with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) alongside other government agencies to address the problem. However, he uses the situation to dress down Kenyan atheists by telling them to keep off the education sector.

This leaves one puzzled as to how atheism and sodomy in schools tie together. Kenyan atheists have become subjects of attack by all and sundry. Yet, Kenyan atheists are among the irreligious groups that hold the most radical ideas that can transform the education sector.

Kenyan Atheists are calling for the separation of religion and state. Among one of the radical proposals to achieve this is to put an end to the mandatory religious instruction in schools. The Atheists in Kenya (AIK) Society, which is an amorphous group for atheists, has been in the media pushing for this agenda.

Matiang’i directly tells AIK to keep of the education sector. That is why the attack is not just about AIK. If he can dress down AIK like that, then the rest of the Kenyan atheists should be wary.

Unfortunately, Matiang’i follows in the footsteps of the Attorney General Githu Muigai. The AG instructed the Registrar of Societies to deregister AIK on dubious and flimsy grounds.

Matiang’i also claims that Kenyans must raise up their children in a responsible manner ‘where they know their God’.

Matiang’i proves that it does not pay to be dumb

A quote people attribute to Albert Einstein says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results”.

In 2007, secondary school riots and strikes shot through the roof. In response, many secondary schools made religious studies compulsory for all students thinking it will change the problem. However, this knee jerk reaction did not yield any fruits. The year 2016 also became notorious for the strikes and burning of school property.

Matiang’i proves his insanity by wanting to deploy more chaplains to school, History shows that such a move has flopped miserably and proven to be impractical.

A reasonable move would be to deploy more professionally trained, equipped, and experienced counsellors. That is what Kenyan atheists, the same ones that he is fighting, would tell him openly to his face. Having religious instruction in schools does not translate to well behaved or ‘moral’ kids.

Counsellors cater to the specific needs of each student through more interpersonal sessions. They are professionals who know the intrinsic needs of students and are in touch with them.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, “Common people regard religion as true, the wise as false, and the rulers as useful”. The statement describes perfectly what Matiang’i is doing by trying to antagonize Kenyan atheists.

As it stands, Kenyan atheists seem to be the only voice of reason for the education sector. Matiang’i should stop using Kenyan Atheists as scapegoats for his failure to tackle social problems in the education sector.

George Gĩthĩnji is a political and social commentator. Twitter @EpikKenyan
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