First and foremost, I would like us all to take a moment to stop and silently consider the Westgate shopping mall attack that has left Nairobi shaken. My heart goes out to everyone who lost a friend, family member or colleague.
I will officially start my post with a quote by Joseph Campbell:
“Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.”
I found myself sharing this thought with an old friend as we shared dinner last night. All around us people whispered and sulked. It felt as if they felt guilty about being safe, well fed, warm and in the company of their loved ones with little more to worry about other than taxes, parking and the likelihood of a downpour. I knew where they were coming from. It’s difficult to be happy when another part of you is aching; and Kenya is a part of all of us.
So today we woke up to the news that the siege had come to it long awaited and end. We can now breathe easier. We can all now start to heal. In my opinion, we can start walking back to the drawing board, though slowly and fearfully, with life lessons that can help us be better prepared should such an tragedy befall us again.
Needless to say, most of us are more than a little cynical about how secure our country is; or in this case, is not. I have questions as to why we don’t learn from the documentaries released by first world countries on how they dealt with hostage situations and terrorist attacks. I have been asking around whether my friends and I are the only people who watch Criminal Minds and consider the dos and donts to consider when abducted by a psychopath, sadistic rapist, wanted fugitive on the run, a troubled teen with a gun and a temper. I think there’s a lot for us to learn that we can now, while the painful motivation still throbs in all of us.
For starters, we should all have basic first aid skills. And since the reading culture is yet to set in, I believe the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Ministry of Public Health should have a joint venture in teaching the public about first aid and basic survival skills in hostage situations. The ideal times, in my opinion, would be: during the morning rush hour (on radio); during cartoon time after kids have come from school; during the 7 O’clock news when the lucky ones gets home from work after beating traffic or getting a spot on the train; and most importantly during prime time news. Then we can also get the information out in our dailies and on our billboards (instead of all the legs hoisted high and nudist poses, in the guise of advertising for beauty products and and yoghurt, that make driving and fidelity such a difficult affair for our men).
Then we should incorporate the same in our curriculum. How do you explain a university graduate who cannot administer first aid at the scene of an accident or at home when the need arises? Alongside issues such as food security, physical education and personal hygiene, first aid and survival skills should be compulsory subjects at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education.
I look forward to a day when it will be common knowledge that one should stop, drop and roll when they are on fire. When most of us know how to operate a fire extinguisher. When gunshots will find people lying on the ground and not running towards the source of danger. When we will no longer curious onlookers and idlers at the scene of a crime or accident – unless they are helping save lives or evacuating people. When we will have so much faith in our police, even petty thefts will be reported. When there will be as many functioning rape centres, with rape kits and professional counseling 24/7, as there are Voluntary Counseling Centres (VCTs) for HIV testing. When our children will know how to correctly help a friend who has fainted or has a bloody nose or has suffered an asthma attack or an epileptic seizure.
In my opinion, these are the simple measures we can and should take to ensure that our country is safer and better educated on safety and security measures which can help save lives and reduce the severity of injuries.