May 21, 2012


Questions asked of Kenyan culture. A recent The Standard article asks us what has happened to the honour we give our parents. A discussion.

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Questions on Kenyan culture: do we honour our parents?

Questions on Kenyan culture: do we honour our parents?

As Kenya joined the rest of the world in celebrating Mother’s Day, an exposé in The Standard’s Monday pull out, Crazy Monday, suggested that the way many people look after their parents leaves a lot to be desired. “AFFLUENT, BUT PARENTS ARE BEGGARS “, read the title. The article by Sophia Khakasa exposed the shame of Nairobi’s top achievers who live luxurious lives while ‘the parents’ are dying of poverty back in their villages.

It was indeed a disturbing story that has also led to a heated discussion on one of the most popular radio breakfast shows in the country. Some people blamed it on modernization, others on the high cost of living which has left many people operating on tight budgets and living for the next paycheck, but honestly, there can never be a justification to abandoning your parents.


Most of these old folks struggled, many of them through farming and doing trivial jobs, bearing in mind that white collar jobs were a reserve for the whites in the colonial era, but despite this the older generation did their best and sacrificed much to educate their children.

Some even sold their most treasured assets, parcels of land, just to afford school fees, with the dream that one day their children would get good jobs and (hopefully) take care of them in their old age. How wrong many of them were!


Slowly but surely, the once treasured family bond seems to be diminishing in Kenya and people are losing touch with their extended family. Gone are the days when families held ‘get-togethers’ to have fun, bond and meet new family members.

What seems to bring most families together nowadays are funerals and weddings. Unlike in former days when children would long to travel to the village during holidays and spend time with grandma and grandpa (now considered outdated) they would now rather watch TV and play video games which they consider trendier and more important.

The elderly are too often considered of little value to society today and are seen as a burden to it in times of hardship. But cursed is the man or woman who lives in affluence as their old folks sleep on empty stomachs.

One question we should ask ourselves is “where would we be right now, if it weren’t for them?” and if you are a Christian, remember this command: ‘Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you’ (Exodus 20.12 – 13).


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