Q: Thank you Mheshimiwa for finding time to talk to us. Kindly tell us about yourself.
A: I was born in Murang’a. I am a former teacher and a practicing journalist. I hold a Masters Degree in Communication. I am a former radio presenter, radio manager and marketing manager at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. I was also a Business Development Manager at World Space Africa. I was at KBC before I left to join politics.
Q: The ministry of Education recently set up a task force on high fees being charged by various schools. Without pre-empting its recommendations and putting in mind schools reopened this week, what is your take on this matter?
A: In this country, education is slowly becoming one for the rich. The re-categorisation of national schools has made education too expensive. The ministry task force will give their recommendations but we need schools to be audited and avoid extravagance. We are waiting for the recommendations, and even though they will be implemented next year, parents need to be patient since the recommendations will be compulsory.
Q: What is your comment on the controversy surrounding the purchase of laptops for class one pupils?
A: We advised on what we, as a committee ( on education), felt about the laptops. We don’t want laptops issue to be used against Jubilee in 2017 if it is not carried well. We want a company that will assemble the laptops here in Kenya and benefit our universities and be a launching pad to the rest of Africa. Laptops will indeed come but they may need to be phased out. A number of schools in a sub-county may get them fist before the others get them by end of year. We still also have to decide whether it is one laptop per kid or it is a lab with laptops. Bear in mind a kid will not use the laptop the whole day. The lap tops can, therefore, be used by the whole school. This I say, bearing in mind we used test tubes from a laboratory and they benefited everyone.
A: My view is we should pay. If we do not pay, we will pay one day. It is a lesser evil when we pay it now at Sh1.5 billion, rather than wait and pay Sh20 billion in future. My challenge, however, is that we need to know the names. We can’t be paying ghosts. If we are paying, we must know to who are we paying especially the local directors.
Q: The Anglo Leasing issue has brought an unprecedented sense of bipartisanship between Cord and Jubilee. Is this likely to continue?
A: It was for the nation not parties. Jubilee is about the names not politics.
Q: How do you rate the Jubilee government’s performance since it came to power?
A: I would give it 75 per cent. You realise this is the first government to implement the Constitution in full. The implementation came with challenges of (delicate) balancing. The executive had to to accommodate the governors and senators, among other groups. You also remember we came to office with veiled external threats from western countries. We had disaster after another like fire at JKIA and Westgate Mall attack, among others. Jubilee could have done better but they faced issues bravely. We need to support them more.
Q: There is a clamour by county women representatives to get a Fund of their own, why is this?
A: The Constitution is clear that there should be no discrimination. We were told that we were members of Parliament and that is why we get equal salaries and allowances with our other colleagues. We have a constituency called a county. Yes we came through affirmative action but we were elected like senators and governors. No amount of legislation will show wananchi that we are working. There is Uwezo Fund, bursaries, CDF and other funds all going to the MP. They either move those funds away from MPS or give us also. We have proposed a Social Development Fund so that we do not collide with other development Funds. We already have our rules and regulations ready but Treasury won’t hear us. They say they do not have the Sh2 billion we are requesting but they have money to pay Anglo- Leasing.
Q: Are you eyeing any seat during the anticipated TNA elections?
A: No. I already have committee work which is already a lot.
Q: There was a general feeling among journalists that MPs with a media background were quiet when (repressive) media laws were passed last year. What your take?
A: The Bill targeted quacks and blackmailers. Issues which are personal, integrity and family-related had been abused previously. There was need to bring sanity. I would be the last person to vote on a Bill that gags the media. A politician cannot function without journalists and, therefore, you cannot bite the hand that feeds you.
Q: How has the transition from newsroom to political arena been?
A: Politics is not a bed of roses. As a mother and student, it is hectic and being a politician. You do so many things but only a few are appreciated. I have come to realise you cannot make it as a politician if you do not have a big heart.