Ida Odinga Tips Students on Inspiring Change in Society

Inspiring ChangeThe Technical University of Kenya is playing a critical role in the training of the much-needed technical experts in various fields.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s wife Dr Ida Odinga commended the role of technical training in enhancing quality education in the country. Mrs Odinga made the remarks at the Technical University of Kenya where she delivered a public lecture themed, “Inspiring Change in Society.”

She noted that majority of employees at her family gas cylinder manufacturing company ‘Spectrum International” are alumni of Technical University of Kenya (and its precursor Kenya Polytechnic University College and Kenya Polytechnic). “I appreciate technical education because it imparts hands on skills on students and that is what the industry requires,” she added.

Her speech was interrupted by a standing ovation from students whom she reminded of rising above ethnicity by saying no to atrocities committed to other victims not because they belong to the same ethnic group. She advised them against judging others by their surnames, instead have a collective ability and dream of walking together, daring values and leaving Kenya a better place than we found it.

Mrs Odinga told students to set agenda and dreams in whatever field of study and remain responsible and productive citizens of the country. “The synergies between arts and sciences will best equip you with skills and knowledge that will enhance your capability in accomplishing various tasks in future,” she added. In attendance were both students and staff.

Below are excerpts from her speech.

“Members of Faculty and Staff, Honorable Senators, Members of Parliament, Members of the County Assembly, my beloved children of Technical University of Kenya,

Good afternoon to you all,

I am truly delighted and honored to be among so many beaming and brilliant youth. Looking at your faces, I am strongly convinced that you represent everything that is good about Kenya. And I cannot help but be optimistic about what lies in the future for our nation, with you at the helm.

I want to begin today by telling you a story from my childhood. My father was a successful medical technician working in Kisii. My mother was a nurse. My parents had six children and we were all living happily in Migori. This was before our world came crashing down when my father unexpectedly passed away.

I was only seven years old at that time, an age when the world is nothing but beautiful. So you can imagine how heavy a blow, my father's passing was to my family. From living every Kenyan's dream one day, to wondering where the next meal would come from the next day. It was a tragedy!

My mother was faced with what seemed like an insurmountable challenge. A challenge everybody who loses a pillar in their lives face. The challenge that I am sure some of you have faced and continue to face in your own young lives. The challenge of what is next?

My brothers and sisters all asked our mother, where is Daddy? When is he coming back? You can imagine how difficult it must have been for that widowed, young mother with six mouths to feed to answer all our questions. I don't remember any distinct answers to our endless queries now but one thing I do remember, is her waking us up every day after she had fetched water for us to bathe and prepared our breakfast for us to eat insisting that before we did anything, we must make our beds. And she would not let us have breakfast until she inspected each of our beds and everything was done properly.

Why am I sharing these stories with you? It is because I have come to learn over time that what starts in simple acts such as the making of a bed, changes you and it changes the world.

The average Kenyan meets 10,000 people in the span of their lives. In a big university such as yours, in a single day, you can easily rub shoulders with a hundred people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and gender. Therefore, if each one of you creates an impact in the lives of just ten of the thousands of people you meet, and each of those ten creates a similar impact in a further ten, then in five generations, the people in this room will have created change in the lives of millions across the world.

If you think it is hard to change the lives of ten people, then you are mistaken. I know this because I have seen it over and over in simple acts done by simple people in simple places.

Take for example, the Westgate terror attack; a security guard made the decision against all odds to go back and help his fellow Kenyans by guiding them to safety. A simple act.

A young lady in a matatu that is over-speeding speaks out and tells the driver what everybody else is thinking but is too afraid to say, that he is being reckless. A simple act.

A mechanical technician taking the time to ensure he does his work properly on a vehicle without cutting corners to make sure it functions safely and properly. A simple act.

Yet when you think about it, these seemingly simple acts saved lives. And not just the lives of those directly impacted, but the lives of their children and their children's children as well. A simple decision made by one person can save generations of lives. Changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it.

While we all have different ideas on how the world will look like after we change it, I have a humble suggestion on how you can actually go about it.

These are lessons, I learned as a student training to be teacher. It matters not your age, it matters not your gender, your ethnicity or religious background or your social status in life; our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward, changing ourselves and changing those around us, will apply equally to all.

I studied for my Bachelor of Education (Arts) at the University of Nairobi. I trained to be a teacher. For four long years, I laboured. Always feeling overworked, over-burdened by study groups, pressured by assignments and stressed with exams.

University education, as I am sure you all now know, is one of the most demanding things one can do with one's life. The process seeks to find those that can stand out from the crowd, those that can excel under pressure - a lifetime of challenges, crammed into four years.

During my time there, I remembered the lessons from my dear mother about making beds. If done properly, the corners will be squared, the covers pulled tight, the pillows centered and the blanket folded neatly at the foot of the bed.

At best, this routine can be described as mundane. But the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to accomplish another, then another, then another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.

Making your bed in the morning will reinforce the fact that the little things matter. If you cannot do the little things right then you will never be able to do the big things even half right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, at least you will come back to a bed that is made. That you made. And that will give you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

Throughout all of my life's challenges, I have always woken up in the morning and made my bed. When I lost my father, I made my bed. When struggling through university, I made my bed. When struggling to raise my children while their father was incarcerated, I made my bed and I taught them to make theirs. Now today, I want to impart to you the importance of this life lesson. Make your beds.