Old age shouldn't be an excuse for overlooking qualification in public service
2 months ago, 10 Oct 16:36
There is an urgent need for Kenyans to understand that ageism is a form of discrimination. Authorities applying it selectively and at own convenience will not serve our nation or our needs.
Public debate on any official appointments seems to end up being a conversation centred on age. Yet what the country requires are people with skills, abilities and competencies to serve the nation.
Experience in public service should be an added advantage, and age should be the least of considerations. Kenyans should only disqualify a fellow Kenyan from holding public office if the person does not add any value to the nation.
The public seems to feel most slighted by the age of appointees. Never mind that when they are given the opportunity to elect leaders, the end product is many times worse than a bunch of dignified ''old men and women''.
If Kenyans were to be given the opportunity to recall the leaders they elected about a year ago, it might be that age would be the least of their concerns.
The appointments that have attracted great public criticism, include those of Francis Muthaura, former head of public service, to the Kenya Revenue Authority Board, David Musila, former Kitui senator, as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Museums of Kenya, and Beth Mugo, the former Member of Parliament for Dagoretti constituency, as a nominated senator to name but a few.
But these and any other Kenyans should not be discriminated against because of their age.
According to the World Health Organisation, ageism is the most ''normalised'' form of social discrimination, even if it is not as greatly encountered as sexism and racism. But then it is also probably less documented than other forms of social prejudice and injustice.
It leads to marginalisation of elders, which creates isolation that is not good for their health and wellbeing. When disparaging public appointments, therefore, use of discriminatory arguments should be avoided.
Robert Neil Butler who defined ageism argued that it has three interlinked elements: prejudice towards older people, the aging process and old age. As such ageism is one of those prejudices that affect the self, consciously or unconsciously.
It is rare that people want to die young, and it is therefore very ironical when they have negative attitude towards the elderly, the very thing that they desire to be.
According to psychologists, age-based discrimination makes many people feel dejected and ineffective. This is usually after the age of sixty, generally retirement age, because of the perception that they no longer have much to contribute to society and even family.
This is of course in contradiction to African culture, in which age was assumed to bring on useful wisdom for service to society.
Psychologists further argue that each person has three ''ages''.
Chronological age is determined by one's date of birth, and there is not much one can do to change it. But as the saying goes, age is nothing but a number.
Biological age is determined by one's lifestyle, which affects or influences their health. One, for example, ...
Category: oped opinion news