When President Uhuru Kenyatta directed the Treasury to allocate Sh10 billion to fund a temporary daily-for –work pay programme (now referred to as Kazi Mtaani) for unemployed youths in the country, Clementine Katuku never dreamt it would end up being a lifeline for her.
Katuku, who is living with a physical challenge, had remained jobless since she graduated from college in 2016 with a certificate in secretarial competency.
So when a friend told her of the new openings in the Kazi Mtaani initiative, she decided to give it a try despite having misgivings of ever being picked for the job owing to the spiraling rate of joblessness in the county.
Today, she is happy she took the gamble. Out of the 7,000 youths from Machakos that were recruited as cohorts in the multibillion programme, she was lucky to be among the chosen few.
She also happens to be among the 12 physically challenged workers currently operating within Machakos Sub County with a take-home of Sh5, 000 after every 11 days.
With the pay, Katuku can now meet her basic needs like paying her house rent and buying food at a time many families are struggling to get by.
“I am so grateful to the government for launching this programme as it has literally turned out to be a lifeline for me. I don’t know how I would be surviving today in this era of Covid-19 pandemic. We only hope this initiative will be extended for a little longer to enable us continue earning until things return to normalcy someday,” she says.
She also hopes to get a permanent job with the government someday and utilize the skills she learned in college for close to three years.
Her sentiments are echoed by Paul Musomi, a fellow cohort member who once worked at the Machakos Level 5 hospital between 2015 and 2017 as a casual in the cleaning department before he was dismissed over allegations of insubordination.
The 31-year-old father of one says working under the Kazi Mtaani has really saved his family from the vagaries of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Musomi says the disease has really aggravated the unemployment crisis in the country as thousands of people continue to bear the brunt after having lost their jobs or closed their businesses altogether.
He counts himself lucky to have been recruited into this program after having closed his clothes’ business earlier when his coffers ran dry.
“Life had almost become unbearable for me after the Covid 19 disease struck the country early this year. Were it not for the quick response by the government in coming up with measures to cushion Kenyans against the aftershock of the pandemic that included the launch of this initiative, things would be quite different for me today,” he pointed out.
About 7,000 youths from Machakos County were expected to benefit from the Kazi Mtaani (National Hygiene) program.
At least 6,800 youths and 229 supervisors will participate in projects that have long-term benefits to their local community in the State-initiated programme aimed at cushioning vulnerable youths from the adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic.
The programme was officially launched in Machakos in July by the government and it is expected to benefit residents of Athi River, Machakos, Matungulu and Kangundo sub counties.
Nationally, a total of 283,210 persons are projected to have been registered under the scheme by the time it is wound up later in the year.
Among some of the tasks the cohorts are expected to perform include tree planting, road clearance, unclogging storm water drains, and the rehabilitation of pavements in urban centers, especially in the informal settlements.
The daily rates are Sh455 for a worker and Sh505 for a supervisor.
Machakos sub county Assistant County Commissioner George Kubai says going forward, the cohorts who total 1,278 might soon be incorporated in road maintenance works once the Ministry of Transport gives the greenlight.
He nevertheless revealed that the progress of the programme was well on course in the area and work was going on as scheduled with the cohorts receiving their payment on time save for a few who had challenges in their mobile phone registration details, something which was being addressed from Nairobi.
“The Kazi Mtaani initiative was meant to cushion the country against the challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic by offering temporary employment opportunities to young people to undertake hygiene services around the towns and public places. But going forward, there are plans for the cohorts to work in legacy projects such as maintenance of some key national roads through marram and gravelling once the proper working equipment are availed,” he says.
The administrator nevertheless says the workers were still being reminded of the need to observe the required health regulations with regard to Covid 19 prevention including wearing of face masks and observing social distance among other protocols.
As for Jessica Mutunga, a supervisor in one of the cohorts, her plea is for the government to explore the possibilities of commuting their terms of work to permanent basis someday.
Mutuga who holds a diploma certificate in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Jodan College of Technology in Thika also wants the government to provide additional basic technical skills to the youths to prepare them for self-employment ventures.
“I thank the government for offering us this golden opportunity to serve in this project and hope it will be extended beyond December. It would however be more helpful if the government initiated a programme for training youths in technical skills that would position them into becoming job creators rather than job seekers in view to the dwindling employment opportunities in the country,” she prays.
By Samuel Maina