Men and Women: Change is upon us

A look back at history can best capture where reversal of roles began. How women are catching up to men socially and economically speaking, how in the past we depended on the man’s muscle and strength to be the breadwinners but now it is all about skills acquired from education and which have put women at par through knowledge and creativity. Let’s go back, first, the early hunter- gatherer society depended on the man’s physical strength and speed to bring in the day’s big game hunt as the women’s role remained largely subdued to gathering. Their roles complemented each other since during that time, survival was key. Still the ability of the men to handle big roles elevated them over women. The next society, the agrarian society, was the one which introduced gender inequality proper.

Once man began farming and domesticating animals, this began the accumulation of resources. The economy relied on men’s physicality, they could take on the heavy tasks like plowing and harvesting while women were regarded as passive homemakers who performed light duties of preserving food and maintaining the compound. Gender inequality stemmed from these early societies which relied on men’s muscle, which made them do prestigious tasks. Women were considered inferior since their menial tasks did not impact their economy so they could not have access to resources.

In the following industrial society both men and women worked but women’s hours were limited meaning that they earned less than men. Men were given license to any employment opportunity while women stuck to domestic territory. It is in this age that there were two clashing ideologies. One was the wave of feminism which questioned the inequalities among men and women and the Victorian image of women which was driven by Queen Victoria of the UK. She was against feminism. The Victorian image of women dictated that men occupy the public spheres and women stay in the private spheres. Public sphere meant that men had the advantage in wages and politics while the private sphere meant women remained at home.

After the 1st and 2nd World Wars things began changing as most men were recruited to fight in their respective armies, women began filling the gaps and employment opportunities expanded for them. Women’s roles began changing from domesticated to more economic empowering tasks by the end of the industrial society. Presently, we are in the Information society and women are catching up because the domains of the economy have changed.

During the hunter and gatherer and agrarian societies, men’s skills and output was judged by their physical nature: strength, power and swiftness. The economic demands of the information society do not rely on tangible physical skills but intangible abilities like creativity, academic skills to create content, come up with inventions and so on. Education and use of technology has put men and women on an equal footing.

In the words of Horace Mann education is a great equalizer. Both boys and girls are actively schooling. Education imparts those skills needed by the economy now. The same skills are accessible to boys and girls. This has surely obliterated the reliance on the man’s physical specimen. It is not just education but access to information has ensured that talent and creativity gives women a chance to make waves in their own right.

Despite this, women are still miles away especially in this part of the world because of patriarchal influences, in Hollywood lead actors get still more money than lead actresses, in the Middle Est and Asia women still cannot express themselves from the bondage of culture but all in all, we have seen men and women speaking out against gender injustices and Nobel Laurate Malala Yousafzai is an example of a young woman who risked her life in a conservative society to advocate for gender equity and fairness through educating girls.

Times are a-changing as women and men have to either share the spotlight or one has to go over the other and there is no doubt there will be a disturbance in the social order. Most importantly, men and women working together is what will elevate us. We need each other.

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A scarcity of humorous politicians

There is no humour in politics these days. There are no humorous MPs. Gone are the days of Kalembe Ndile and Bifwoli Wakoli. Former MPs who were unreserved in comically expressing whatever they had on their mind. This breed of politicians pushed the envelope in exciting the public. They readily provided moments of levity without much prodding in the glare of cameras.

It could be that nowadays they are too development conscious. Politics of development can still thrive with comic relief. We can have funny MPs who still commission roads and initiate water projects. It is disappointing that in public rallies and political fora, no MP or Senator has so far provided a moment of decent laughter at least on camera. I find political leaders in this 11th Parliament are far too serious. Maybe, it is graft that has occupied their minds. It is still possible for them to steal and entertain us.

Whenever there is a press conference these days, chances of laughing are zilch. Press conferences these days are full of venom and bitterness with tribal innuendos. There is no humour to puncture the air of political tension in Kenya which is discomforting and disgusting.

Away from Parliament, the Cabinet Secretaries now are bland. They are ‘technocrats’ who are way too serious. Those who try offer dry humour. Suspended Labour CS Kazungu Kambi’s slippery grasp of the English language can count for something. Before the vetting committee in Parliament he boisterously said when it comes to corruption he was ‘number one.’ He intended to say that he would be the first to condemn it. In the high-minded Senate, Mike Sonko’s eccentrics have become scarce. I can think of no governor who has made me laugh.

MCAs are the ones doing their best to bring some sort of comic relief. Their trips outside the country elicit sardonic humour because of the bullshit reasons they spend millions of shillings ‘finding out’ what happens in other parts of the world so that they can translate the same here. That is aside from the juvenile fights which they clobber each other in their assemblies. On a wider scale, those ungrammatical police press briefings which evoked throaty laughter have coincidentally dried up.

But humour has been replaced with insults on podiums, these days. Hate speech here, there and everywhere. It is reflective of our country and politics. So much bile, hate, division, bitterness and unpalatable exchanges. In the absence of humour, it is sour all-round.

That day Chris was thoughtful, he pensively posed on his chair. He had decided to wake up from his discomforting slumber. It was time to disengage himself from this farce. He could not take it anymore. When their eyes made contact several times, there was a momentary paradisaical stupor. Her voice had a silkiness to it which made his sound capacity to reason off-key, her facial expressions towards him were somewhat sensual and inviting. Her skin glowed, making those goosebumps on her look like gemstones. He could not say what needed to be said.

It was unfair to himself to continue getting involved with her but the pain gave him a high, he wanted more of her. Common sense was confined to a dark dungeon somewhere in his mind and the key thrown in the depths of her heart. In spite of this, the emptiness he felt rung hollow and it was a time to put a stop to it. He had to push her away.

Seated across him in that fancy restaurant was, her, his girlfriend, or at least he thought so. He thought they shared a connection or whatever relationship ‘experts’ take significant airtime trying to explain. He had had to put up with her behaviour, he was understanding enough to call it a ‘weakness.’ They were just past the limerence period where everything she did was perfect.

She persistently checked her phone. One minute they would be laughing and bonding so affectionately then one look at her phone and the mood darkened. Or she would be down, then he does his best to encourage her, and one look at her phone and suddenly she became cheerful. This ‘weakness’ bothered him but he did not want voice his exasperation, it would ruin the feel-good factor of their thing. Chris often asked her what was wrong, she said it was nothing.

That ‘nothing’ had a shape and form. It was ‘him.’ He was not around but he controlled her ‘weakness’, tempered her moods and ruined or made her day. He consumed her wholly but left she just enough space to string Chris along. She was energetically chased after him, he was far too powerful to resist. Chris was an avenue to express the sincere feelings she had for ‘him’, what she felt for him she expressed through Chris.

Every smile, every warm elongated hug, every emoji, every intimate text or WhatsApp message was not towards Chris, it was for him. She could not have him at the moment but she could have Chris, he was the guy available to use to channel her truest affections.

Chris would lose. The force behind the constant phone picking would win, ‘he’ was king. He was conscious of that, it was just a matter of when it would all fall apart. He encouraged himself every day that he was ready and would not feel the hurt of detachment, he would be a man about it but it was far more complex than that. She was always in his mind, thoughts of her ransacked his mind, it made him delusional to even think that something mutual would spark between them. Interactions with her made the picture of them together rosier. Her words peddled illicit hope of shared affection.

She was no better either, she was also on a hurt marathon, she continually chased reciprocation from ‘him’ , he was not sharing what she felt for him, there were times when irresistible illusions were created that it would eventually happen and she would let Chris down easy, she also waited for the time, rehearsing her lines. Every response that her ‘guy’ gave lightened her eyes and increased hope that they could be together. Every suggestive reply hit her like a hammer, it hammered final nail into the coffin of her involvement with Chris. The sound of his voice on phone was refreshing, his tongue dripped with honey. His failure to notice her efforts her handed unforgiving agony.

But it would be a lie to say that Chris did not offer anything, he did offer something. He was the ear of her challenges, his shoulders were cozy to lean on and she felt like he understood her but in the shadows lurked someone more alluring. The shadows offered something she wanted but it was elusive. The energy that she and Chris used to delude other could have been used to feel sorry for each other.

So what were they doing? I actually do not know. The colour of what they were doing did not resemble love, the feel of what they were exercising had hurt written all over it, it was a harmonious disaster. At the end of this tears would flow and an ego would be mangled all in the pursuit of something each could not have.

What would you comment on a couple’s photo on Facebook?

What would you comment on a couple’s photo on Facebook? I am talking about the boyfriend/girlfriend types who choose to show their love in public, like the one I am seeing right now. I admire the guy’s gallantry to show his peeps that that is his girl. He has really searched and found the perfect foil to his dogging ways. I empathise with the lady’s gleefulness, finally she has a guy to show off on FB. The guy is my friend and it would be an insult to just pass by their photo on my timeline without commenting.

This picture deserves a comment worth its radiance, the love from this couple’s photo is steaming, and it is intense. From this couple’s photo, I can tell that their love is not illusory, it is real. So what do I comment? Ah! Adjectives, but let me be careful with the adjectives that I choose to describe their undying love. I do not want to flabbergast them with an adjective that would kill the romance in the comments section. Adjectives? May be a bad idea.

Compliments? From the comments I am seeing here, the niceties are sweet, they have been smothered with enough compliments, some of which are fiction, and anyway I am not good at giving compliments. How about romance? Their deathless affection for each other would not mind a romantic line or two. A comment that romanticizes the magic in their photo. But no, my dearth of knowledge in things romance rules out this option.

How about an expression of good fortune like, “All the best.” The trouble with this comment is that it is ambiguous, I could very well be wishing someone the best for their exam or wishing them the best in their recovery from illness. I learned the hard way with an “all the best.” comment to a couple’s photo on FB. One week after I had wished them well, the chic was updating, “Never trust men” seemingly leading to an online break up that was not accompanied by the special effect of a distressing photo.

How about I just like the photo? In this era where likes and retweets dictate self-esteem. This couple already has a staggering number of likes which is fine and the comments are flowing unhampered. So their confidence is pretty much intact. The ladies are excited by the photo of the guy more than their lady friend’s happiness. The few guys who have commented have thrown around generic comments. I could lie. There is a comment here, “Aki na mnafanana!!!” from an ecstatic girl. I cannot for the life of me understand how that is possible, my friend has a dark complexion while his girl’s yellow visage deeply contrasts their photo.

“AAAWW” is an unacceptable comment for a person like me and of my age. End-off.

This couple’s picture is accompanied by words which profess their craziness towards each other, the words paint a picture of operatic charm and surreal affection. I do not know who authored those words, most probably it’s the lady, because I know my friend, let’s leave it there. I want to give a sincere comment that reflects the photo i am seeing.

I want to comment on something that will last forever. I would want to give my vote of confidence on a relationship that will not disintegrate in two Facebook months. I want to give my best comment to a romance that exists in the offline and online domains. I hope that this couple’s pictures will be splashed today, tomorrow and for many years to come. I am not expecting a lull in their perfect love, they should consistently display their photos, something I have privately shared with my friend.

They should be unmindful of jealous single and searching people who insist on their relationship being kept private, they have not yet tasted love. Tell them to go watch a Citizen TV soap opera! They have to ignore what their exes on FB will think, they should not determine their standards. So let the romantic poses and photos be shown to the world……Oh! I think I just found the right comment.

The media is an escape route to bail out value degradation

It is getting old attributing moral failures to the media. Of course, I acknowledge there is a place for the media in contributing to the folding of our moral values. The power of the media cannot be ignored but concurrent with Prof. Teun Dijk’s reflections, audiences have a level of independence to resist persuasion from the media. This independence from the media’s influence comes from alternative sources of information such as our parents, our upbringing, religious leaders etc, etc.

But the media is an easy target because of custodians’ loose grip on their children leaving them at the mercy of the media and their peers. In that vacuum, the media becomes an authority in their lives shaping their beliefs and their world views. By the time, custodians realise their children are wayward, it will be too late as children will regurgitate what the media has influenced them to believe since the authoritative parent’s voice was missing.

The media is an escape route to bail out value degradation because of our need for validation. The need for validation is a malaise that justifies everything that we do as long as we are gratified. It won’t matter whom we hurt, including ourselves, doesn’t mind which laws we break and values we are stripped of.

And what’s this moonshine about children and the current generation embracing rotten Western values through the media? What negative Western influences do we need when the malignant culture is right here in Kenya? They know in Kenya you can get away with indiscretions when fraudulent pastors are exposed and admit to their deceptive ways but they can get away with it without facing the law and humour us on Churchill Show and all we can do is laugh about their fraud.

They are being inducted to accept corruption when this vice in the country is deep-rooted and all-consuming but it defended viciously on basis of tribe. We are content with lack of character.

What are our children learning when they read in newspapers that Vera Sidika was the most goggled person in Kenya, yet she is maligned in voluble tones. They will display depressing hypocrisy which will make their evaluation of right and wrong skewed.

What are they learning when teachers who are supposed to be their parents in school engage with them sexually and then procure abortions for them? When politicians insult each other in front of school children and when MCAs freely trade blows instilling a culture of violence. All these vices are manufactured locally.

What values are we being inspired by when the middle class on Twitter can rally Kenya around ‘Kenyans for Monica Juma’ a privileged individual, but during conflicts in Nadome and Kapedo where images of emaciated and malnourished children surfaced, they update their selfies and relive their obsession with Instagram. Children grow up knowing it is okay to ignore the downtrodden and cozy up to the elite. What if these children become national leaders? How will they serve all Kenyans?

And by the way, with everybody being a follower these days, who takes up the role of role model?

You see, we do not need to look as far as the West, all corrective measures need to start from here. Yes, there are rotten glocalised influences from outside but there are those bad persuasions which are locally manufactured.

As a society in Kenya leave alone the West, we have dehumanized ourselves to sanitize wrongdoings and normalize sin. We feel no shame, guilt and regret for our actions then blame the media for it. I will repeat, the media is an easy target since custodians have abdicated their duties to the child leaving them to the mercies of the media. I deliberately say custodians because i believe there are well-meaning relatives, religious leaders, teachers who like the parents have a role in shaping h character of children.

There is a lot that can be done outside the media’s influence to shape individual values.

I can’t dance

Dancing is not my forte. My limbs and body have never been dancey. A simple jig, a folk dance, a B-boy stunt, a flip, break-dancing, salsa, robotics and gyrations are all beyond me. I am vexed to admit unathletic, unfit Kenyan politicians can actually beat me in a dancing contest.

I do not know exactly what is lacking, it could be plain indolence, too lazy to move. I could be impatient to the delicacy of getting moves right and applying them accurately. My body could be averse to the grace and pace of dance. A deep disinterest in the art of movement could summarise my troubles.

I have been surrounded by friends who dance superbly but it has never rubbed off on me. I enjoy watching dance movies a la Step Up but I have failed to learn through imitative learning, it is like watching Oceans 11 and hoping to pull off the heist of the millennium.

Maybe just maybe like my eternal enemy, Maths, dancing is about attitude. I need to embrace a new attitude towards dance since I do not even attempt use idioms like ‘song and dance’ for fear I might miss a step in my speech and get misquoted.

I am apprehensive I may be given floor to myself and commit atrocities with my body that Vera Sidika will be a beatified on the spot. Personally, the fusion dance and romance is idiomatic like texts teenagers exchange these days with their daft language. I am afraid i will make people’s eyes water with laughter after watching my trials at dancing. I wonder if there is a dance for dummies I can peruse through to learn simple moves.

To paraphrase author Dave Barry, nobody cares if you can’t dance well, just get up and dance. Regrettably, those words of defiance have failed to spark a groovy dance move in me. The best I can do is bob my head to the beat. There was a list of shame where my name appeared as one of the judges of Sakata, it was removed with immediacy not in 60 days. I am still appealing the decision, I need the money.

I do not know when my dancing shoes will fit. I could attempt dancing and I invent a new dance move, who knows? I know the enthusiasm of learning dance is a Johnny-come-lately but it’s never too late is it?

I do not want to be the Dancer of the Year, just being able to muster something resembling a dance is enough for me. Like most CVs and application letters read, I am ready to learn. I am teachable, I can make it.

One man Maendeleo Ya Wanaume cannot deliver

An outfit like Maendeleo Ya Wanaume (MYW) cannot be relied on to mediate the supposed neglect of the boy child. The ‘organisation’s’ preamble reads ‘the protection of the rights of the boy child and the man’. But Maendeleo ya Wanaume’s agenda seems to be fighting for its own survival as it continually teeters on the edge of irrelevance.

The one man organisation led by Nderitu Njoka usually has its approaches to issues all wrong. The man leading the charge is confrontational, unserious and given to theatrics. He attacks women more than he stands for men. Picking fights with women and their established organizations. In the media, he is fodder for political satire segments like Bull’s Eye and Heka Heka. The man stands for anything but the rights of men and the boy child. In fact he is more drama laden than issue laden, seeking for publicity where he can find some.

His directionless solo driven ‘organisation’, for which i struggled to find a branch where i live, delves into issues which are nonsensical to say the least. He had something to say about ‘My dress, My choice’, his laughable suggestion that he sought to petition a bill in Parliament to regulate women’s clothing, how this aligns with clamouring for men’s rights is beyond common sense.

He was at the forefront of the rejected bill wanting a men’s fund created, this of course would cost the taxpayers an unsolicited burden and it was not necessary. Pitching for the demolition of a naked boy’s statue was more about getting on the headlines than standing up for the boy child’s rights. A naked boy’s statue when more relevant issues like crime;alcoholism and gender violence would have occupied his mind.

Who can forget the week long men’s sex boycott fronted by the same outfit which included histrionics like not shaking hands with women for the same period. The sex boycott’s cause was among other reasons to protest why the government had not set aside money for circumcision but it had allocated some for sanitary towels. The Maendeleo Ya Wanaume’s Nderitu Njoka is a poor man’s comedian. Yes, one may say he made noise about wives battering their husbands but by the time he was intervening, the whole husband battering issue was overtaken by other events scheduled by politicians. No decisive action was taken to resolve the issue.

Since its formation in 2006, its role MYW’s has been reduced responding to sex boycotts whenever they are issued by women’s organizations and pining for funding by the government, which i think is its primary goal. The MYW chair does not spark serious conversations about men’s role in the society and the boy child’s grievances, no memorable initiatives have ever come out of his locker to benefit men and boys.

He has never necessitated any legislation like women have done through their positions to make waters ripple in government and the private sector towards their gender. There aren’t clear, if any, strategies provided for men and the boy child for smart investment and awareness of emerging issues.

NACADA man John Mututho appears more concerned about the fate of the society when men indulge in illicit brews. He has raised the alarm several times on the effects of overindulgence among male youth. Pst Simon Mbevi deeply engages us on the dilapidation of manhood and the decreased influence of fathers in shaping their sons. His programs Boys to Men and Man Enough do more to engage, empower, train and transform men and boys than Maendeleo Ya Wanaume has ever done.

In contrast, Nderitu Njoka is a man who cares about himself only seeks self publicity and doesn’t seek to advance any man’s agenda. That is why he was embarrassed on national TV last Sunday when his fellow male panelists disowned him and dismissed his role in representing men in Kenya with the challenges they face.

Society has evolved.

It is unfair to blame single motherhood for society’s anomalies and waywardness. Having being caught up in a discussion on the crisis facing the boy child, not for the first time, single mothers were bashed for boys’ and men’s ills.

When young ladies become amenable to the advances of elderly(rich) men, they will be singled out for ‘lacking a father figure’, a roundabout way of chastising single moms. When some media outlets decided to tackle the issue of men’s perceived weakness nowadays, the script remained the same.

What those single mum bashing sociologists and experts do not tell you on national TV is that globally society has evolved radically. Putting this in context, the early hunters and gatherers society depended on the man’s power, muscle, strength and speed to bring in the day’s hunt as the women’s role remained largely subdued, to the agrarian society where men because of their physicality took on the heavy tasks while women were regarded as passive homemakers.

From this we transitioned to the industrial society in which both men and women worked but women’s hours were limited meaning that they earned less than men. Men were given license to any employment opportunity while women stuck to domestic territory, in other words women knew their lanes.

But after the 1st and 2nd World Wars things began changing as most men were recruited to fight in their respective armies, women began filling the gaps and employment opportunities expanded for them. Women’s roles began changing from domesticated to more economic empowering tasks by the end of the industrial society whose economy depended on industrial production.

Presently, we are in the Information society and women are catching up not because men have become ‘weak’ but because the domains of the economy have changed. During the hunter and gatherer, agrarian and to an extent the industrial societies, men’s skills and output was judged by their physical nature, their tangible features but now, the knowledge economies we live in depend on speed of thought, mental and cognitive skills.

The digital sub-society in the information society does not consider tangible physical skills but intangible abilities to create content, come up with inventions and so on. The physical skills inherent in the man are slowly but surely being overtaken by today’s new demands and challenges.

It no longer depends on muscle, strength and the texture of a man’s palms. The man no longer has the physical advantage. Both boys and girls are actively schooling. Education imparts those skills needed by the economy. And as Horace Mann said, education is a great equalizer. This means that men and women stand an equal chance of being employed, delving into self-employment and acquiring influential positions. There is no monopoly of skills.

So before single mothers are bashed once again, the role of women has expanded, their empowerment continues to gather steam, there is no doubt there will be a disturbance in the social order.

The ills surrounding the boy child are as a result of the changing social and economic integration of women which has uplifted the girl child from obscurity to prominence. it is not as a result of single mother parentage. The boy child/man has to share their indispensability with women in the socio-economic mix. it is not so much a weakness but an evolution.

Hypocrisy in outpouring of sympathy and concern towards Mzee Ojwang’

Concerning Mzee Ojwang’s present travails, one day I was watching Jeff Koinange’s JKL show and a viewer tweeted negatively about the show. Visibly agitated, Jeff began telling him off suggesting his show was not ‘Vitimbi’ in a disparaging and demeaning manner and in a tone to suggest that he had a low opinion of ‘Vitimbi’, one of Kenya’s pioneer dramas.

Though he apologized, it is unfortunate that Jeff’s diminishing retort about Vitimbi, represented the attitude of many Kenyans, who with the entry of telenovelas, American series and Naija films, actors such as Mzee Ojwang’ and Mama Kayai disappeared from our conscience. So where has this sudden show of moral ‘support’ come from? Or is it guilt? Is it conscience clearing to empathise with the Mzee’s woes given that he entertained us but we somehow ‘transitioned’ from his brand of entertainment?

Selection of topics is one of the ways media runs its affairs, they will now focus about how we have collectively abandoned our ‘heroes.’ The media had a chance to highlight his troubles but they chose not to, only now for them to come out with hashtags, while they knew the seasoned actor was ailing and depressed and needed help. This is depressing hypocrisy.

Last week,a certain morning show presenter was querying a Riverwood( Kenya’s movie franchise) official and was wondering why Kenyan movie productions were ‘fake’ after being ‘exposed to Hollywood’. You see, such is the condescending attitude with which we look down upon our productions and actors. She selectively forgot the abject quality of some of the Nigerian films their station promotes everyday. When they are crisis-stricken, we will all pretend how we treasure our Kadenges and Ojwangs as ‘heroes’

But hey, let the pretentious concern continue, in a few days we will be talking about which socialite is bleaching her skin. They are never far away from our attentions, they are unlikely to disappear from our grasp like Mzee Ojwang’ did.

Education should foster a better society rather than obsess over individuals’ success

The obsession with ranking even after the Ministry of Education suspended it has turned farcical as different orders of the ‘top ten’ schools emerged on social and mainstream media. This obsession of evaluating a student’s performance takes away the essence of education itself. What good does it do to spotlight the ‘best performing students’ but a deviant society? Recognition is good but at what cost.

Early educationists John Dewey and Johann Pestalozzi believed that the impact of education should go beyond the classroom. John Dewey stated that the teacher is not only involved in the training of individuals but in the formation of a proper social life. Pestalozzi held that intellectual education was only part of a ‘wider plan’ and that there should be a balance.

There so many societal ills that being on top of one’s class. will not do enough to stamp out. Yes, you may rank and establish who the best is but what positive contribution is an individual offering the society. Has education made them capable of fighting off advances of corruption? Has it changed their mindset to view the world beyond ethnic lenses?

Sadly, in our current order as a country it has not helped much, we are stuck on repeat with the same challenges of corruption, negative ethnicity(Whose cure isn’t education alone), gender discrimination and exam cheating. The overly competitive nature of education has contributed immensely to a broken society which applauds academic achievement but looks on as its values are watered down and distorted.

I believe that education is one part of a whole in the moulding of an individual to be a personable member of the society, we cannot entirely rely on it and it cannot be the absolute standard bearer of what an individual is. The motive of learning should be to make oneself a better member of the society, gaining both intellect and positive social values. This will shape the auspicious future we yearn for as a country and society at large. George Counts stressed that education should promote the fullest and thorough understanding of the world. That goes beyond ranking of individuals and schools.