Are you the passionate, daring blogger or savvy online entrepreneur? Sample these few awesome tips… This article was first published by the Nairobi Law Monthly Magazine in August 2016.

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By John Ndar
Do you run a personal or corporate blog?

Whichever the case, you will likely agree that things have never been sweeter. At the mere touch of a button, one has the whole world listening and begging for more. Indeed, for many, it’s a dream come true. Yet, here comes the million- dollar- question: How can you do blog marketing like a real professional with great results? Here are tips, tools and resources that have helped millions to succeed.

Easy tips, tools and resources

From the outset, it’s vital to recognise the fact that blog marketing, revolutionary as it is, depends on many factors to be successful. These include promotional issues, the type of design you wish to use, the content you wish to market and the technical elements that you wish to incorporate.

Whether you’ve been around with it for some time or you’re only just setting up, it’s important to recognise that one only needs to make some relatively small changes here and there in order to vastly improve the blog content and make it work wonderfully. Here are some pointers:

Choose your passion as the niche: What will your blog be all about? Do you have a passion, something that you really enjoy doing? Then that should be your niche, the point of discussion. Just go ahead and write about what you know best; the readers will simply be enthralled.

Establish a regular schedule: Ensure that once you start, your blog will remain active, with regular posts published on a reliable schedule. Readers love it like that.

Develop a workable marketing strategy: Once you know your audience, decide what your goals for the blog are, and how you want it to stand out from the competition.

Make the blog authoritative: Set up an “About Us” page. Tell the readers just what makes you the qualified expert to commentate on the subject or why you’re the industry authority.

Establish an editorial policy: Ask yourself: What kind of content do I want to use; do we want to incorporate employee matters in this blog; will we share case studies in the blog; can the writers meet to share facts or will we allow opinion blogging; will we strictly discuss items of news or do we want to link up with sources? These questions will help you to decide the right policy. Remember, your goal should be to serve your niche readers.

Introduce a popular posts segment: In the blog, lead the readers to related posts containing similar content of their interest.

Consult other successful blogs: You will learn from them and enrich your reader’s experiences.

Back up blog contents: You don’t want to lose all your work in case of server or other technical mishaps. Employ a back-up measure for your blog.

Establish a commenting policy: The policy should be honourable. This means it should aim to constructively engage the readers and allow for a healthy dose of criticism.

Aim to inspire readers: As a blogger, it’s important to learn just how a simple blog post can inspire other content material. Use this knowledge to be a pillar of inspiration.

Use music: Decide whether you want to allow music to play continually on the blog every time someone visits. Recognise that it’s a delicate act. Some users may find this to be annoying, even distracting, therefore you need to use discretion.

Author’s bio: It’s important to use the author’s bio and headshot on each blog post. Go ahead and exploit available hi-tech tools to achieve this.

Manage content spam: Every successful blogger ensures that he gets to monitor the conversations in the blog in order to control and fight the spam nuisance.

Customise the errors page: It’s equally important for the blogger to ensure he properly customises the 404 errors (where the webpage the reader is trying to reach cannot not be found on the server). Once this is done, the visitors in the blog are helped to deal with default issues that may occasionally hinder their navigation.

User experience: Many successful bloggers always ensure that they design a workable user experience in order to enhance the functionality of the blog.
Set the intended voice and tone of the blog: Ask yourself: what kind of writing style do I employ? In case I have a pool of writers, will I give them full latitude and allow independent opinion or do I have to limit it?

Search boxes and formatting: Make sure the search boxes are clear and visible on the page and that everything, including post results is clearly formatted.

Quick tips for successful blog writing

Superb planning: Every writer understands that good planning is essential to make an impact. The same principle applies with equal force to blog posting. To keep the readers captivated, plan well for the contents. Draw inspiration from your own personal experiences to offer solutions to the readers on the challenges in your niche.

Writing the headlines: Make the captions and headlines captivating. Use appropriate keywords to achieve this.

Simplify your content: Employ the use of short sentences, short paragraphs, and tools like bullet-points in your content. This makes it easily digestible and pleasurable to the readers.

Use numbers and adjectives: A blogger should use these when creating his headlines. This aids in grabbing the reader’s attention. Consider, for instance, “5 Simple Steps to Prepare for Your Wedding Day”.

Rally the readers into action: Why not use the ‘call to action’ words to good effect? Example: ‘Try this’, ‘Download’, ‘Upload’, and ‘Experiment’. This keeps the readers engaged and stimulated.

Employ the use of images: The use of images supports the written content in a great way. Therefore, use such image-editing tools like Photoshop to enhance the blog. Additionally, use other effects like arrows, circles and boxes to illustrate the blog content.

Professional editing: Before publishing your posts, carefully proofread the blog content for any grammar, spelling or other errors. If at all possible, employ the services of a professional proof-reader or copy editor. This makes the blog pretty honourable.

Readers’ feedback: What else do the readers want in your blog? Get their feedback. The easiest way to do this is to carry out a short survey or poll in the blog.

Utilise SEOs: The search engine optimised technical element is a great way to win traffic for the blog. Therefore choose a unique keyword that you can use discreetly in the content to your advantage.

Supplement the blog: Draw on exceptional advice from industry experts or other blogs. This enriches your own blog by giving it a unique outside perspective.
Design back-up plans for your blog: This helps your blog to stay on track. Every time the blog is in “waiting-mode” ensure that you plug in short titbits or comments to keep your readers engaged.

Introduce a guest column: A guest column incorporating an expert in the niche enriches your content and tells the readers that by visiting the blog they can benefit in a multiplicity of ways.

To conclude, in this digital age, blog marketing is now the big issue. In many ways, it represents the future of world business. If you are into it, why not use the tips, tools and resources to the advantage of your chosen niche?

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Angela

                           ANGELA- THE STAFFROOM ENIGMA

                                A short story by John O. Ndar

 

She knocked on the door and entered the staffroom some ten minutes after the meeting started. Naturally, every one of us in attendance, eighteen men and women to be precise, momentarily forgot the business at hand. Instead, we keenly focused our attention on the newest teacher in the staff.

I quickly figured out that she could not be much more than 23 years old. She was quite tall and of medium build; indeed, the ceiling roofing seemed to rise just a few inches over her head. Her face was round and supple, almost too smooth and flawless. She had a gorgeous dimple on her right cheek that perfectly served to accentuate her facial beauty.

Her hair was dark and neatly kept; it appeared parted   into two distinct segments by the salon’s genius. The beautiful tiny line ran from the front to the back of her head.  Her smooth tight lips ironically gave the impression of a permanent guarded smile. She certainly appeared stunning in her white long- sleeved blouse, blue, sleeveless sweater and a dark-grey skirt. The skirt was so long that it almost completely covered her legs.

On entering the large, rectangular-shaped room she momentarily stopped. The Principal, who was presiding over the meeting, suddenly paused, smiled at her and formally welcomed her in. She smiled back- at no one in particular- but still seemed confused. A lady teacher who sat near the door immediately surrendered her seat and motioned her to take it. Without a word, she quickly took a few steps to the place and settled down, placing her small, black handbag on the long table. Throughout the hour-long meeting, she sat silent, occasionally gazing rather blankly at the newly painted ceiling before focusing back on the pet object; her cherished handbag. At the end of the meeting, she remained seated, motionless and mum.                                                                                                     A number of teachers passed by, greeting her with brief handshakes.

One teacher, however, lingered on to engage her in conversation. She was Aileen, the Chemistry teacher.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked in a direct, matter –of-fact manner.

‘Angela’.

‘Where is your home?’

‘Nyamaharaga.’ It was another one-word answer. She gazed intently at the ceiling only giving Aileen a furtive glance.

‘You attended which college?’ Aileen persisted.

‘Kenyatta University… oh, and Daystar earlier,’ she replied quickly, pensively.

Aileen wasn’t about to give up. ‘Two universities, so soon?’

Angela yawned politely and said, ‘Oh yeah- I completed my Master’s at the latter college.’

Aileen abruptly stopped her relentless interrogation. She was stunned but struggled to hide it.

‘Thanks, Angela, feel at home,’ she said, sounding awkward even to herself.

‘Welcome.’ Angela replied softly and resumed the ceiling gaze.

Aileen silently walked out to join a group of teachers. She had a juicy tale that, probably, no one else could guess.

This timid, primitive-looking plain- face possessed a Master’s degree! Why, not one of the other staff members at Brookside School had a Master’s degree!

Angela soon passed her, swiftly, handbag on the shoulders. Minutes later she was conspicuous, sitting alone at the basketball court.

Aileen instinctively decided against breaking the big news just then.  She motioned to Fred, the polite Biology teacher who also headed the Guidance and Counseling Department.

‘I want you to meet the new teacher.’

‘Oh, the cute lady? Of course it’s just fine.’ Fred joined her.

‘No pranks, please.’ Aileen cheekily counseled the counselor.

Fred chuckled mechanically as they walked to the pitch. As they approached, Aileen suddenly realized an apparent change in Angela’s demeanor. She stopped looking at her bag and fixedly trained her gaze on them, on Fred in particular. For some five seconds or so she eerily kept her steady focus on Fred. Then, without warning, she suddenly fell on her laps, her handbag dropping noisily onto the tarmac pitch.

Aileen ran to her and shook her gently, panicking.

‘Angela! Angela!’

Quite abruptly, she broke into a loud sob, her head buried deep on her lap.

‘Go away! Go away!’ she shouted hysterically.

‘…Apparition, an apparition… Ben!’ she shouted uncontrollably.

Aileen now knelt facing her. ‘Who is Ben? Angela!’

‘…My husband….. The accident…Dead…Get away!’ She hysterically shouted.

‘What- Angela? You…married?’Aileen countered incredulously.

‘He’s a Ghost!’ she shouted feverishly, louder, hands pressed tightly onto her face. ‘He’s Ben…’

By then the deeply embarrassed Fred had conveniently melted into the swelling crowd of teachers, students and subordinate staff.

They found Angela lying motionless at the edge of the pitch.                                                                                                                                                                                             She had fainted.

ENDS.

Amazing Wonders Never Cease to Happen in Kenya- Will the 2017 KCSE Escape Getting Scandalized?Just What Happened in 2015? The Nairobi Law Monthly Magazine Unearthed The Mystery in This Sizzling March 2016 Article…

                                      By John Ndar

Immediately the results of last year’s controversial Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination were released last month, a series of interesting developments occurred. President Uhuru Kenyatta, in a terse statement from State House, announced that government had put special measures in place to end the problem of irregularities in national examinations, stating a special committee had been set up to do this.

Days later, Deputy President William Ruto reiterated that cheating in national examinations would soon be relegated to the dustbin of history. To emphasize it, the DP outlined a one-month timeline within which the problem would presumably be obliterated and dispatched into oblivion.

While releasing the results at Mtihani House on March 3, 2015, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matian’gi announced that 5,101 of the more than 500,000 candidates would not get results. Apparently, these had been found guilty of engaging in acts of cheating and, therefore, had had their results cancelled. The CS pleaded with stakeholders in the sector to allow him the opportunity to prove his mettle. He pledged to deal firmly with dishonesty in national exams, vowing to bring it to the appropriate conclusion within one year. Given Dr Matian’gi’s vitality and abrasiveness in running the ministry since his appointment, few doubted that he meant business and would actually deliver.

Playing poker with children’s lives

In the backdrop of this, a clique of legislators in the National Assembly decided to tackle the juggernaut from a different perspective. Convinced that the problem was beyond the scope of redemption, the law-makers determined to introduce a Bill that would end the problem. The new law would ensure that key officials at the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) were made to account for what was perceived as gross failure at the council. The proposed Bill would compel the incumbent officials to vacate office, face legal action and possibly serve a stint in jail for purportedly playing poker with the lives of Kenyan children through ineptitude in public service.

Majority of Kenyans would quickly agree that the 2015 Form Four examinations were controversial in an unprecedented, stunning manner. Certainly, examination irregularities have always dogged the system, particularly after 1985 when the 8-4-4 structure was introduced. At one time, in the 1990’s, this dramatically led to the suspension of the KCSE midway through its administration. It resumed weeks later. In subsequent years, the problem assumed a subtler profile, characterised largely by whispers regarding the unseemly goings-on in some of Kenya’s leading schools.

Whatsapp and Facebook

This notwithstanding, 2015 KCSE proved to be a totally different ball-game. Within days of commencement, copies of the exam papers were widely accessible through social media, particularly Whattsapp and Facebook. Alarmed and desperate, the examination chiefs promptly wielded the usual stick, dismissing these as “fake papers”, but it all came a cropper. A number of leading TV stations and newspapers easily acquired samples of the exam. To the chagrin of the KNEC, the media publicised these days in advance. In virtually all cases, the papers that were subsequently administered to the candidates proved to be exactly copies to those being circulated on whatsapp. This effectively trashed efforts by the exam executives to deny the effects of the obvious leakage. Kenyans were shocked. There were calls for immediate suspension of the exams and resignation of the KNEC officials. Predictably, nothing happened and the exams proceeded as scheduled.

Granted, not all agreed that the KNEC officials were solely to blame for this ugly mess. In an interview with a leading TV channel earlier in the month, Prof Edward Kisiangani, a prominent commentator on socio-political issues, argued that the rot of dishonesty was so pervasive in Kenyan society that it had, in fact, become a national challenge. In the same forum, Kibra MP Ken Okoth, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, insisted that the exam council deserved to be disbanded for failing in its duties and that Kenyans had lost confidence in it.

As for ‘elite candidates’…

Also featuring in the programme was President Kenyatta’s personal advisor on education matters, Dr Kilemi Mwiria. He questioned the notion that cheating in national examinations only occurred in small, nondescript schools. The former assistant minister in the Ministry of Education drew attention to the fact that, in the just released results, some leading national schools had almost all candidates attaining straight As and A minuses. In such instances, the scholar wondered, where was the inevitable normal curve denoting the high and moderate achievers? He raised the question of a possibility that not all these super grades in the celebrated elite schools were necessarily genuine. There were even claims that for as little as Sh15,000, candidates could buy such grades. Yet such a sterling performance occurring in a county school would quickly be dismissed as lacking in merit.

At this juncture, it might seem valid to state that Kenyans largely prefer to live in denial. To illustrate, isn’t it an open secret that cheating in Kenya’s academic system is today widespread and subtly accepted at all its levels and tiers, from KCPE, KCSE, University and other tertiary institutions? To some, this “revelation” would come as a shocker. For years, what has been feted as excellent results posted in national examinations by our leading public and private schools has actually been a scandal. Few would want to admit it publicly, but many of Kenya’s elite schools have, for decades, gained access to the actual examination content long before the due date. While it might be nearly impossible to conclusively prove it, those within the inner sanctums of the education sector are aware of this big “sacred secret”. In spite of it, a deafening conspiracy of silence reigns. It’s only when the gangrene gradually spread, in recent years, to the less hallowed grounds of Kenya’s “ordinary schools” that the bubble finally burst, with an almighty bang.

Tellingly, this crazy race for grades, which feeds dishonesty, is fuelled by a cut-throat battle for the increasingly competitive places in the colleges, universities and the job sector. As it is, excellence in academics means everything in today’s world. Failure in exams almost surely condemns one to a life steeped in the vicious rut of poverty. Success virtually catapults one to a relative life of bliss and economic independence. For this reason, nothing is left to chance and, for many, the end justifies the means. Every trick in the book gets employed to ensure success. It is, therefore, little wonder that things got to the level that they did in 2015.

To add salt to injury, the spectre of vicious competition between schools has merely exacerbated the problem. Even in the absence of the recently abolished official ranking of schools, the burning urge to upstage others still remains. This means that school heads have continued to strive tirelessly to stamp their mark, leave a legacy or work for promotion. As a result, a subtle trend has insidiously emerged in recent times. In this scheme, shortly before the penultimate examination starts, ingenious plans may be hatched to ensure that a conduit for accessing targeted exam content is in place. In many cases the mobile phone and similar devices sleekly deliver the desired effect. In some cases, unscrupulous individuals apparently act in cohorts with highly-placed corruptible officials to defeat the system.

Hefty cash rewards for teachers

The drama gets juicier when intricate goings-on within the school system are factored in. The battle might involve individual subject teachers who compete for recognition and reward. In many institutions the reward comes in monetary form with each “quality grade” scored per student earning a handsome figure. In some large institutions, teachers who get good results in their subjects have been known to receive mind-boggling, six-figure cash rewards. Given the perennial discontent within the teaching fraternity over their pay-size, this situation likely contributes to the rampant cheating that currently bedevils schools. Inevitably, this also leads to low-morale among hardworking, honest teachers who do not wish to cheat.

Shockingly, some supervisors and invigilators appointed by KNEC have been known to abet dubious practices, even getting compromised to allow malpractices in exam administration. In some cases, candidates have been allowed to enter the examination room with prohibited materials. In other instances, officials have apparently aided candidates to participate in dishonest practices.

In colleges and universities, it’s often easier for students to get away with dishonest practices since their own tutors and lecturers usually control the assessment processes directly. It’s a well-known fact that some of these tutors are silently guilty of seeking financial or sexual favours from their charges in order to award good grades.

Fake police boss to boot
Elsewhere, even in the pre-admission stages intrigues abound. Some years back, a jolting scandal was reported at Egerton University. In the wake of this, a number of students had their studies discontinued after it was discovered that they had gained admission to the public institution irregularly. Shockingly, some of them were in their final year of study and preparing to graduate!

In the wider Kenyan society, the story is the same. Late last year, a high-ranking police officer, in the cadre of a Senior Superintendent, was sensationally interdicted from service. It was discovered that all his academic and other credentials were a maze of fraud. The fake details included his own personal identity and name! More intriguing was the fact that the imposter had been allowed to serve in the force for more than two decades, gradually rising through the ranks to attain high office. Amazingly, for over 20 years, the man had enjoyed the salaries and perks attached to a qualified officer of rank. The nagging question is, how many such cases have gone on, completely undetected, in various sectors of the national economy and at what cost to the country?

Thus far, it’s not clear whether President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto, or Education CS Fred Matian’gi will get to deliver on their pledges to end the scourge of malpractices in the management and administration of school examinations in Kenya. What is clear is that the Kenya National Examinations Council needs to come clean on the pertinent issues arising out of the mandate and public trust bestowed on them by the Kenyan taxpayer to provide a vital service.

Buck stops with Knec

The least that KNEC should do, in the aftermath of the 2015 exam fiasco, is to publicly acknowledge culpability and tender an apology to Kenyans. Next, quick action should be taken to release examination results for all the candidates, including those that had been withheld or purportedly cancelled for alleged irregularities. This is based on the premise that the Council failed in its core mandate to manage and administer national examinations fairly and efficiently.

The council, instead, chose, irresponsibly so, to allow a massive examination leakage to take place, putting all the candidates in a situation of dilemma and peril. Even if this means that the candidate’s grades would have to be moderated to reflect a normal curve and tally with their colleagues’ results already in the public domain, so be it. It’s an open secret that Knec has already done this in several other cases for schools whose original results seemed dubious. In the interest of justice and equality, similar measures should also be taken for candidates who missed their results. Ultimately, the buck must stop somewhere. In this case it stops squarely at the door-step of the Examination Council.

Ndar is a teacher and freelance writer based in Migori County.