MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE LATE CS
Courtesy of Google
When Professor George Albert Omore Magoha was pronounced dead on Tuesday at the Nairobi Hospital following a short illness, I could not help but remember my first encounter with the former late educational cabinet secretary.
It was one of those late evenings in an African home whereby people often looked forward to evening news. Especially the seven o’clock bulleting’s that were often in Swahili. On this particular evening, education was of course making the headlines, nothing unusual about that. But then appeared this tough-looking man in a grey suit with pair a small glass that was majorly centered on his large eye balls. He looked different from the type of men that were often on our television screens. He carried this type of authority that was definitely different.
On this particular day, the CS was giving out his thoughts and wondering why so many students would achieve an A-grade in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams but were unable to handle courses such as medicine, engineering and others. He called it the “Kenyan obsession with the A-grade”
The 71 year old professor who was by then the chair of the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) then raised country wide discussions about the truthfulness of his thoughts. How it was possible was someone to score an A-grade then find it difficult to pursue courses that fitted their grades. The A’s were then termed to be useless.
This was not the last time I would be seeing the CS on television screens, he now started gaining fame in the country and started making headlines. During the CS vetting post in 2019, he hit the headlines after presenting a 91- page-CV, in which he summed himself up as a “a top grade Professor of Urological and Transplant Surgery since 2000 at the University of Nairobi trained in Nigeria, Ghana ,Ireland and united kingdom. For a look into Prof. Magoha’s profile, from a list of the over 55 countries he had visited to his academic credentials.
Professor Magoha was later to be described as one who was not moved by music. This is after following the incidence during the height of the Jerusalema dance in October 2020, several dignitaries, including the president Uhuru Kenyatta, ODM leader Raila Odinga, and the Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, attended a function in Kisumu. While the South African dance challenge was being performed, professor Magoha remained unresponsive, standing with his arms crossed, appearing disinterested as the former Prime Minister danced.
Professor Magoha is also to be remembered for warning universities over the duplication of courses. The CS was at that time blamed some universities for introducing what he termed to be “funny and irrelevant courses which attract few students.” The CS went on further to express his doubts to some of the PhDs being offered in the universities. This was during financial debates with the Commission for University Education with the rule of possibility of the government to increase financial expenditures to the universities.
The CS was often found to be praising the government on deliberate efforts to make education accessible and affordable. This he termed to be demonstrated by raising of capitalization for Free Day Secondary Education (FDSE). The initiative ensured that thousands of learners, many from humble backgrounds, attended and completed secondary education without paying for any costs. Professor Magoha was sworn into office at the helm of the education ministry on March 26, 2019 and served until October 27, 2022 when President William Ruto named his successor.
The Kenyan Educator, tough-talking, no-nonsense, strict and selfless professor will surely be missed by many. During his reign, cases of exam leakage, cheating, alleged cartels in the sector of education and questionable marking techniques drastically reduced. His ambition, quick-thinking and practical leadership skills saw him rise to positions such as UoN Vice Chancellor in the year 2005.